Written By Terri Pressley
Russ Meyer is a filmmaker who has made some 25 successful independent movies and has managed to keep control over every aspect of his film making from editing to distribution. He even owns all of his negatives. Although he hasn’t made a movie in over 25 years, he apparently starts and stops projects all the time, and is supposedly working on a mysterious and lengthy autobiography. His best movie, ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ (1965) still makes the midnight rounds, reminding us of what an energetic and fearless filmmaker he is.
In ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ Tura Satana is racing her Porsche in the desert against cars driven by her female lover (Haji) and another go-go dancer (Lori Williams). Following the race, they kill a young car enthusiast, (Satana breaking the back of the boyfriend with one swift karate move) and kidnap his perky girlfriend (Playboy centerfold, December 1966, Sue Bernard). They hit the road and discover a run-down ranch owned by a sinister elderly man in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster), his dim-witted brute of a son named Vegetable (Dennis Busch), and his other, seemingly normal, son (Paul Trinka). Apparently, the old man has a fortune stashed away and the girls plot to get their hands on it any way they can.
The feminist and lesbian film critic B. Ruby Rich, writing at length on "Pussycat" in a recent Village Voice dismissed "Pussycat" 20 years ago as just a skin flick. Seeing it again during its revival at New York's Film Forum, she had a different reaction, viewing it now as female fantasy, its images of "empowerment" fascinating to her. Meyer, from the beginning of his career and almost without exception, has filmed only situations in which women inflict their will upon men.
If you take away the jokes, elaborate camera angles, violence, action, and even the sex, what remains? The quintessential Russ Meyer image: A towering woman with enormous breasts, who will dominate all the men around her. She demands sexual satisfaction and casts off men in the same way that, in mainstream sexual fantasies, men cast off women.
After inventing the ‘skin flick’ with "The Immoral Mr. Teas" in 1959, Meyer had by the mid-1960s, moved beyond the nudie market. In his films such as "Lorna," "Mud Honey," "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" "Common Law Cabin" and "Good Morning . . . and Goodbye" he had branched out into the wider and wilder exploitation market dominated by American-International Pictures.
Of all his early films, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" has found the widest audience. It has had huge grosses recently in Germany and France, has had a punk rock band named after it, and is now in general re-release around America. What attracts audiences is not sex and not really violence, either, but a Pop Art fantasy image of powerful women, filmed with high energy and exaggerated in a way that seems inexplicable and unnatural, until you realize Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal more or less play the same characters…..without the boobs!