Gort vs gun crime: We review 70s revenge thriller Handgun

Commander's log, Stardate 20052013.2:

The Mothership was a mess. Finally managing to flag down Commander Wiseau, who happened to be passing, we had made our escape from the uninhabited planetoid where we'd been left by our hyper-intelligent simian Judas. When we made it home, we found our ship being ransacked by a horde of rampaging monkeys that our nemesis had created to back him up. When I confronted the original monkey, I was rather confused when he began talking.

"Greetings, Commander. Welcome home - my home. At last, I shall have my revenge," the monkey said in what sounded much like Commander Walter's voice. "Yes, it is I. Your robotic manservant took some shortcuts to creating this super-ape. He used my brain as a template for the clone and now I have a monkey army."

"I have a Gort," I replied as Gort powered up his disintegrator beam.

While most rape revenge thrillers are a thinly-veiled excuse to revel in misogynistic violence and sadism, Handgun - also known as Deep In The Heart - is a refreshing change from movies like Straw Dogs and The Last House On The Left. Straw Dogs famously appears to show Dustin Hoffman's wife growing to enjoy her gang rape. On the other hand, we've refused to review the original Last House On The Left in the past as we find it hard to stomach.

Danger! Danger Gort Fan! Spoilers detected!
We're normally ones to defend exploitation movies as harmless catharsis, but Wes Craven's debut has a nasty edge to it. Its gang of roaming rapists are displayed almost sympathetically, even providing comic relief, and the final revenge pay off only comes when the victim's parents off the villains, long after their poor daughter's been tortured to death. Handgun is different.

A young schoolteacher moves to Texas and is introduced to a despicable bigot who spends most of his time quoting statistics to justify the use of handguns as a "peacemaker", eulogising the Old West as somewhere that real men settled their differences with shootouts. For some reason, our left-wing heroine decides that dating this guy is "fun", despite sensibly having no intention of actually being with him. After a few rejections, the charming fellow whips out a handgun and decides no means make me.

"We're so pleasantly surprised by the anti-gun, anti-violence, anti-rape message of this unique revenge thriller that we can't help but recommend it."

After being kept hostage for the night and raped twice, the schoolteacher goes directly to the police, but is told there isn't enough evidence to prove this was rape. Devastated, she cuts off all her hair and shuns her friends, but ultimately decides to take her rapist's advice. She joins his gun club and spends every spare minute training in the use of handguns and knives, before luring him to an isolated location and challenging him to a gun fight.

This synopsis makes the movie sound much more exciting than it actually is. Occasionally, its documentary style comes across like a public information film and the script and the acting are terrible throughout. Some of the lines would probably have turned out better if the crew had walked up to random people in the street and asked them to improvise dialogue. Nor is there anything here for gorehounds as this is about the tamest 18-rated movie we've ever seen. Nevertheless, we were so pleasantly surprised by the anti-gun, anti-violence, anti-rape message of this unique revenge thriller that we can't help but recommend it, if only as an antidote when torture porn gets too much.

Handgun is re-released on DVD today.