Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
In honor of Sex Week, CC2K's Tony Lazlo takes a look at five of Russ Meyer's classic raunch-fests.
Russ Meyer has legs. Let me explain.
The legendary B-movie director, who died in 2004 with more than 30 movies, documentaries and other titles to his name, is best-known for the bevy of chesty babes he featured in his sexploitation flicks. There’s an old adage that divides men into two categories: leg men and breast men. I can only assume that when Meyer was asked what he was, he responded, “Sir, I’ve got legs.”
I confess that I also “have legs” in the Russ Meyer sense, though I had never seen any of his movies until recently – an oversight that bewildered my friends. That changed for this year’s Sex Week. I didn’t have time to burn through all of his movies, but I managed to watch five of his better-known titles. Here follow my reactions.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
For better or for worse, this one has gone down as the definitive Meyer movie. Roughly, the plot follows three exotic dancers as they go joyriding in the desert and terrorize a variety of good-natured bumpkins. It would be tempting to say that Meyer’s movies echo the structure of classic adult movies in how they both use threadbare plots that speed from one action/sex scene to the next, but this one reminded more of Gilligan’s Island. The three leading ladies are stuck out in the middle of the desert, and their victims simply appear as the plot dictates, just like Duke Williams surfing in on a tsunami.
Most of the major Meyer devices and themes come into play here, including physically powerful, ultra-busty women, doof-brained men and a reliance on kooky voice-over to heghten the festivities. Get this: The movie opens with two minutes of intense narration spoken over a stylized equalizer. Classic opening line: “Welcome to violence.” While searching for this online, I kept clicking past copies of the full movie because I thought I had only found its trailer. It turns out that Meyer’s masterpiece begins with a trailer for itself.
Tura Santana, Sue Bernard
Check out the ladies of Faster, Pusstcat in action:
Once again, I started this one and thought I was watching a movie trailer. Meyer’s mockumentary tribute to strippers starts out with a lengthy tour of San Francisco augmented with suggestive narration provided by the same stentorian voice heard across all his movies. Sample copy: “San Franciso’s art colony is dominated by the arrogant and imposing Coit tower, thrusting its bulk majestically to the sky, with the Brodway tunnel offering a yawning orifice through which to enter fabled north beach.” (Cut to a fully naked Babette Bardot driving through San Fran in a sprawling late-60s American car.)
Wikipedia tells me this was apparently too much for the Finnish, who banned it.
Unlike Faster, Pussycat, Mondo Topless includes narration throughout the entire movie. I guess Meyer wanted to constantly remind us that we were being shocked.
All the women are (of course) top-shelf. I prefer Greta Thorwald myself, though here’s a memorable clip of Babette Bardot gyrating next to a speeding train, complete with totally extreme voice-over.
Not to be confused with the Disney/Pixar movie of the same name, Up! recounts the tale of … well … I think there’s a Nazi involved. He’s hiding in the mountains of Northern California. Somehow a gaggle of incredibly bosomy women get involved. Ultrabusty Meyer discovery Kitten Natividad appears completely naked throughout the movie as “the Greek Chorus.” Complaints: Zero.
Looking back at Faster, Pussycat, I suspect that Meyer wanted to make his female superheroines more sympathetic. The trio of superbabes in Faster, Pussycat came off like a bunch of insane bullies, so in Up, we get a series of crazy-as-fuck men. The structure of this movie basically goes like this:
- Busty woman appears.
- Insane asshole rapes her.
- Busty woman then breaks insane asshole’s back with her bare hands.
Raven De La Croix, Kitten Natividad
And here’s De La Croix in a naked knife-fight. Oddly enough, it’s against a woman.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Eminent movie critic Roger Ebert was a close friend of Meyer’s, and he lent his hand to the script for this movie (as well as a couple other Meyer titles). The result is an unauthorized sequel to Jacqueline Susann’s lurid best-seller that's shot with the same flat, flavorless full-color film stock seen in every Irwin Allen movie. There’s a little more plot in this one, as we follow three young rock-and-rollers as they travel to Los Angeles to chase fortune and do a lot of drugs. It goes to hell from there.
This one felt the most like a traditional narrative, though I’m being pretty reckless with that term. On the whole, the women aren’t as chesty and the sex is a little harder to come by, though Meyer still manages to sneak in a transgender plot twist and an ultraviolent climax.
Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers
Here’s a classic extended trailer:
A full-color remake of Faster, Pussycat. OK, I’m over-simplifying, but Supervixens follows the same bare-bones approach to filmmakering as Faster, Pussycat, and the result is an episodic raunch-fest that includes some of Meyer's hottest women alongside violence that’s still pretty shocking (no pun intended).
The plot, such as it is, follows a square-jawed stud who’s either irresistible to all women or only women with the word “super” in their names. He’s got a nympho of a wife named SuperAngel, and he runs into the movie’s memorable poster-babe, SuperLorna, played by the rawr-worthy Christy Hartburg.
Meyer regular Charles Napier (The Silence of the Lambs) shows up as an impotent bad guy who tramples a woman to death in her bathtub before electrocuting her with a plugged-in radio. The always reliable Wikipedia tells me that film historian Jimmy McDonough has called Meyer an inadvertent feminist filmmaker because of his physically powerful female leads. I find such a premise hard to reconcile with the violence Meyer visits upon his female characters, but then I haven’t seen all of his movies, and I haven’t read McDonough’s biography of Meyer.
Christy Hartburg, Shari Eubank
In this classic scene, we get to see one of Meyer’s favorite shots: Looking into a car window and down at spectacular cleavage. This is also Hartburg’s first appearance in her red halter top – an outfit that demands a standing ovation.
I wish I enjoyed these movies more. Don’t get me wrong – the women are easy on the eyes, but I found the violence against them hard to stomach. In addition, I think there’s a brief window in our youths when we can really enjoy B-movies. After that window passes, they’re just boring, no matter how hard the filmmakers work.
And believe me – Meyer worked his ass off.
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.