Meir Zarchi Interview
Meir Zarchi might not be a household name, but he was in 1978, and for a heap of controversial reasons – Zarchi is the director, writer and producer of the notorious and original I Spit On Your Grave a.k.a “Day of the Woman”.
Banned on its cinematic release throughout most of Europe, cut to ribbons by many other countries and barely surviving an attempted ban in Australia, this rape and revenge horror classic is still making news today, having the recently released Ultimate Edition banned in Ireland!
Gorepress’ Scullion had the pleasure of asking Meir a few unique questions about his seminal film, including justifiable revenge, career killing, the 2010 remake, 3D in cinema, some funny stories and who’s lurking outside his window…
GOREPRESS: Hi Meir, thanks for taking the time to speak to Gorepress. I Spit on Your Grave is perhaps the most controversial film of all time, and there’s been countless studies and reviews and interviews done about it – the absolutely rammed double Ultimate Edition DVD proves that – so I’m going to try and ask some less-than-frequently-asked-questions. Let me know if we’re treading over old ground! Starting simple – are you proud of I Spit on Your Grave?
MEIR ZARCHI: Of course I am. I fully financed this film and it has become one of the most famous cult horror films of all time. Audiences have a choice whether to see a film or not and all over the world they have always reacted so strongly, which can only be a good thing.
GP: Was I Spit on Your Grave fun to make? Any funny stories from the set?
MZ: Ah well, quite a few. Not sure you can call them funny but dramatic. One guy – who was the electrician on set and worked very well through every night – after we did the first take of the men sodomizing her, he said “I can’t take it any longer” and quit. The make-up woman – after a few days on set, and after we shot the rape scene in the house – she confessed she was once gang raped and left as well. Also when we did the rape scene we took the shot from three different angles and four men sodomizing Camille [Keaton]- I wanted to do one more angle of her getting up and banging her head against the tree trunk. Camille said “no, I want to see you do it first naked” – and so I did, and banged my head. And then she went ahead and did the scene.
GP: Do you think Jennifer Hills’ revenge is just and righteous? Did the rapists deserve their fate?
MZ: Absolutely yes.
GP: How did people treat you, personally, on the release of I Spit on Your Grave?
MZ: Nothing but respect – whether they liked or disliked the film.
GP: What’s the most disturbing thing you’ve heard, in regards to audience / critic reactions? Any perverse feedback from fans? Gain any stalkers?!
MZ: No (laughs), but I remember eighteen years ago a lot of online reviews and internet surfers came from Amazon.com and one said “I’m gonna kill this man, how can he make a movie like this?”. I didn’t know whether to take him seriously or not. This is the first time I came across such remarks, but audiences have changed somewhat now and they’ve seen a lot more horrors. But no, I haven’t had any stalkers. I’m looking outside my window now and there’s no-one standing at the gate!
GP: If the film didn’t involve such a brutal depiction of rape, do you think it would’ve become so notorious / famous?
MZ: Well, how can I answer that? Maybe if it was a family killed in their home – the killers would have deserved that punishment too – I don’t know if it still would have been so famous. This movie will remain famous because of what it is.
GP: Why do you think rape is so much more controversial in film than violence, dismemberment and murder? Even today.
MZ: It is very hard to imagine someone being raped – especially someone you know. It’s the most violent of crimes – to penetrate someone’s body against his or her will. It is very hard for them to understand – we all hear about it every 5 minutes in the U.S. I think audiences almost can’t accept it with something so realistic. When I look at the movie – it’s very hard for me to face.
GP: You’ve done little work within the film industry since I Spit on Your Grave was released – did the film effectively dig your career a grave (rather ironically)?
MZ: No affect on my career in a bad way. It gave me the financial freedom to do what I want to do.
GP: Apart from Camille Keaton, the actors in I Spit on Your Grave have also never really worked within the film industry since – do they blame you / the film for this?
MZ: To a certain degree yes. When it came out in 1978 under the name ‘Day of the Woman’ people didn’t know how to handle the film. A lot of people have seen it now but I think it did have some sort of an effect on the cast, but maybe the part was too harsh and strong. She is a great actress and has done films since, but some years in between. I think if she made it now the world would see the film very differently. Let’s see what happens to Sarah Butler with the remake this year.
GP: Have you watched anything, ever, that made you think “this should be banned”? Or does everything committed to film have a right to be shown?
MZ: Nothing should be banned – we’re all mature enough to decide for ourselves what we should watch – we’re not living in Mussolini’s era anymore. They should kick out the BBFC! Even if we didn’t have the internet – who can tell you what to watch and what not to? It’s demeaning to the public to be told what you can and can’t watch.
GP: What do you think of the I Spit on Your Grave remake? And is it necessary?
MZ: It wasn’t necessary – no one needs to repaint the Mona Lisa or Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony but the motion picture business is a business and they are hoping to make money off the remake. The question is – is it good? Is it faithful to the original? To a great extent yes and some extent no. I would like the audience to watch both and decide for themselves.
GP: What’s your view on 3D filmmaking… and would you have filmed in 3D (if it had been available in 1978)? Do you think Jennifer Hills’ rape would’ve been more harrowing in 3D?
MZ: Lone Star with Clark Gable – they showed 3 clips before the film in 3D with things coming at you. There is really nothing new with 3D. What’s important is the story – the plot, the story, the characters. Who needs 3D? It’s like eating candy – how much can I take?
GP: What’ve you been doing since I Spit on Your Grave, and what are you up to now?
MZ: Another movie called Don’t Mess With My Sister (1985) and Holy Hollywood (1999) starring Mickey Rooney. Am now working on the remake of I Spit on Your Grave.
GP: Finally, what is your favourite horror film of all time?
MZ: I saw this when I was 16 or 17 – The Thing (1951); The Wages of Fear by Henri-Georges Clouzot which was an Italian/French co-production. A Real horror movie has no masks and doesn’t cut off limbs for the sake of vulgarity.