Tuesday, July 3, 2007

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965) Movie Review


A trio of ultra-busty vixens have taken a trip into the desert, each behind the wheel of a screaming-fast hot rod for a little adventure and excitement. There, they come across an amateur driver doing time trials. Lead pussycat Varla challenges him to a race. When the racer accuses Varla of cheating, she simply beats him to death. The three women then drug the racer's girlfriend, and head off to an isolated farm to lie low, and hopefully discover the whereabouts a hidden cache of money belonging to the old man who lives there. Though old, this wretched cod shows that he is the embodiment of misogyny. But his two sons, one a hulking and silent muscle-bound brute and the other a sly-talking weakling, will become the targets of the sexually-charged and strong-willed women. These men have never met the likes of Varla, Haji and Billie, and it is quite unlikely they'll ever meet anyone like them again!

Director Russ Meyer, whose obsession with huge-breasted women helped to carve a niche for himself in cinema that will last an eternity, is a reigning king of trash movies and this has become his cherry example of all that is excellent in a Meyer picture. Beyond his cartoonish approach to violence and his obvious respect for the power that women's will and sexuality have over men is his brilliant use of photography. Meyer was a WWII combat cameraman and professional photographer before turning to movies, and his sheer mastery of black and white images is phenomenal. Even forty years later, FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! still contains some of the best uses of the film stock since its release, and a well preserved print or restored home release will prove to be a testament to his focus, clarity, and ability to suggest fluid motion with very little actual movement. It is not with a hint of glee that camerawork worthy of study and praise is found in a film that champions bad taste and carnal excitement.

And who is to be thanks for this carnal excitement? It is the three antagonist heroes Varla, Haji, and Billie. Meyer brought in Tura Satana (whose poster image has become synonymous with the movie itself) to lead his gang as Varla. She is by far the most vicious of the three, whose violent instincts are the only thing more tough than her sexual innuendos. Single-named Haji stars as Rosie, a curious blend of Italian and Mexican eroticism, and supplies a hidden lesbian undertone for the film with her loyalty to Varla. Haji would go on to become a regular in Meye's future pictures. Lori Williams comes in as Billie, a happy-go-lucky buxom blonde that comes as close to a real life "Barbie" as the screen has ever seen. Together these three women become a trifecta of danger that no man can hope to withstand.

Meyer's sets up against them a polar opposite trifecta of male incompetence in the family that the three women hole up with. There is The Old Man, a wheelchair bound (read as the "power" of the penis has been taken away) woman-hater who must use snarling words and violence to try and recoup is power. The Vegetable, a blonde-haired muscular brute with absolutely no brains to speak of, who only has his good looks and impossible strength to defend himself from the wills of his newly arrived female oppressors. And finally there is Kirk, who believes he can reason with the women, unaware they are playing him like a harp. Each of these three men become a living part of the male id, and each are created as being much less than women. And that is the draw to Meyer. Despite the on-the-surface sensationalizing of the female form, Meyer is a feminist, and even more so believes that they are the superior of the sexes. Meyer has been quoted as saying "the girls kick the hell out of the guys."

Much to the surprise of those who see FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! for the first time, the film contains no nudity. The closest Meyer gets is a shot of Williams' back when she is showering. Though this was done to avoid being hit by the censors at the time, it also alludes to the fact that sometimes less is more. This also applies to the actual on screen violence that is shown, and goes back to Meyer's ability as a cameraman and director. He is able to suggest much more than is actually seen, and allows the human mind to fill in the blanks.

Upon its initial release, the film did only moderate business and faded out just as quickly. Meyer became widely known with the release of VIXEN in 1968, teamed up with Roger Ebert in seventies on three screenplays (Ebert's only official screenwriting credits) that Meyer would also direct. FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (The title being a reference to speed, sex, and violence) would go on to become a cult film in revival theatres and art houses, and gained further reach when John Waters wrote that it was "...the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future". Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but so far he is pretty damn close.


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