Thriller – A Cruel Picture

Last updated
Thriller A Cruel Picture
Original Swedish poster
Swedish Thriller en grym film
LiterallyThriller a cruel film
Directed by Alex Fridolinski
Screenplay byAlex Fridolinski
Produced byBo Arne Vibenius
CinematographyAndreas Bellis
Edited byBrian Wikström
Music by Ralph Lundsten
BAV Film
Distributed by
  • Europa Film
  • Stockholm Film
Release dates
  • May 1973 (1973-05)(Cannes) [1]
  • June 5, 1974 (1974-06-05)(US)
  • October 30, 1974 (1974-10-30)(Sweden)
Running time
107 minutes [lower-alpha 1]

Thriller – A Cruel Picture (Swedish : Thriller en grym film) is a 1973 Swedish rape-and-revenge exploitation film written and directed by Bo Arne Vibenius under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski, and starring Christina Lindberg and Heinz Hopf. It tells the story of a mute young woman who is forced into heroin addiction and prostitution, and her subsequent revenge on the men responsible.


The film was released in the United States in a truncated version by American International Pictures under several alternative titles, such as They Call Her One Eye, Hooker's Revenge and The Swedish Vice-Girl.


A quiet girl, Madeleine, is sexually abused as a child, and the trauma makes her mute. Years later, while living on her parents' farm as a teenager, Madeleine misses the bus into town, and accepts a ride from a pimp named Tony. Tony takes the naive Madeleine out for lunch before bringing her back to his home, where he incapacitates her and repeatedly injects her with heroin, causing her to become addicted as a means of forcing her into prostitution.

To hide the fact that Madeleine was kidnapped, Tony writes hateful letters to her parents, signing them with Madeleine's name. Her parents become so distraught over their daughter's apparent betrayal that they commit suicide. When Madeleine initially refuses to have sex with a client, Tony beats her before cutting out her eyeball with a scalpel. Donning an eyepatch over her extracted eye, Madeleine is subjected to a never-ending series of demoralizing sexual encounters with both male and female clients. Defeated by the state of her life, Madeleine is inspired by one of Tony's other prostitutes, Sally, to create an escape plan for herself.

Madeleine begins covertly stashing some of her earnings, and takes lessons in driving, shooting, and martial arts, all unbeknownst to Tony. Using the money she has stashed away, Madeleine purchases a car, as well as a variety of weapons—including a sawed-off shotgun—that she stores in a shed she has rented in the countryside. One night, she discovers that Tony has murdered Sally, and finds Sally's bed soaked with blood.

Finally at her breaking point, Madeleine begins to dispatch the clients who have abused her, first stalking one of the men, and shooting him to death with her shotgun on his front doorstep. Next, Madeleine locates another john dining at a restaurant with one of Madeleine's female clients, who regularly physically abused her, and shoots them both to death. She next travels to a warehouse on an ocean dock where she finds two other male abusers, and kills them as well. Police arrive at the warehouse and find Madeleine seated with her shotgun. When they attempt to arrest her, she uses her martial arts training to incapacitate both officers and break free.

Madeleine absconds with the police car, and flees to a rural fishing village, causing a series of reckless and fatal car accidents in her wake. She is pursued by both Tony and police, and engages in a shootout in the village before fleeing back into the countryside, where she waits along a stone wall. Tony arrives and feigns sympathy, pretending he will reason with her. At his insistence, Madeleine puts down her shotgun, after which Tony threatens to shoot her with a pistol; before he can, however, she triggers a booby trap to distract him, and shoots him in both knees, incapacitating him. She proceeds to bind him with rope, and drags him to a meadow using a horse. There, she buries his body with stones, leaving only his head above ground, and ties a rope around his neck, which she tethers to the horse. Madeliene sits calmly and watches as Tony is strangled to death. Once he dies, she drives away in the police car.



Director Bo Arne Vibenius sought to make "the most commercial film ever made", [4] as he had lost money on an earlier film, and needed to recoup his loss. Rumors allege that the filmmakers used an actual corpse [5] [6] during the film's eye gouging scene, which has since become controversial because of these rumors. [4] Hardcore pornographic sequences were edited into the film to profit off of the trend of pornography in Denmark and Sweden, which was being liberalized at the time. [4]

In Daniel Ekeroth's book on Swedish exploitation movies, Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers, and Kicker Cinema, it is revealed that the producers took out a huge life insurance policy on star Christina Lindberg, as real ammunition was used in the action sequences, and that she was asked to inject saline solution during the heroin-use scenes. [7]


Censorship and distribution

The original running time was 107 minutes. After being banned by the Swedish film censorship board, the film was truncated to 104 minutes and then 86 minutes, but still banned. It was finally released after being cut down to 82 minutes. In the United States, the film was distributed by American International Pictures, also in a truncated cut running 82 minutes. [8] American International Pictures released the film in mid-1974 under the alternate titles Thriller and They Call Her One Eye, and, in 1975, as Hooker's Revenge. [9]

Critical response

TV Guide rated the film three out of four stars, writing, "Not for the fainthearted, or the easily bored, this brutal and depressing film nevertheless is not easily forgotten." [10]

Time Out gave the film a negative review, criticizing the film's overuse of slow motion, hardcore scenes, and soundtrack, stating that it fails to leave the lingering emotional impact of its convictions. [11] A.H. Weiler from The New York Times offered the film similar criticism, calling it "dreary", and cited Lindberg as the film's only notable aspect. [12]

Home media

Synapse Films released Thriller – A Cruel Picture on DVD in October 2004 in a limited edition featuring the extended 107-minute cut. [13] In 2005, Synapse released the shorter U.S. version as a standalone DVD, deeming it the "Vengeance Edition". [14] On May 31, 2022, Vinegar Syndrome released the film in a 4-disc 4K UHD and Blu-ray combination set limited to 10,000 units. [15] This edition features the original 108-minute cut, as well as an exclusive UHD of the 90-minute English-language version entitled They Call Her One Eye. [15] [16] After the limited edition set sold out in late-May 2022, Vinegar Syndrome made a standard edition 4K UHD and Blu-ray set available (also featuring the They Call Her One Eye cut, but only on Blu-ray). [17]


Thriller – A Cruel Picture was marketed as the first film ever to be completely banned in Sweden, although the first one actually was Victor Sjöström's The Gardener from 1912. [18] It has received a cult following and was the basis behind Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill character Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah). [7] [19]


  1. The original cut of Thriller – A Cruel Picture which screened at the Cannes Film Festival (colloquially referred to as the "Festival Version") ran approximately 107 minutes in length. [2] At the insistence of the Swedish film board, the film was truncated, first to 104 minutes, and later, to 86 minutes. [3] The English-dubbed U.S. cuts of the film released by American International Pictures vary in length: one 82 minutes, and the other—titled They Called Her One Eye—90 minutes. [3]

Related Research Articles

<i>Kill Bill: Volume 1</i> 2003 American film by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a 2003 American martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, who swears revenge on a team of assassins and their leader, Bill, after they try to kill her. Her journey takes her to Tokyo, where she battles the yakuza.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Madeleine Stowe</span> American actress (born 1958)

Madeleine Marie Stowe Mora is an American actress. She appeared mostly on television before her role in the 1987 crime-comedy film Stakeout. She went on to star in the films Revenge (1990), Unlawful Entry (1992), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Blink (1993), 12 Monkeys (1995), The General's Daughter (1999), and We Were Soldiers (2002). For her role in the 1993 independent film Short Cuts, she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress.

<i>True Romance</i> 1993 film by Tony Scott

True Romance is a 1993 American romantic crime film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. It features an ensemble cast led by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, with Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken in supporting roles. Slater and Arquette portray newlyweds on the run from the Mafia after stealing a shipment of drugs.

<i>Kill Bill: Volume 2</i> 2004 American film by Quentin Tarantino

Kill Bill: Volume 2 is a 2004 American neo-Western martial arts film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. It stars Uma Thurman as the Bride, who continues her campaign of revenge against the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and their leader Bill, who tried to kill her and her unborn child.

<i>Revenge</i> (1990 film) 1990 American-Mexican co-production crime-drama-thriller directed by Tony Scott

Revenge is a 1990 American romantic action thriller film directed by Tony Scott and starring Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn, Madeleine Stowe, Miguel Ferrer and Sally Kirkland. Some scenes were filmed in Mexico. The film is a production of New World Pictures and Rastar Films and was released by Columbia Pictures. Revenge also features one of John Leguizamo's earliest film roles. The film is based on a novella written by Jim Harrison, published in Esquire magazine in 1979. Harrison co-wrote the script for the film.

<i>Coffy</i> 1973 blaxploitation film directed by Jack Hill

Coffy is a 1973 American blaxploitation film written and directed by Jack Hill. The story is about a black female vigilante played by Pam Grier who seeks violent revenge against a heroin dealer responsible for her sister's addiction.

<i>Ms .45</i> 1981 film by Abel Ferrara

Ms .45 is a 1981 American exploitation thriller film directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Zoë Tamerlis.

<i>Rolling Thunder</i> (film) 1977 film directed by John Flynn

Rolling Thunder is a 1977 American psychological thriller film directed by John Flynn, from a screenplay by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould, based on a story by Schrader. It was produced by Norman T. Herman, with Lawrence Gordon as executive producer. The film stars William Devane in the lead role alongside Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Haynes, James Best, Dabney Coleman, and Luke Askew in supporting roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Christina Lindberg</span> Swedish actress

Britt Christina Marinette Lindberg is a Swedish journalist known internationally for her work as an actress and glamour model in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

<i>Grindhouse</i> (film) A 2007 double-feature film consisting of Planet Terror and Death Proof

Grindhouse is a 2007 American film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Presented as a double feature, it combines Rodriguez's Planet Terror, a horror comedy about a group of survivors who battle zombie-like creatures, and Tarantino's Death Proof, an action thriller about a murderous stuntman who kills young women with modified vehicles. The former stars Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, and Marley Shelton; the latter stars Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Zoë Bell. Grindhouse pays homage to exploitation films of the 1970s, with its title deriving from the now-defunct theaters that would show such films. As part of its theatrical presentation, Grindhouse also features fictitious exploitation trailers directed by Rodriguez, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, and Jason Eisener.

Bo Arne Vibenius is a Swedish film director, most famous for his exploitation classics Breaking Point and Thriller – A Cruel Picture. The latter served as an influence on Quentin Tarantino when making his Kill Bill films and Tarantino has called it "the roughest revenge movie ever made."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Synapse Films</span>

Synapse Films is an American DVD and Blu-ray label, founded in 1997 and specializing in cult horror, science fiction and exploitation films.

<i>Blood Hook</i> 1987 film by Jim Mallon

Blood Hook is a 1986 American slasher film directed by Jim Mallon and starring Mark Jacobs, Lisa Todd, Patrick Danz, Sara Hauser, and Christopher Whiting. It follows a group of young people who arrive in a small northern Wisconsin town during a fishing festival, where a series of bizarre disappearances and murders are occurring. It was distributed by Troma Entertainment. The film was premiered at the MIFED Film Market in October 1986. The film was truncated for its 1987 release after the Motion Picture Association of America threatened to grant the film an X rating due to its violent content.

<i>The Fiend</i> (film) 1972 British film

The Fiend is a 1972 British horror film produced and directed by Robert Hartford-Davis and starring Ann Todd, Tony Beckley and Patrick Magee. The film is set against a background of religious fanaticism and, as with other films directed by Hartford-Davis, also includes elements of the sexploitation genre of the early 1970s.

<i>The Killing Kind</i> (1973 film) 1973 film by Curtis Harrington

The Killing Kind is a 1973 American psychological horror film directed by Curtis Harrington, and starring Ann Sothern, John Savage, Ruth Roman, Luana Anders, and Cindy Williams. It follows a young man who, after being released from prison for a sexual assault he did not commit, submits to his impulsive urge to seek revenge against those who wronged him. The film is based on a screenplay by Tony Crechales, whose screenplay was revised by producer George Edwards, an associate producer on Harrington's previous film, What's the Matter with Helen? (1971).

<i>Cat Run</i> 2011 American film

Cat Run is a 2011 American comedy action film directed by John Stockwell.

<i>Breaking Point</i> (1975 film) 1975 Swedish thriller film

Breaking Point is a 1975 Swedish adult thriller film written and directed Bo Arne Vibenius.

<i>The Vixens of Kung Fu</i> Adult movie

The Vixens of Kung Fu is a 1975 American pornographic martial arts exploitation film produced and directed by Bill Milling, under the pseudonym Chiang. It stars Bree Anthony, Tony Richards, Peonies Jong, and C. J. Laing, and follows a prostitute who is gang raped, and who seeks revenge against her rapists after being trained in kung fu with a clan of other women by a martial artist. The film received an X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.

<i>Sex World</i> 1977 American pornographic film

Sex World is a 1977 American pornographic science fiction film directed by Anthony Spinelli and written by Spinelli and Dean Rogers, from a story by Spinelli. It stars Annette Haven, Lesllie Bovee, Sharon Thorpe, Desiree West, and Amber Hunt. The film primarily takes place at a fictional resort known as Sex World, where individuals can live out their secret sexual desires and overcome their inhibitions with the help of android sexbots.


  1. Thriller a cruel picture Visningar at the Swedish Film Institute (in Swedish)
  2. "Thriller: A Cruel Picture - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray". Hi-Def Digest. Archived from the original on May 31, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  3. 1 2 Craig 2019, p. 371.
  4. 1 2 3 Heller-Nicholas 2021, p. 41.
  5. Lumholdt, Jan (January 21, 2012). "Christina Lindberg Interview". Archived from the original on February 16, 2012.
  6. Gilvear, Kevin (2013). "Looking for Mushrooms with Christian Lindberg". The Digital Fix. Archived from the original on July 5, 2017.
  7. 1 2 Ekeroth 2011, p. 258.
  8. Craig 2019, pp. 371–372.
  9. Craig 2019, p. 372.
  10. Li Chow Li. "Thriller: A Cruel Picture - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV Guide. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  11. "They Call Her One-Eye". Time Out . September 12, 2012. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020.
  12. A. H. Weiler (June 6, 1974). "' One Eye' and 'O'Neil' Partners in Crime". The New York Times . Archived from the original on February 4, 2020.
  13. Erickson, Glenn (October 27, 2004). "DVD Savant Review: Thriller - a cruel picture". DVD Talk . Archived from the original on May 31, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  14. Erickson, Glenn (September 3, 2005). "Thriller: They Call Her One Eye - Vengeance Edition". DVD Talk . Archived from the original on May 31, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  15. 1 2 "Thriller - A Cruel Picture". Vinegar Syndrome . Archived from the original on May 27, 2022.
  16. Squires, John (March 25, 2022). "Vinegar Syndrome Brings 'Thriller: A Cruel Picture' to 4K UHD Plus More New Arrivals!". Bloody Disgusting . Archived from the original on May 31, 2022. Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  17. "Thriller – A Cruel Picture (Slipcover)". Vinegar Syndrome . Archived from the original on May 28, 2022.
  18. Trädgårdsmästaren Kommentar at the Swedish Film Institute (in Swedish)
  19. Tarantino & Peary 2013, p. 120.