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Women in Horror ’13: The Return of Christina Lindberg!

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Original artwork by Rob Jones, commissioned for The Exploitation Army in 2005

There are certainly some out there who own a THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE T-shirt, but don’t know the name of the beautiful one-eyed actress screen-printed on the front.  I can understand that.  The image is irresistibly potent and perfectly represents what we love so much about no-bullshit cinema.  The iconic visuals of more savage films from yesteryear haunt us as films fans, in the best possible sense. And Christina Lindberg’s “Frigga” from THRILLER…, one of the most devastating yet entertaining of rape/revenge films, has always been a queen among of those poltergeists.  If you do own that shirt, it’s okay – you understand that the woman on your chest made an impact, and I’d love to tell you more about her.

At 62 years of age, Lindberg has decided to return to grindhouse filmmaking after decades of retirement.  Earlier in life, the incredibly shy yet fiercely independent young woman posed for men’s magazines before earning enough attention to be offered roles in films – specifically those requiring much nudity and, ya know, acting would be okay if she could.  She found it wise that her character couldn’t speak in THRILLER, since she didn’t think she could act.  But her silent-yet-lethal portrayal has since become legendary.  And now, for a variety of reasons, we’ll be seeing her wear that eyepatch again and punishing men and women that have wronged her character of “Candy” in Todd Fischer’s CRY FOR REVENGE, which we recently reported on HERE.

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(photo credit: Laura Skinner)

She says it’s really for “fun,” but her return is more intriguing than that.  Why would a woman satisfied with her busy lifestyle as a magazine editor-in-chief and farm owner decide not only to return to the laborious environment of low-budget filmmaking, but also essentially reprise her most famous role as a woman put through Hell, who then herself becomes Hell on two legs?

Before that, let’s check the score. In the United States and elsewhere, there are many film fans who find the distinctive sticky-bottom-of-the-shoe sensation that grindhouse films provide irresistible and intoxicating rather than disgusting or perverse.  We gleefully celebrate and applaud cinematic icons that symbolize any form of a middle finger to fat-cat filmmaking, and that’s fine.  Though that hasn’t necessarily been the case in Sweden, where low-budget films that chose to shed a more unflattering light on sex, violence and action haven’t always been looked upon as greasy treasures.

Odd realizations continue.  I’ve read time and time again that THRILLER was meant to be the director’s most “commercial film” – yet it opens with a poetically-filmed molestation of a child and spirals into a cauldron of hot shit that gets smeared on every character’s face.  Daniel Ekeroth’s Swedish Sensationsfilms: A History of Sex, Thriller, and Kicker Cinema provides all of the evidence necessary to realize that there was a market for this kind of material, and it’s arresting to find out just exactly how the films came to collide/coincide with popular culture.  Frigga’s story isn’t just some fairy tale someone dreamt up after all…which may be why even the young Swedish documentarians I met on the set of her latest film weren’t interested in being gushing fans of hers, despite filming a documentary regarding her return to acting.

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So in Sweden, everyone knows Lindberg’s name and who she is – the majority just don’t seem to care much for her career as a nude model and star of intense films, despite the fact that she is continually acknowledged for actually attempting to act rather than simply be an eye-pleasing convenience.  It’s a queer notion to accept, given our penchant here in the states for putting our ballsier actors and actresses from yesteryear upon pedestals, and even encouraging them to keep kicking asses onscreen when they can find the time to do so.

There is also an unexpected upside to this relentless adoration.  Thanks in part to a flourishing fanbase of grindhouse films the world over, Sweden has taken notice of the significance of down ‘n’ dirty flicks that wear their sharkskin-covered hearts on their bloody sleeves. Always unafraid to be a part of edgier entertainment, Lindberg seems to be finally getting some of the respect she deserved for quite a while from her neighbors.

“Absolutely. It’s a big change,” says the actress of the shift in attitude. Naturally, she acknowledges Tarantino’s influence regarding the rise in grindhouse popularity.  That’s impossible to ignore, considering how much Lindberg’s work in 70’s films such as THRILLER and SEX AND FURY have clearly influenced characters, plot points and specific set-pieces in Tarantino’s films.  At the premiere for INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, she finally met her long-time fan in person. Instead of taking a picture together, Tarantino told her to wait, saying he had something “much better” in store. “[My friend and I] went to the premiere and he was with his actor, Christoph Waltz – fantastic actor – and they took some pictures, and then he said ‘C’mon, Christina!’ He embraced me in front of all the Swedish press.  I think he wanted to give me this, because my movies haven’t been so, you know…in some books, they don’t mention them, for example.  They haven’t been looked at as quality movies.  And Tarantino understands that, so he wanted to point out that I have done good things.  I went into the theater and sat down, and he was on the stage and suddenly he said ‘And I’m glad to introduce the coolest actress in Sweden, Christina Lindberg!’ So then I had to stand up and I felt fantastic.  In some ways, he changed [things].  It’s so generous of him to say ‘I picked this for my movie, and I picked that…’ It’s generous because not all directors do it.”

And now we have her back, “At home, I have my magazine so I have to do a lot of editing eight times a year. And it’s a lot of work. And I live on my farm that I love. I have some property to take care of.  So I live a life that I love. But if people think this is great, and I find something that fits me, I maybe would like to do it. But it would be nice if it could be in this grindhouse – I mean this, how do you say? – ‘environment’, like [CRY] for example, the same kind of stuff, I think that would be great.”  So she wants to stay.  No other genres?  No, let’s say, comedy? “NO, no comedy – nothing for me. No, no – not at all, to be honest. It’s no fun – I don’t think I would do good acting performance, to be honest.”

CRY writer/director Fischer noticed Lindberg’s no-nonsense approach to her craft. “On set, she was more critical of herself than I was of her,” he explains. “She is a perfectionist. I had to keep reminding her that we were making a grindhouse [movie], we don’t have to be perfect. One thing that most people will never know because of the content of her old movies is that she is actually an incredible actress.”

“We had a lot of discussions what to do with this movie, to be honest,” Lindberg says of her correspondence with Fischer once he approached her for CRY. “We find out it would be interesting if I came back as an old kind of Frigga – not Frigga, but something like that.  And then I thought I would like to do this…” Fischer gave her the option of either playing a mentor to a young woman wronged by evildoers or to play an older version of the girl who finally achieves her vengeance.  Her reason for choosing the latter?  “Because I think I could do a better job. You must feel good in the character and I think that was much easier for me. I do it for fun, I really do.  It’s funny because I feel like I did this yesterday (laughs). You know, it’s natural.  I’m not nervous, I feel very comfortable – it’s no problem. I’m surprised myself that it feels like that.”

She hasn’t told any friends or family just yet about return, casually stating “they will probably read in the newspapers and see it on television and so on.” In the meantime, all other Lindberg lovers should take note that she will be appearing at conventions frequently, including the upcoming Shock Stock in Ontario, Canada.

A full set-visit report from CRY FOR REVENGE will be in FANGORIA magazine soon.  Stay tuned!

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Christina Lindberg will be making an appearance at London, Ontario’s SHOCK STOCK in Canada the weekend of April 12-14, 2013, with Rickard Gramfors of Sweden’s Klubb Super-8

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