A pair of 1974 AIP shockers get a UK cinema release with the ugliest movie poster of all time.
There are film posters that are artistic masterpieces, film posters that are average and film posters that are terrible. And then there’s the British quad for the 1975 release of The Violator and Abby, which is perhaps the shoddiest bit of film advertising ever produced outside of those generic sex film posters that just had the title of the films in the double bill along with a prominent ‘X’ – the implication there being that the films were just too raunchy to illustrate. But you expected a bit more from an exploitation pairing, where sensationalism is surely a contractual requirement. Not here though. The very definition of laziness, this two-colour atrocity looks a lot better in the above photo than it does in the flesh, where the large print dots on the monochrome cut-out images make the whole thing look even cheaper than it is. To be clear – this isn’t printed with a yellow background – the whole poster is simply printed on yellow paper. I bought this poster many years ago for the princely sum of 50p, and there may be those who think that I was still ripped off – but the sheer absurdity and audacity of it made it irresistible.
Perhaps Focus Film Distributors thought that this double bill of American International shockers would sell itself, and maybe it did. This is a pairing that seems an unlikely one to have ever made it to UK cinemas and perhaps wouldn’t have done so a year later, once the finger-wagging James Ferman took control of the BBFC and launched a crackdown on films that sensationalised rape. The Violator certainly fell into that category. You might not know the film under that UK retitling, but sleaze fans might be familiar with its original incarnation as Act of Vengeance which itself was a retitling from Rape Squad when that title was – understandably – thought to be potentially a bit too provocative (when the film failed to pull in the crowds, provocation suddenly seemed like a good idea and the title was switched back). Directed by Bob Kelljan, the movie starred Jo Ann Harris as the leader of a group of women who had all been raped by a hockey mask-wearing psycho and band together to take revenge against other rapists while searching for their attacker. It’s all very Death Wish with a female slant, part of the burgeoning and always-controversial rape-revenge genre. How the film fared at the hands of the British censor in 1975 is anyone’s guess – of course, the BBFC website has no knowledge of the film. The film has slipped into obscurity – you can find it on Amazon Prime in the US (but not the UK) and there’s an expensive German Blu-ray if you are particularly keen, but it seems an unlikely contender for a special edition release any time soon.
On the bottom half of the bill is the rather more interesting Abby, William Girdler‘s shameless blaxploitation version of The Exorcist. The official story of this film is that Warner Brothers sued over the movie’s similarity to William Friedkin’s infamous shocker, though God knows, it was hardly the only Exorcist copycat film out there and others like Beyond the Door, Naked Exorcism, The Sexorcist and so on all seemed to get away with it. Nevertheless, AIP didn’t make much of an effort to contest the lawsuit and the film was pulled from circulation. While a beaten-up 16mm print survived and has seen a few disc releases of dubious legality, it seems that the film elements are all still under the control of Warners and no one has bothered to try to see if the negative still exists and, if so, if Warners will finally let it be seen. Outside the battered and shoddy 16mm transfer, it is effectively lost.
And yet… the film clearly played in British cinemas (it also played in Italy, probably in a dubbed version that is less interesting to us for obvious reasons). I suppose it is possible that the American lawsuit was so wide-ranging that all British prints were also destroyed, or perhaps Focus Film Distributors went the way of all flesh and their archives were trashed or otherwise lost. But equally, it seems possible that in a vault somewhere, there will be a 35mm print of Abby that will be better than the version we currently have (it was passed uncut by the British censor). There might even be a master print sitting in a British film vault somewhere. I suspect that the various issues involved – finding a print, dealing with Warners, sorting out what is probably a very messy rights situation – would be more trouble than a niche title like this is worth – but it might be worth investigating for the more adventurous indie distributor.
Until that happens, we’ll have to make do with this version:
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The current BBFC site is very shoddy, but it looks like the old version did have details that The Melonfarmers website managed to snag before the change.
And here’s the link
But not the details for Abby.
There were a whole series of super ugly Australian day bills in the 70s
All were studio pictures
Well… that is quite extraordinary in its laziness.
Ugly? Yes …but also kind of perfect.
I’m a sucker for some of these monotone ads that were originally designed for newspapers and subsequently blown up to quad and converted to duotone – and, as someone working in design and print, it’s an aesthetic I shamelessly rip-off whenever I can get away with it (along with most other design tropes of the period)!
According to the Monthly Film Bulletin of August 1975, The Violator lost 14 minutes at the hands of the BBFC, reduced from 90 to 76 minutes. The MFB’s reviewer, Verina Glaessner, was not totally dismissive, praising aspects of the script not matched by the ‘dismally anonymous direction’.
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