When director Meir Zarchi unleashed the notorious I Spit on Your Grave on the world in 1978, no one could have predicted that 42 years later it would still be courting controversy, would have influenced an entire genre of film-making, and would have created a franchise of its own – as evidenced in the new boxset of the definitive I Spit on Your Grave collection from Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment (with UK first releases of direct sequel I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu and new documentary Growing Up with I Spit on Your Grave.
To celebrate this release, David Maguire, author of the acclaimed Wallflower Press book on the film, offers up 10 little known facts about this iconic film and its lasting legacy.
1. Never a bum note
The iconic poster for I Spit on Your Grave of a scantily clad, blood soaked female avenger most definitely helped cement the film’s notoriety and has influenced numerous film posters since, including those of the entire I Spit franchise. But that’s not lead actress Camille Keaton posing with her back turned; that derriere belongs to none other than Hollywood A-lister Demi Moore! (as revealed in the Growing Up with I Spit on Your Grave documentary)
2. The original was inspired by real events
Although I Spit on Your Grave was released in 1978, Jennifer Hills effectively first staggered into Meir Zarchi’s life in 1974 when he discovered a naked woman in Goose Pond Park, Jamaica Hills, New York. The victim of a rape attack, Zarchi took her to a local police station where he claimed to have been horrified at the dismissive treatment she received at the hands of officers.
3. The 1978 film’s tagline is incorrect
The in(famous) tagline to the original I Spit on Your Grave media campaign – blazoned across posters and advertising campaigns – is factually incorrect. While it announces that “this woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition” – Jennifer is only responsible for the death of four men in the 1978 film – and none of them are burned. It would take 32 years, with the release of the 2010 remake, for Jennifer to actually claim five victims.
4. It’s called what, where?!
While the original’s title was changed from Day of the Woman to the more exploitation friendly, I Spit on Your Grave, that’s nothing compared to some of the bonkers monikers it was given when marketed overseas. While it was released in Italy and France with the quite conservative titles of Don’t Rape Jennifer and An Eye for an Eye respectively, in West Germany it was named Blood Angel and in Ecuador, quite bizarrely, as Suspiria 2: Killer Sharks, possibly in an imaginative attempt to cash in on the success of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975).
5. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Effectively influencing every rape-revenge film that followed it, the infamous original also inspired an unofficial remake (Naked Vengeance, 1985), an unofficial sequel (Savage Vengeance, 1993), a Turkish version (Turkish I Spit On Your Grave, 1979) and even, bizarrely, a spoof (I Spit Chew On Your Grave, 2008). Incidentally, 1999’s German I Piss on Your Cadaver is possibly the first rape film to feature a blooper reel in its end credits!
6. You can’t beat a bit of meta fiction…
Keep an eye out for how much Jennifer’s gas bill comes to when she fills up her car at Johnny’s garage in the 2010 remake. That comes to $19.78 – a nod to the year that Meir Zarchi’s film was originally released. Similarly, you know your film’s entered popular culture when it’s parodied in The Simpsons. A 1995 episode showed a drive-in double bill of I Spit on Your Grave followed by I Thumb Through Your Magazines.
7. It’s a family affair
Making a small appearance as Johnny’s kids in the 1978 film are Meir Zarchi’s own children, Terry and Tammy as Johnny Jnr and Melissa. They also appear – all grown up – at the end of the sequel, I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu, when they go looking for their mother (and Johnny’s widow) Becky. Terry also edited, cast and produced the 2019 sequel and created the excellent documentary about the film’s legacy, Growing Up with I Spit On Your Grave (2019). Not long after making the original film, director Meir Zarchi married his leading lady Camille Keaton; both worked together again on the 2019 sequel.
8. No actors were harmed in the making of this movie
Well, that’s not technically true is it? Despite winning best actress for her performance as Jennifer Hills at the 1978 Sitges-Catalan International Film Festival, Camille Keaton definitely suffered for her art. After days of shooting in the woods, Keaton was so badly stung by poisonous ivy and insects that she had to be rushed to hospital for treatment. Actor Richard Pace was likewise rendered unconscious following his tree-hanging scene.
9. It’s still banned!
Forty-two years on, the original I Spit on Your Grave is still banned in China, Iceland, Ireland, parts of Canada, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia!
10. Video may have killed the radio star, but it made this movie
One of the key ingredients to the 1978’s notoriety and success was the advent of home video. In 1981 it stayed in the Billboard Video Cassette Top Forty for 14 consecutive weeks and won the number one best-selling video cassette award above such mainstream fare as Fiddler on The Roof (1971), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Grease (1978).
Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment presents I Spit on Your Grave: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray and DVD from 5th October 2020 Pre-order The Complete Collection on Amazon Order the book by David Maguire.