Roberta Findlay was something of a maverick – a technically proficient creative that worked in various roles both behind and in front of the camera, starting with the exploitation mainstay films that she made alongside her husband Michael. But once Roberta turned to directing her own work, history was made. A pioneer in adult cinema in the early 1970s, she established a strong cinematic voice with films like The Altar of Lust, Anyone But My Husband and Fantasex bearing more in common with late 60s sexploitation than the porno chic films making bank at the box office.
In this period, before her more genre focused 80s films, she made A Woman’s Torment. An amalgam of the character driven hardcore films she was making at the time as well as the gory horror films she would focus on a decade later, A Woman’s Torment may feel like it has an identity crisis but that identity is 100% Roberta Findlay. A rather obvious homage to Repulsion, the narrative focuses on a marriage interrupted by a mentally ill sister (played with empathy and zeal by Tara Chung) who begins to lose hold on reality and turns to murder.
A moody and explicit marriage of the slasher film and hardcore porn, A Woman’s Torment is punctuated with bursts of bloody violence and hardcore sex scenes resulting in an aggressive yet beautiful piece of work that really couldn’t have come from anyone else. This could be Robert Findlay’s best film and is a legitimately worthy companion to Repulsion. The graphic sex and violence may be hard to swallow for some, but the inclusion of an R-rated cut (which not only tones down the hardcore footage but supplements it with more exposition) will at least help with the former and should make it more accessible than it otherwise would be.
Vinegar Syndrome have brought A Woman’s Torment to Blu-ray via a 2K scan from the 35mm negative and it’s a cause for celebration. This is a title that hasn’t looked good on video before and here it really shines. There’s some really beautiful compositions here and the color palette is bright, with the blood reds really standing out. Flesh tones, as important as ever, look natural and the whole thing is void of damage. This is very impressive work. Audio is DTS HD MA 1.0 and it sounds great, no issues to report.
Supplements start with an audio commentary with Roberta Findlay and historian Casey Scott, on the R-rated cut. It goes a lot into the nitty gritty aspects of the production, including difficulty with shooting the sex scenes and working with the cast. It’s a great listen for fans. We then get a Q&A from NYC’s Quad Cinema with Roberta, it’s a very casual talk going more into making the film as well as other films she made. We then get an interview with actor Michael Gaunt which sees the actor being fond of working with Roberta and on the film in particular, he shares some anecdotes about his cast members and is open and talkative throughout.
A Woman’s Torment begs to be discovered by Roberta Findlay fans who have missed it and genre fans in general. The inclusion of the R-rated cuts increases its accessibility (and may arguably be a better film) and the presentation and supplements by Vinegar Syndrome are exemplary. Highly Recommended.