One crew member quit during filming of the second rape scene. He simply couldn't stomach any more violence. The film's make-up artist quit the film halfway through. She had been gang-raped and couldn't bear to relive the horror of her attacks.
The film was originally released in 1978, with the title "Day of the Woman", and was poorly received at the box office. In 1980, distributor Jerry Gross renamed it "I Spit on Your Grave", after a 1959 French drama, and re-released it. This time film received more publicity, and became a key target of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel's campaign against films featuring women in danger.
Meir Zarchi said he was inspired to make the film after helping a young woman who had been raped. He said he, a friend, and his daughter were driving by a park when they saw a young woman crawl, bloodied and naked, out of the bushes. They picked the girl up, took his daughter back home, and talked with the friend about whether they should take her to the hospital or the police. They decided to take her to the police first. The officer, who Zarchi described as "not fit to wear the uniform", insisted she answer questions about her assailants before she went to the hospital, even though her jaw was broken and she could barely talk. Finally, Zarchi insisted to the officer that they take her to the hospital right away. He later found out the girl was attacked while taking a common shortcut to meet with her boyfriend. Soon afterward the girl's father sent Zarchi a letter of thanks for helping his daughter, and offered him a reward, which Zarchi turned down.
The scar on the left side of Jennifer's face is real, the result of a car accident in Camille Keaton's youth. In the post-trauma scenes, the make-up artist exaggerated it. In the opening and closing scenes, it was hidden under a thin layer of foundation.
The film was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America several times. It was originally rejected due to violence, though the MPAA didn't specify which violent sections should be trimmed. The film finally passed after Meir Zarchi had removed all references to anal rape.
Filmed under the title of "Day of the Woman". It was also shown under the titles "I Hate Your Guts", and "The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill". The title "I Spit on Your Grave" was first used for the 1980 re-release. Meir Zarchi didn't like that title, but it helped make the film a controversial success. Zarchi now insists that the subtitle "AKA Day of the Woman" be attached to all posters and DVD sleeves.
The film has no soundtrack. Meir Zarchi intended to add some music, but couldn't find anything suitable. The only music in the film is the church organ, a snatch of a Giacomo Puccini record, background music in the store, and a few stray riffs from Johnny's harmonica.
Film critic Roger Ebert called it the worst movie ever made, going even further than Gene Siskel who also loathed the film but did not talk about it after he agreed with Ebert that it was easily the worst movie either of them saw in the year it was released, 1980. Ebert talked at length, both on his show and in print, about how the element of the film that disturbed him the most was seeing it with a fairly large audience who alternately laughed about the rape scenes and then hypocritically exhorted the female lead to get revenge on her rapists. Ebert wrote that he wanted to tell these viewers how disgusted he was, but decided not to and simply ran out of the theatre as quickly as possible once the movie ended.
In real life, the house where the rape takes place was owned by Meir Zarchi's friend Nouri Haviv, who was also director of photography on the film. Zarchi had visited his colleague when he was developing the script, and was influenced by its location.
The UK Special Edition contains an Easter egg. On page three of the special features, go to 'main menu', hit left, and highlight Jennifer's knife. The Easter egg reveals a selection of stills from the movie.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Meir Zarchi filmed Matthew's death scene, Richard Pace started to convulse while hanging. Zarchi initially thought it was really good acting, then quickly realized something was wrong. Pace wasn't choking, he was having a panic attack due to fear of heights.
A poster's tagline says, "This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition." She gets revenge on 4 men, and doesn't burn any of them. In the remake, I Spit on Your Grave (2010), a fifth man is added.