D. William A. Graham
USA Home Video (VHS O.O.P.)
1.33 Made For TV
This made for TV drama is probably out of place on a blog titled Exploitation Nation as there is really nothing very exploitative about it, though it does deal in potentially nasty material. David Soul, most known from Starsky & Hutch, plays Cal a blue collar man who is arrested one morning bright and early for rape. He is quickly tried and sent to prison for 30 years in a special correctional institute for sexual offenders that specializes in therapy and treatment. He maintains his innocence of course, even though he is befriended by the other inmates who are very open about being rapists. The thing is, they are RECOVERING rapists. See, they are all under the care of the head doctor Borski, played by James Whitmore, who is using experimental regression therapy and other psycho-analytical therapeutic techniques to get these men to confront their inner demons. In the process, figuring out why they committed the crimes they have. The supporting cast of thugs and rapists are played by some outstanding actors such as Yaphett Kotto, Craig T. Nelson, Tom Noonan, and a very young Robert Davi. Naturally our lead dude eventually relents that he indeed did commit the crimes he was accused of, and in fact, more than he was caught for. Then the movie begins the journey into his past to see what made him the man he is today.
Rage is a liberal humanist look at how to deal with monsters. As a character study it is an interesting movie that holds together thanks to earnest and heartfelt performances from the pretty much the entire cast. Even TV heavy Vic Tayback throws in a few memorable scenes. But the problems are in that the psycho analysis that is supposed to explain why this man hates women and has become a rapist is pretty thin to say the least. The screenwriters really screw up in one scene by giving us a flashback to his childhood trauma that is almost laughable. Where as no other moment for any character provides any flashbacks to their pain. Instead we watch and listen to them acting out what happened and it is chillingly effective. But for the lead we instead are shown this cackling fat woman with a kid's hand being pushed towards her, and instead of it being horrifying, it is just kinda lame. Maybe its years of hearing child abuse stories in hundreds of other movies but this trauma seems so mundane that it would seem to hardly register on someones radar these days. NOOOO don't make me touch the fat lady!!!
The idea of humanizing a group of rapists for an entire movie as we see what makes them tick may seem like a bit of poor taste for a film. The movie unfortunately leaves the victims and women’s viewpoint pretty much out of it. Even the lead’s long suffering wife refuses to leave him, even after she is told the truth. The horror of rape is mentioned several times, but it is never really felt, as they all seem like pretty good guys just going through a rough spell in their lives. The movie really could have used a counter balance character of someone who was in there who really just got off on the power trip of the crime and could not be rehabilitated. But then that would fly in the face of the thesis of the movie I suppose. The therapy session scenes are kinda creepy too in that they are all touchy feely with the characters all rubbing and touching each other a little too much for comfort. I know if I was dredging up all kinds of memories about being molested as a child, the last thing I would want is some sex offender rubbing my naked belly.
So this movie is a bizarre little curio from a period when made for TV movies tried to tackle serious issues and attracted very good actors because of it. It is not a great movie, but it has some value. But its no I Spit On your Grave!