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Detroit Free Press (MI) - April 11, 1986

Author: CATHARINE RAMBEAU Free Press Movie Critic

Every woman who has ever been raped has surely fantasized about getting even with her rapist.

That's the premise of "The Ladies Club," as it was of "Rape Squad" and " I Spit on Your Grave ," other films in which vigilantes punish their rapists with impunity.

So it's too bad that despite decent acting and the film's avoidance of the standard-issue nude scenes this 90-minute film seems to exploit women while giving lip service to their desire for justice. Too bad, too, that it looks like a TV movie-of-the- week.

Perhaps that's because almost everyone involved hails from TV and television's KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) theory is more obvious on a large screen. Perhaps the problem was simply beyond the control of director and screenwriters. (On her first feature picture, director Janet Greek used the pseudonym A.K. Allen, reportedly because of problems with the film's editing and marketing.)

"LADIES CLUB" opens with the gang rape of policewoman Joan Taylor (Karen Austin), complete with a ruinous beating and endless anti-woman filth spewed by the trio of rapists. It continues stacking the deck, tossing the usual rape statistics and stereotypes -- men who blame women for being raped, the violated and now catatonic kid sister -- into this nasty stew of violence. Yes, these stereotypes exist; but reliance on them undermines the film.

During her recuperation, Taylor makes friends with obstetrician Constance Lewis (Christine Belford), whose own daughter was raped and murdered. When the jury pronounces Taylor's rapists not guilty, cop and doctor organize a ladies' club and begin locating, drugging and castrating career rapists.

P Not a bad idea, perhaps. But I have an ugly suspicion "The Ladies Club" (originally called "Violated") may appeal less to women who have been raped than to men who hate women and enjoy seeing them humiliated.

Any movie so thoroughly focused on gratuitous physical, psychological and verbal violence against one sex should be suspect. Since rape is an emotionally loaded issue on which hardly anyone one is neutral, and since the film's political attitudes are neither radical enough nor conservative enough to please either side, "The Ladies Club" fails.


Area Theaters

RATING: 3 out of 10

Joan Taylor-Karen Austin

Lucy Bricker-Diana Scarwid

Dr. Constance Lewis-Christine Belford

Richard Harrison-Bruce Davison

Directed by A.K. Allen. Screenplay by Paul Mason and Fran Lewis Ebeling from the novel "Sisterhood" by Betty Black and Casey Bishop. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Cinematography by Adam Greenburg. Edited by Marion Segal and Randall Torno. Production design by Stephen Myles Berger. Produced by Nick J. Mileti and Paul Mason. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

PARENTS' GUIDE: R; extreme violence, intense subject matter, profanity, bad English.

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