Tennessee Johnson, I Spit on Your Grave and Adaptation: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

In 1980, Siskel and Ebert’s characterization of I Spit on Your Grave as morally reprehensible garbage stuck, and the movie was pulled from theatrical distribution before finding financial success in the home video market, where its infamy made it a hot VHS rental. Eventually I Spit on Your Grave was taken seriously by feminist film scholars like Carol Clover and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas who gave it more nuanced and constructive readings than earlier critics, and it’s now available as part of a superb deluxe Blu-ray package from Ronin Flix. The boxed set includes a pristine new transfer of the film as well as a Blu-ray of I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu, Zarchi’s ambitious 2019 sequel that amplifies and updates the first film’s sociopolitical subtext by pitting its heroine and her daughter against heavily armed religious zealots. A third disc contains Zarchi’s son Terry’s excellent documentary Growing Up with I Spit on Your Grave, and spread across all three discs are multiple supplements including a pair of great audio commentaries by Briggs. I would have to say that my “recommendation” here is somewhat more qualified than usual given the savagery of the films and the original’s still controversial reputation, but for those willing to wrestle with the ideological implications of these challenging movies the Ronin set is exquisitely produced and indispensable.

Jim Hemphill is the writer and director of the award-winning film The Trouble with the Truth, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi. His website is www.jimhemphillfilms.com.

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