Tag Archives: Russ Meyer

RUSS MEYER’S BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA VIXENS (1979)

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens (1979) is the last authentic Russ Meyer film (he returned only to produce 2001‘s rarely-seen Pandora Peaks, which is, as to be expected, an idiosyncratic interpretation of the documentary genre). Co-written by (under his “R. Hyde” pseudonym), Meyer’s swan song is film as one additional cup size enhancement. It has charmed moments of Meyerisms, including his trademark spry editing, but adds erratic eroticism. Meyer once claimed it was the favorite of his own works (although he said the same of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). This may be an echo of Paul Gauguin’s claim that the artistic process was more satisfying than the finished work. Coloring Meyer’s sense of nostalgia for the film was his admission that he constantly engaged in sex with star between takes. According to Meyer, the actress introduced him to multifarious taboos and was even more oversexed than he was.

As in Up! (1976), the plot is emaciated Surrealism. The relationship (so to speak) between Surrealism and pornography has been complex since the movement’s inception (works by Georges Bataille, Susan Sontag, and Theodor Adorno are among essential writings on the subject). Meyer’s brand of Surrealism is strictly visceral, which renders him closer to authentic Surrealism than to soft-core porn. For the Surrealists, porn’s lack of social acceptability amounted to an endorsement. However, its totalitarian simple-mindedness prevented a complete embrace, or mimicry. Rather, elements of pornography proved influential to the aesthetics and tenets of Surrealism.

Of course, Meyer did not associate himself with any –ism, and it’s doubtful that he gave much thought to categorizing his work. He simply stayed true to his sense of craftsmanship, making films that he would want to see. He voluntarily returned to the limits of independent budgets as opposed to compromising with Twentieth Century Fox, who any other indie filmmaker would have killed to work for. That anti-bourgeoisie, stubbornly rebellious streak invites a comparison to Surrealist bad boys such as Andre Breton, , or George Antheil. However, as much as Meyer was obsessed with breasts, he was equally preoccupied with cartoonish slapstick; another surrealist plane of identification. His films, especially his last two, are akin to a visualization of a Carl Stalling collage.

Still from Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-vixens (1979)The gossamer narrative revolves around Lavonia (Natividad) who is sexually unsatisfied with hubby Lamar (Ken Kerr). As the “Small Town USA Narrator” (Stuart Lancaster in a pickup truck) informs us, “Lamar, with a 37 IQ, is strictly a rear window man[1].” Lamar’s fetish gets him fired from his job (no perverts allowed here), and drives Lavonia into the sheets with her vibrator. She follows this by having affairs with Mr. Peterbuilt (Pat Wright), teen meat Rhett (Steve Tracy) and lingerie salesman Semper Fidelis (Michael Finn). Oddly, wifey’s bonding with the battery powered machine drives Lamar into a far greater frenzy than her extramarital rendezvous.

With a slinky dress and gaudy wig from Semper, Lavonia hits the strip clubs under the stage name of Lola. Borrowing a plot from countless opera librettos, the husband comes across his disguised wife and does not recognize her. Lavonia’s ruse to trick her husband into good old fashioned vaginal intercourse utterly fails, driving Lamar to seek gay counselor Asa Lavender (Robert Pearson) and female Benny Hinn type-Eufaula Roop (Anne Marie) for conversion therapy.

Meyer’s camera work and editing is at it most -like, fixating on inanimate objects, most of which are utilized as phallic and vaginal symbols (such as a record player). He also employs extreme close-ups of Natividad’s sex parts paralleled, per the norm, with vivacious sound effects.

While much of Meyer’s work intersects sex and violence, there is virtually none of the latter here and, with no real antagonist, Beneath deliriously celebrates the joy of sex. Meyer had once planned a film titled The Bra Of God, which for various reasons did not come to fruition. However, in that planned title and this film we locate the pulse of Meyer’s inseparable art and life. Existential questions are banished. Like the birds, bees, ants, and fish, the relevance of life pertains primarily to pleasure found in sexual union. We share that with the beasts and primitives. The sole difference is we do not, or should not, divorce love (and appreciation of beauty) from sex. For Meyer, pursuit of power, acquisition of dyed green paper, and the quest to find an invisible deity are pursuits for the unenlightened.

  1. One might speculate as well how much of this plotline was semi-autobiographical. Meyer claimed that Natividad introduced him to anal sex, which she was apparently preoccupied with []

RUSS MEYER’S UP! (1976)

followed up on the relative success of 1975’s Supervixens with Up! From a script based on Roger Ebert’s original story, Meyer produced his most surreal live-action, X-rated cartoon. There is no tangible plot, but rather loosely connected vignettes.

Up! opens with a sadomasochistic scene of Adolf Schwartz (Edward Schaaf) being tortured, and pleasured, by three female prostitutes, each belonging to a different ethnic group: the Ethiopian Chief (Elaine Collins), the Oriental Limehouse (Su Ling) and Pocahontas (Foxy Lae). Of course, the Native American requires a Captain Smith, who she get in puritan pilgrim Paul (Robert McLane, with a foot-long prosthetic penis). Candy Samples also appears, under a mask, to breast slap Adolf, who is actually the aged Adolf Hitler, having apparently faked his 1944 suicide. He’s living in a Bavarian castle (his mailbox has a red flag) until a mysterious black-gloved assassin drops a piranha in the Fuhrer’s bathtub to the strains of the Horst-Wessel-Lied. Although obviously justified, Adolf’s death is actually a disappointment: within the dank dungeon, Schaff is the most animated sex participant, expressively enjoying his carnality. The remaining cast members all engage with the outdoor, sunny California countryside, but under a spell of kinetic blankness, like sex machines gone wild. That is intentional. It is essential to be aware of this film’s time period. The country was still under the spell and success of the hardcore XXX film Deep Throat (1972). It influenced the entire sexploitation industry and Up! is a venomous, satirical rejection of the hardcore phenomenon. Paradoxically, Up! is also an attempt to appease changing tastes.

appears (nude, except for leather boots) as “the Greek Chorus”: a mythological goddess come down to pleasure our eyes and inform us that Adolf’s death was “a murder most foul.” Throughout the rest of the film, Natividad sits atop phallic trees, prances through the landscape, and quotes dabs of Shakespeare mixed with nonsensical phrases such as “the kamikaze of cunnilingus” and “the black sperm of revenge” while Sweet L’il Alice (Janet Woods) engages in interracial dildo sex with Gwendoline (Linda Sue Ragsdale).

Cue the second opening (apparently, the first was a kind of overture): Margo Winchester (busty Raven de la Croix, in an amusing Mae West impersonation) is hitching a ride not far from the castle when the vile redneck Leonard Box (Larry Dean) chases her into a lake and brutally rapes her. In retaliation, she kills him, but copper Homer Johnson (Monty Bane) threatens to arrest her. Naturally, they retreat to a mountain cabin where she repeatedly pleasures Johnson’s johnson (another foot long prosthetic) and avoids incarceration.

Natividad returns sporadically to try to guide us through the dizziness (thankfully, she fails) and consistently reminds us that “a murder most foul,” has been committed (as if we care, unless you’re a mournful Meyer with a Nazi fetish).

Johnson’s johnson gets pleasured by more busty babes, including “Chesty Young Thing” Marianne Marks, on her knees. Winchester (after trying out numerous studs) decides to get a job at Paul and Alice’s diner as a dancing waitress, where her cleavage makes her a local sensation. Unfortunately, her gyrating arouses backwoodsman Rafe (Bob Schott) who rapes her on a table to a cheering crowd of sex-starved hayseeds (Meyer himself, billed as “Hitchcock,” is among the rabble). Rafe gets carried away and gets axed by Homer (remember him?), but survives long enough to reciprocate. Gallons of deep cadmium red and ploopy sound effects ramp up this mean-spirited, chainsaw to the crotch of a cartoon, which occasionally seems a precursor to Sam Raimi.

Before things get too out of hand, Natividad splashes through the tulips, crying again, “a murder most foul has been committed.” Winchester already knows, because she is an undercover detective. Both Paul and the bi-sexual Alice lust after Winchester, prompting a duel (return of the dildo) and, finally, uncovering the identity of Hitler’s assassin. The finale, shot and edited like future music videos, is a frenzied marathon of sex and violence run amok.

Still from Up! (1976)References to Citizen Kane (1941), Psycho (1960), and John Ford’s cavalry westerns abound. It is surprising that Up! is not better known. De la Croix  is femme fatale comparable to Tura Satana (both break the backs of lesser men). Woods and Natividad fill out the remaining trio of magnetic leads. Natividad went onto have a long personal relationship with Meyer, until her entry into hardcore sex films prompted a breakup (although they remained friends until his death). Up! may be Meyer’s most pronounced rebellion against the status quo, and is a definitely List Contender.

RUSS MEYER’S BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970)

Purportedly, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) was the film felt was his most successful work. It was certainly his most profitable movie, and has the most extensive cult following.

Its origin is well known. Upon learning that Meyer’s Vixen (1968) brought in six million dollars on a budget of seventy-five thousand, Fox Studios signed the director to a three-picture deal, with each budgeted at one million. The studio desperately needed a profitable venture, after the expensive flops Doctor Doolittle (1967) and Hello Dolly (1969). Meyer was assigned scriptwriter to make a spoof of the studio’s Valley Of The Dolls (1967). After Mark Robson’s adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s trash novel had proven to be a surprise hit, Fox was taking no chances, counting on the Dolls name to bring in audiences.

 Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is only loosely related to its original source, and it was hated by both studio and Susann (who unsuccessfully sued to stop its release, fearing it would harm even her reputation). Fox insisted that Meyer insert a disclaimer, informing viewers that BTVOTD was not related to the Susann original. In hindsight, the studio’s misgivings are puzzling, since the movie is exactly what they ordered: a big budget Russ Meyer flick that became an instant cult phenomenon. While best viewed as a time capsule, BTVOTD is better than the pedestrian film it parodies. Valley Of The Dolls was directed on cruise control. Comparatively,  BTVOTD has the vigor of a tawdry cartoon, supplied by its twenty-seven-year-old scriptwriter and a middle-aged perverted artisan.

Still from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)Kelly Mac Namara (Dolly Read), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers), and Petronella Danforth (Marcia McBroom) are “The Kelly Affair,” a trio of buxom rockers who, in their “Josie and the Pussycats” van, travel from sleepy Texas to the wild and wooly Los Angeles in hopes of success.  At a party, thrown by a bell-bottomed Caligula, the hexagon of singing mammary glands are discovered by the androgynous Z -Man (John Lazar, channeling Phil Spector), who redubs them “The Carrie Nations.”  With their rapid success comes drug addiction, avarice, harlotry, lesbianism, abortion, alcoholism, transsexualism, porn stars, and Nazi orgies.

Visually, the film is a 1970 smorgasbord of primary colors, beautifully captured by cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp. Accompanying the eye-popping visuals is catchy musical kitsch. The editing, like the plot, is episodic. As in the best of Meyer, the appeal of BTVOTD lies not in its narrative, but in its self-conscious camp. Comparisons to Chuck Jones cartoons are apt (as he would do again in 1975’s Supervixens, Meyer throws in Wile E. Coyote sound effects). BTVOTD hurls the viewer into an unexpected psychedelic, psychotic comic strip of a finale, which still divides the film’s fan base. It is unlike everything that precedes it. The ill-fated Sharon Tate was among Valley of the Dolls’ leads, which makes the nihilistic Charles Manson-styled massacre of BTVOTD a shrewdly tasteless finale worthy of John Waters.

BTVOTD is a celebration of counter culture trash. Despite its excesses, garishness, and plethora of broken taboos, its appeal will be dependent on the audience’s receptiveness to drug-induced soap opera pacing. For some, this is the director at his most accessible. Undoubtedly, BTVOTD is an essential entry in the Russ Meyer oeuvre, but it is debatable as a good starting point.

RUSS MEYER’S SUPERVIXENS (1975)

had seemingly put low budget independent film permanently behind him when he made Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970, co-written with ) and The Seven Minutes (1971) for super-studio 20th Century Fox. The first film made an unprecedented nine million dollars, but the latter was a commercial and critical failure. The axiom “you are only as big as your last film” held true, and Meyer was back on an independent path with the Caribbean-filmed period drama Black Snake (1973). Unfortunately, that was also a commercial failure. Some advocated it as an attempted change-of-pace for Meyer, but many felt the director had lost his footing.

Supervixens (1975) marked a return to Meyer’s zanier sexploitation style. It also finds him trying to catch up with his earlier self and with the indie school he influenced, which had already surpassed Meyer in its sex and violence quotas. Fortunately, he succeeded, and Supervixens‘ unexpected financial success (especially for an independent film) paved a path for the larger budgets of Up! (1976) and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979; his second and final collaboration with Ebert as co-writer).

Still from Supervixens (1975)Square-jawed full-service gas attendant Clint (Charles Pitts) is married to super jealous Super Angel (Shari Eubank). She is convinced his “Super Service” includes more than washing the windows of well-endowed Super Lorna (Christy Hartbug). Angel calls Clint’s former Nazi boss (!?!) Martin Bormann (Henry Rowland) and informs the hayseed that hubby better get home right now (for sex) or she will burn down the house. After beating the hell outta Clint, Super Angel plays victim and gets copper Harry Sledge () to arrest her philandering hubby.

Clint’s drowns his sorrows with bartender Super Haji (). While the cat’s away, Super Angel plays with not-so-super Harry. Alas, Harry is no Dirk Diggler, and after she mocks his libido, he sadistically beats, stabs, stomps, strangles, drowns and electrocutes her in the most violent scene from any Meyer film (it is disconcertingly brutal, even by contemporary standards), before burning down the house for real.

After turning down Haji’s “come hither” advances, Clint’s alibi goes bonkers, making him the most likely suspect in his wife’s murder. Clint hits the road in a Chuck Jones-styled desert rendition of a Homerian odyssey. He hitches a ride with swinging couple Cal (John Lazar) and Super Cherry (Colleen Brennan). Poor unfortunate soul Clint is a magnet to super-sized udders, and after turning down ménage a trois action with the duo, he gets beaten up, robbed, and dumped in the desert.

A good Samaritan picks Clint up and takes him home to his new mail-order bride: Super Soul (), who also tries to rape our hero. Soul is persistent and runs round the farm naked an awful lot, but again, Clint resists temptation, and barely escapes a flying pitchfork.

Clint’s next stop is at a motel, whose proprietor has an amorous daughter in Super Eulah (Deborah McGuire). Another attempted seduction leads to another exit stage left through the sand dunes in a scene akin to an X-rated comic book version of a Road Runner chase.

Clint encounters true love at Super Vixen’s Oasis. Super Vixen (Eubank) is the virtuous reincarnation of Angel (she wears a white dress, sports white shoes, drives a white car, and has painted her diner white).

Harry comes to spoil the lovers’ bliss, bringing out his whole arsenal, direct from Acme. Like a certain coyote named Wile E., Harry has bought some defective weaponry and blows himself up. For any viewer that may doubt Meyer’s conscientious homage to Looney Tunes, the director even includes a “beep, beep,” coming from nowhere in the desert as our villain gets blown to smithereens. Topping that is Super Vixen, perched naked atop a phallic rock, shouting “that’s all folks!” like Porky (thankfully) never did.

Indeed, Supervixens is a Russ Meyer ramped up spectacle of surreal caricatures paying homage to… Russ Meyer. The best approach is to chew slowly and digest.

RUSS MEYER’S CHERRY, HARRY & RAQUEL! (1970)

s Cherry, Harry, And Raquel (1970) is a film that achieves a sense of hyper-surrealism through kinetic editing alone. Actually, it may be one of the most bizarrely edited films in the whole of cinema. It opens with scrolling text: a strange preamble about the First Amendment and how constipated religious right wackos are a threat to Freedom of Speech, juxtaposed against images of nudie cuties bouncing up and down on a bed. Naturally, the imagery is intentionally provocative, and there is no doubt that some 1970 evangelical heads exploded when this played the drive-in circuit. Of course, it doesn’t take much to bring out the Pat Robertsons or Donald Trumps, be it boobs or red coffee cups, but Meyer was not about to risk being inoffensive. He not only filled the screen with bouncing udders, but also threw in a “pickle shot” courtesy of actor Charles Napier (in his first Meyer film; from here until 1975 the two collaborated in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seven Minutes, and Supervixens). Although Napier’s full frontal nudity in Cherry, Harry, and Raquel was brief, it was enough to to earn the movie an “X” certification.

Beyond the hyperbole is an authentically eccentric film that moves like quicksilver. Cherry, Harry & Raquel officially opens with an even more bizarre narration, warning about the evils of potheads and marijuana coming up from Mexico (cue shots of the border patrol and of , as the goddess Soul, tanning on a yacht). The buxom blonde prostitute Raquel (Larissa Ely) is in the desert, cavorting with a dark-haired man. In case we don’t get it, there are numerous shots of a phallic shaped rock. As she is atop her lover, he grabs her breasts, which sharply cuts to an extreme close-up of Harry (Napier) shuffling a deck of cards in a poker game. The gamblers are interrupted by a knock coming from the door. The messenger informs Harry that “the old man” wants him. However, old man Franklin (Frank Bolger) is busy being orally serviced by Raquel (a strategically placed chalice blocks the view, inviting us to imagine what she is doing between the geezer’s legs). The intercuts are switchblade-like, potentially inducing viewer whiplash. Franklin fares worse because his orgasm is interrupted by Harry come-a-knockin’.

Still from Cherry, Harry & Raquel (1970)Harry’s ex-biz partner Apache (John Milo) is muscling in on their monopoly drug racket. Franklin gives Harry the order to waste Apache. Harry takes Raquel with him, which of course leads to sex in the desert, and nobody films makin’ whoopee like Meyers: close-ups of white boots tappin’ the pedal to the metal, phallic rocks, naked girls atop a police car, Soul, wearing only an Indian feather bonnet, embracing more phallic rocks, spinning red sirens, and even a sliver of lezbo action. Don’t expect it to make narrative sense. Just kick back and revel as Meyer’s scissors sculpt his softcore ode to Tex Avery. The only thing missing is a lecherous howlin’ wolf (or, perhaps not).

Harry drops off Raquel, picks up deputy Enrique (Bert Santos) and together the two of them head back to the desert after Apache. After a shoot-out, Harry hooks up with buxom nurse babe Cherry (Linda Ashton), has sex with her, drives her out into the desert and transforms her into a sand castle! As Harry digs out Cherry’s vital parts, the two go at it again. Cue quick cuts of Soul: see Soul exercise in the buff. See Soul shower. See Soul run on a train naked. See Soul mate with a rock penis. See Soul eat celery in her birthday suit. See Soul in the desert, sitting naked atop her car as Harry changes her flat tire. See Soul as a nude telephone operator in the middle of nowhere. The desert lovemaking is one of the most authentically strange vignettes this side of or .

Recovering from that montage, the story proceeds to Cherry giving Franklin a sponge bath, but once again the poor old fella just can’t find completion. He calls Harry: “Send Raquel over for a session. Oh, and kill Enrique too. He knows too much.” Meanwhile, Enrique has sex with Raquel and decides to keep the dope for himself. Raquel snuggles up to Franklin, only to find someone has murdered him in his hospital bed.

As luck would have it, Apache is still alive and kills Enrique, saving Harry the effort. Raquel and Cherry finally consummate their affair while Apache and Harry blow each other apart. Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls.

The narrator returns, assuring there is a lesson in all of this and it has something to do with Soul (and the evils of pot). Of course, no one is going to give a damn about the lesson. If ever a movie was tailor made to go with an entire bag of pizza rolls, Cherry, Harry and Raquel would be it.

RUSS MEYER’S FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL! (1965)

Russ Meyer has been criminally underrepresented here on 366 Weird Movies.  We will pay penance by covering one of his earliest and biggest cult films.

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! (1965) comes by its cult reputation honestly. once proclaimed it “the greatest movie ever made.”  Like most of Meyer’s films, it was initially dismissed as cheap sexpolitation, but there is always more to Meyer than surface, fetish, or cleavage. It stars the statuesque half-Japanese/half-Apache Tura Satana as a black leather clad dominatrix Varla, who left such an impression that a hard rock band took its name from the movie.

In addition to buxom wrasslin’ babes, go-go-dancers, and desert hot rod racing, FPKK is imbued with Meyer’s trademark, frenetic precision editing, sharp and superior black and white photography by Walter Schenk, an aptly kitsch score from the psychotronic lounge by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter that echoes the dusty terrain, and good sound: all of which are rarities for shoestring-budgeted indies.  Meyer self-distributed his pictures, so his body of work has been well preserved.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Naturally, with all the bouncing cleavage, obligatory catfights, jeans that probably had to be sewed on, and discreet peek-a-boo shots of bathing Amazonians, Meyer has been accused of blatant sexism. Yet, it is the women who are empowered. Varla’s first victim is a bland goody two-shoes, straight out of Pleasantville, Tommy (Ray Barlow), who is stupid enough to challenge her in a drag race.  When Varla suddenly snaps Tommy’s spine in two, we cave in and start rooting for her in spite of ourselves (as we always do with in the John Waters films). Along with Rosie () and Billie (Lori Williams), Varla lassos, drugs, and kidnaps Tommy’s bright-eyed gal pal Linda (Sue Bernard, looking like a reject from “Gilligan’s Island”).

After some hot-rodding on the dunes (“alright chicks, let’s see who’s chicken”), the foursome stop at a gas station whose attendant Mickey (Michael Finn) would fit right in with Goober and Gomer in Mayberry.

Mickey: “The thrill of the open road! New places, new people, new sights of interest. That’s what I believe in, seeing America first.”

Varla (reacting to his looking down her top as he pumps her gas): “You won’t find it down there, Columbus.”

Trying to score points, Mickey tells the women of an inheritance awaiting at a desert ranch, which leads them to a crippled right-wing hayseed Old Man (Stuart Lancaster), his dumb ox of a son Vegetable (Dennis Busch), and second son Kirk (Paul Trinka). “Women! They let Continue reading RUSS MEYER’S FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL! (1965)