John Waters denounced Hollywood for stealing sex and violence from the low-budget and exploitation filmmaker. But one area that the mainstream tends to shun is rape, mainly because serious depictions of this kind of brutality run into the dreaded NC-17 rating. Here are five memorable attempts to deal with the subject.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) Malcolm McDowell's Alex may be a loathsome thug, but the movie treats his depredations -- rape and a couple of murders -- as jolly fun, with speeded-up camera work and comically twisted pieces of classical music on the soundtrack. Everyone else in the film is simply less attractive, more oppressive and more vicious.
STRAW DOGS (Sam Peckinpah, 1971) Peckinpah drew heavy flak for the scene in which Susan George's characater is raped by an old boyfriend and starts to enjoy it. What was missed was that the studio cut the film at the moment where the rapist turns her over to a friend. Perhaps they'll restore that scene in the new Criterion DVD.
DELIVERANCE (John Boorman, 1972) This isn't the first male rape in a Hollywood studio movie. (Joe Buck is raped in flashback in Midnight Cowboy, but the scene is so oblique that you're not sure what's happening.) But the Deliverance sequence was a shocker in its day. It was an unexpected plot turn in a movie about a group of guys out for a weekend canoe trip. You expected the threat to come from nature, not from dentally challenged hillbillies.
THE ACCUSED (Jonathan Kaplan, 1988) Director Kaplan's smartest move here is to withhold the rape scene until the very end. By that point, the audience so loves Jodie Foster's character that the depiction of the gang rape, unusually graphic for a Hollywood studio picture, packs enormous emotional power. Foster won her first Oscar as the blue-collar victim and is one of five actresses to win an Oscar for playing a rape victim, the others being Hilary Swank, Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda, Sophia Loren in Two Women and Patricia Neal in Hud.
THE BAD LIEUTENANT (Abel Ferrara, 1992) The Bad Lieutenant's plot is triggered by the gang rape of a nun, in a church. More disturbing, though, is the psychological rape performed by Harvey Keitel's eponymous cop later in the film, when he forces a young woman to mime fellatio while he watches and masturbates. He never touches her, but the violation is absolute.