Today marks the fourth anniversary of Russ Meyer’s death. Meyer, nicknamed “King Leer,” was a natural born freak from Oakland who worked as a cameraman in the European theater during WWII, became one of the earliest Playboy photographers, and created Mudhoney, Motor Psycho and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, along with 24 other bizarre films. Russ Meyer was also a prominent car-guy and boobie festishist, which brings us to our point . . .
This weekend I got a chance to watch Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which is probably Meyer’s best known work, and reportedly one of Quentin Tarantino’s next projects. Tera Patrick may star in the new version, which would be the most perfect casting since Milos Forman cast Courtney Love as a junkie. I had only seen this movie at times when I was practically dead from alcohol consumption and thus only remembered images and feelings, like trying to remember a dream. This time, I would only watch it while Rather Drunk, the kind where you can still get served if you’re in a strange bar, but it makes the server a bit nervous.
The opening is a narration set to beatnik jazz and animated white lines which move with the narrator’s voice:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains . . . sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist . . . or a dancer in a go-go club!
The action then cuts to a mishmash of scenes of three women go-go dancing while swarthy, bug-eyed men yell “Go! Go! Go!” for some reason that may have been apparent to contemporary viewers, but left the 21st century viewers in my living room nonplussed or giggling, which is perfect, really, as a set up for what’s to come.
This movie is completely unsubtle. It is as cheesy as any one film can possibly be, violent for no apparent reason, disjointed, ridiculous, and jump up and down and clap your hands awesome. It’s not the best bad movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s up there as one of the most memorable. It’s worth noting that the best characters in this film all have wheels. One is a Porsche 356 and another is a shotgun-wielding pederast in a wheelchair, but still.
So the three go-go girls, (probably, it’s hard to tell,) are next seen ripping through southern California in sports cars, seen in close-ups laughing like caricatures of 18th century villains as the cars rock back and forth and the scenery doesn’t move behind them.
Billie, the blonde, all the sudden swerves off the road, and runs out of her MG-A and into a lake with all her clothes on. She can be heard to say “This is a gas!” although no one else is around.
I don’t know, either. Everyone in this movie acts like they’re on acid.
So the two brunettes circle back around and Varla [Tura Santana, Porsche 356], who is clearly the leader, yells for Rosie [Haji, Triumph TR-3] to go get Billie one out of the water in a voice best described as “your grandmother yelling at you.” Every one of Varla’s lines will be delivered in this timbre. Every. Single. One. By the middle of the movie I had the urge to wash my hands and take off my hat at the dinner table. Thinking of my grandmother while watching Tura’s cans bounce up and down was . . . mildly unsettling. Let’s just move on.
Rosie answers Varla back and the audience discovers she talks like Super Mario. (“Alright, you wash . . . now I’m-a gonna spin-a-dry you!”) And then she and Billie fight.
Like I said, I don’t know. I don’t know why they even needed her to get out of the water. It’s not like they needed to be anywhere. The important thing is that there was now Violence! By Women! And they had big boobs and they were wet. This is a Russ Meyer movie after all.
Unfortunately, this was also the middle 1960s, so the military-grade bras they were wearing ensured their clothes remained as opaque as the plot line. Boo.
So the girls show up at a dry lake bed and the Italian chick, Rosie, who actually sounds Russian on occasion even though her IMDB says she’s from Quebec, is in a different shirt, but the blonde is in her original clothes, which are clean despite fighting in the sand, and neither of them have wet hair. The desert heat, I guess. Billie puts on the radio and starts dancing like white people did in the 60’s, which looks like swimming freestyle while standing up on dry land. Rosie gives her some lip about it, but they don’t seem to have anything else to do, so there is no fight. This apparently gives Varla the urge to assert her dominance again, so she challenges the other two to a game of chicken on the dusty lakebed. Rosie and Billie appear almost frail in their white convertibles as they charge against Varla with her Morticia Adams hair and eyebrows and sinister black coupe, and the English cars predictably bail out at the last second, twin rooster tails of dust splitting off into the desert.
Some friendly guy and his girlfriend who only wears a bikini roll up on the girls on the lakebed. The guy wants to do some time trials and is head of his car club’s safety team or something. The girl has a little stand on which she puts a cooler. This last point is just as important as anything else that is said, which is to say: not very. The important thing is these two are friendly, All-American kids. This makes Varla angry, and she tells the guy his MG-B sucks and time trials are for pansies.
The dialog in this scene is composed almost entirely of epically bad 60’s witticisms. Billie throws Rosie a beer and tells her to “Pop the top before you blow your own!” [Zing!] and when the guy, Tommy asks Varla what the point of all her aggression towards him is, she answers “The point is of no return! And you’ve reached it!”
Then . . . they must race.
Tommy turns out to be the best driver out of the four competitors despite Varla telling him he has the worst car, so she cheats and makes him spin out. He sits in his car for some time, pondering when life first came to the universe, I don’t know, it’s not like he hit anything, while Varla and the girls abuse his girlfriend, who is like sixteen.
After five or ten minutes of silent contemplation in his car, he notices and takes umbrage with Varla, at which point she attacks him with a series of weak karate chops to such vital organs as the upper arm and hip and then breaks his neck under her boot. Rawr, violence! And by women!
The girls show no emotional response to having just witnessed a pointless murder and kidnap Tommy’s girlfriend, Linda. It was at this point that I started to wonder if even one person in this movie had acted in anything, ever, before it was filmed.
Our murderous crew goes on to mock some gas station attendant, plot to rob a rural family with a huge, jacked son who is fantastically stupid and no, I have never read Of Mice and Men why ever do you ask? and Violence! and Women! and don’tthinktoohardaboutitbecauseclearlythefilmmakersdidn’t.
I’m not going to spoil the movie because:
A) I hate spoilers
B) It’s a vital piece of Hollywood trash, and sometimes trash becomes artifact. It’s laughably bad sleaze, yes, but it also gives us clues about the cultural landscape of Hollywood in the middle 1960s when society suddenly split open and melted. Meyer honestly seems to have been trying to make a point about women no longer being the meek creatures men expected from earlier decades while simultaneously tantalizing the base instincts which would drive men to see the movie in the first place. Needless to say, a movie like this can not be made without sports cars.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a grimy window through which we can see both Meyer’s mind, and the culture in which he was so deeply intertwined, like reading about the rediscovery of the Spider Pool where Tura Santana and women like her did very risqué photo shoots.
There is very little to take seriously about the movie itself, but take me seriously when I say you should watch it sometime. Preferably while clutching a bottle of Sailor Jerry.