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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


There are times in a man's life when he needs a heaping helping of tits (and ass), and that's why humanitarians such as the late Russ Meyer come into being.

My love of a curvy, boobalicious figure is no shock to anyone, but what may surprise some of you out there is that when it comes to satisfying my occasional craving for prurient material I prefer the films of Uncle Russ to the far more explicit and effluvium-drizzled crotch operas starring airheaded coke-vacuums with artificial charms. I like 'em all-natural or not at all, and I think Uncle Russ understood that sentiment better than anyone else who ever stepped behind a camera with the intent to capture the wonder that is feminine pulchritude.
One of the reasons his films appeal to me is their successful striving to be live-action cartoons, gravity-stricken imagery inspired by Meyer's adolescent fascination with the buxom females given lusty life in Al Capp's classic comic strip LI'L ABNER.

Al Capp's LI'L ABNER: no influence whatsoever on Russ Meyer. Nope, no siree.

The women populating the Meyerverse are outrageously proportioned sex-goddesses who lord it over the hapless menfolk who pursue them, all the while spouting dialogue that would make John Waters turn green with envy. Erica Gavin, Edy Williams, Tura Satana, Raven Delacroix, and the ludicrously top heavy Kitten Natividad were all superwomen who appeared to have wriggled their way forth from some primal, testosterone-fueled id, each curvier than the next and seemingly on a mission to smother the world at large with their colossal casabas.

Kitten Natividad, a typical Meyer superwoman. (Jesus H. Christ...)

Their fleshly extravagance shaped the febrile tastes of many a young lad — and not a few young ladies as well — fostering an appreciation for the in-our-face (I wish!) bodaciousness of unbridled, rapacious female carnality that is largely frowned upon and derided in this era of the workout warrior.
After more or less inventing the skin flick — not porno; there is a considerable difference — in 1960 with THE IMMORAL MISTER TEAS, Meyer created a singular aesthetic that lay somewhere between a well-drawn Tijuana bible and a wholly plastic Barbie scenario enacted by some very precocious, foul-mouthed little kid; during childhood I witnessed some of the hilariously pervy scenarios enacted by some of the raunchy little girls in my neighborhood, and the only real difference between their doll-enacted imaginings and those of Russ Meyer was that he could afford a camera and real live naked ladies to act it all out. Meyer seemed to be winking at his audience and those who got the gag came back for more, something Meyer was all too willing to provide, stocking each subsequent film with women who were more impossibly boobed-out and crazed than the previous effort, culminating most famously in the incredible FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965), perhaps the quintessential “bad girls” movie,

Tura Satana as uber-dykey, go-go dancing, drag racing karate murderess Varla in the immortal FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!.

and VIXEN (1968), an over the top paean to the ferocity and madness of, as Meyer so eloquently put it when describing the American Dream, “a woman with no absolutely no scruples and a greedy pussy.”

Erica Gavin as the insatiable title character, about to hump her own brother in VIXEN.

When VIXEN raked in shitloads of cash at the box office, even playing for over a year in some theaters, Hollywood sat up and took notice of the jug-eared Clark Gable semi-lookalike and offered Meyer the keys to the kingdom. 20th Century Fox had produced some major flops toward the end of the 1960’s, a situation interpreted as the studio having lost touch with the lucrative younger audience, so Fox offered Meyer the opportunity to work his signature magic for them, only with the resources of the big leagues at his disposal. With pal Roger Ebert in tow to serve as the screenwriter — yes,
that Roger Ebert — Meyer set out to make a cutting satire of rock ‘n’ roll stardom and the dangerous excesses of the fame machine as chronicled in the journey of a fictional all-girl rock trio named the Carrie Nations.

Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert, perhaps the most unlikely collaborative team in the history of Hollywood.

Initially conceived as a sequel to the hit trash classic VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, the film was swiftly retooled to bear no relation to the Jacqueline Suzanne potboiler of stardom and drug abuse, instead becoming a psychedelic crazy-quilt chock full of the big bosoms and square jaws endemic to Meyer’s oeuvre, only this time flavored with “now” music, retina-scorching fashions, LSD-saturated “happenings,” revolving door trysts, and a surfeit of pre-MTV rapid fire editing that would have a viewer wondering if they were hallucinating along with some of the characters. From this cornucopia of luridness would spring 1970’s BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, a unique moment in Hollywood history in which a veteran nudie-movie purveyor and a portly film critic created a Frankenstein monster of insane ideas and celluloid, in other words 20th Century Fox gave the keys to asylum to a couple of the lunatic inmates. And the results were glorious.

The Carrie Nations rockin' out with the electrifying "Find It."

The loosest plot imaginable follows the nubile Carrie Nations from their days as a high school prom band through their meteoric rise to pop stardom, shepherded by flamboyant rock impresario Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John Lazar) through a lysergic wonderland of sexual predation, betrayed loyalties, Nazi fetishism (a running gag in Meyer pics), gender-bending, violence, attempted suicide, abortion, lesbianism, and murder.

"Z-Man" (John Lazar) and friend (Haji, from FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!).

I won't spoil the surprises (of which there are several jaw-droppers) by filling you in on the details, but the whole crazy shibboleth is best described as a live-action episode of JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, only with cussing, drugs, and fucking. And what's not to like about a stoned-off-their-tits pair of lesbians in Batman and Robin drag who have the most tender love story in the entire film?

A true classic — of what I won't even begin to guess — BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS made money for Fox, but it got slapped with a ludicrous X-rating despite the fact that the film had far less nudity than the usual Meyer flick (plus there's no bush in sight, unfortunately), and coupled with the abysmal failure of Meyer's next feature for the studio, the non-nudie THE SEVEN MINUTES (a Russ Meyer flick without buxom chicks? What the fuck???), the pioneer of the skin flick found himself unceremoniously booted from mainstream Tinseltown, back to the fleshpots from whence he came.

But BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is a film that refuses to die, and is now a revered cult masterpiece to those of us who appreciate quality schlock. There are plenty of "bad" movies out there, but few are anywhere near as insanely entertaining as this one. TRUST YER BUNCHE and rent it immediately!

Oh, and notice the girl with her knee on the bed? That's the lovely Cynthia Myer, who was kind enough to share the following glory with the world:

True humanitarianism at its best.

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