MEYER MONTH – ‘The Immoral Mr. Teas’ (1959) review by Jonathan Henderson

13 Sep

Lets be honest, I spend a lot of hours surfing the web for anything Russ Meyer related, sifting through the good, the bad, and the wierd. During some model investigating (which I hope to share soon) I stumbled across this great review of Meyer’s first feature The Immoral Mr. Teas which I had to share. Written by Jonathan Henderson, the original link can be veiwed here, but I’ve also copied it below.

 

The Immoral Mr. Teas might not be the first film title that comes to mind when the name Russ Meyer is mentioned, but it may have been the most important in his career and, indeed, the most important for the genres in which he’d spend most of his career working in. Released in 1959 with a budget of just $24,000, Mr. Teas eventually grossed $1.5 million, which helped to finance Meyer’s subsequent films outside of the help of the major studios. But it was also a watershed (on a relative level) in the world of film as it was the first film to unapologetically feature nudity in a film that wasn’t completely underground and pornographic, or under the guise of a “naturist/nudist” film. It essentially opened up the floodgates for what would become sexploitation, but Mr. Teas itself seems harmless by today’s standards.

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Its relative tameness perhaps has to do with the fact that it’s less sexploitation and more “nudie cutie”, which exchanged actual sex for simple nude eye candy. Mr. Teas is likely typical of such a film; it stars Bill Teas as Mr. Teas, a door-to-door dental supply salesman who’s frustrated by the drudgery of his daily life. During his day, Mr. Teas encounters three hot women: a Coffeeshop Waitress (Ann Peters), a Dental Assistant (Marilyn Wesley), a Secretary (Michelle Roberts), a girl on a beach (Dawn Danielle), and a Burlesque Dancer (Don Cochran). As his day wears on, Mr. Teas begins fantasizing about the women, seeing them in various situations unclothed. Fearing that something might be “wrong” with him, he goes to a Psychiatrist (Mikki France) who is quite hot herself.

If this doesn’t sound like much of a plot… well, who am I kidding? It’s not. But—and perhaps it sounds odd to say this—there is a peculiar charm to the film. Meyer doesn’t even attempt to present a dramatic narrative; instead, the film is shot with a narrating voiceover (Edward Lasko) and a revolving jukebox of jazzy music numbers (a mid-tempo march, a sexy sax refrain, and a few up-tempo pieces) that accompany the images as if it was a silent film. In truth, the film plays out like what would happen if Jacques Tati shot a nudie cutie; the film even has Tati’s sense of social satire. But while Tati was purely visual in his parodying of modern grossness and confusion, Meyer uses the voiceover which mimics the “informational” voiceovers in the exploitation films at the time that tried to preach a moral by presenting the “dark side” of what certain actions lead to.

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But there’s also a certain innocent joy in the film’s appreciation of the female form. Perhaps the most successful scene in the film doesn’t even feature nudity, but has Mr. Teas attempting to go fishing at the local beach when he spots the “Beach Beauty” who seems insistent on taking off her top. But this is probably where the homophonic “Teas” (as “tease”) comes into play as Meyer’s camera never actually catches the woman naked. Perhaps the most extraordinary bit in the sequence has the “Beach Beauty” playing in the ocean as the tide rolls in; there is a definite but intangible beauty to the scene. It almost brought to mind those first few moments when I became unconsciously aware of the female form. It’s hard to call such a scene “exploitation” because there’s no sense of the woman being exploited. Rather, this is Meyer taking in the beauty of nature no differently than if someone were to film a sunset.

While not every scene has that level of (dare I say) aesthetic grace, Meyer keeps it light, comical, and satirical enough that it would be hard for even the most rigorous Puritan—Ok, maybe a moderate Puritan—to ever feel ashamed. It’s perhaps telling, though, that Meyer never actually shows his gallery of busty beauties naked in reality, but rather only in the imagination of Mr. Teas. The film also takes its time (relative to its already short 63 minutes) before it even gets to the nudity. This allows the majority of the first 2/3 to play out as a comedic satire of both modern society, and the types of exploitation films that preceded Mr. Teas. The absurd voiceover certainly has its genuinely hilarious moments as it plays counterpoint to the witless Mr. Teas.

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For all its pleasantries, the film is far from perfect; even at a slim 63 minutes it feels a bit repetitive and “light”. The constant musical accompaniment eventually goes from humorous to annoying (though, thankfully, it’s never egregiously so), and Bill Teas himself seems a particularly unappealing “hero” for the film. I don’t know, there’s something about him that just doesn’t make him a sympathetic everyman. Meyer may do everything he can to frame the film like a Tati, but Bill Teas utterly lacks Tati’s carefully measured, but seemingly effortless, physical gifts for comedy and his innate charm. If anything, he makes the film appear much sleazier than it is. Meyer does just about everything he can, but he’s yet to develop his cinematic talents that will serve him much better in his later films.

Even with the complaints, this is still an interesting film from a historical standpoint, and a rather enjoyable film in-and-of itself. It’s certainly not superb from any angle, but it’s undeniable that the film has more substance and quality than the vast majority of its ilk.

MEYER MONTH – Russ Meyer and his Ladies Pictorial

7 Sep

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MEYER MONTH – ‘TURA! TURA! TURA!’ Art Show, October 2008

6 Sep

As a huge Russ Meyer fan and an art lover, I was both gutted and excited to read about the Tura! Tura! Tura! exhibition that was held back in October 2008. I’ve always wanted a Meyer-related piece of original art to sit alongside my posters and this collection of prints and paintings, curated by Mitch O’Connell, was amazing and inspiring. Held at the Tattoo Factory Gallery, the charity group show displayed art inspired by the legendary B-movie actress Tura Satana, star of Meyer’s famous Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and her career. I’ve included as many pictures as I could find of the art that was featured below and tried to credit everything to the correct person, but as always please get in touch if I’ve left a credit out or credited wrong. There are many other pieces of work that I was unable to find a clear picture of so if anyone has any images of any of the art that isn’t featured, please contact me so I can add them in. Otherwise, scroll down and enjoy some killer art…

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Exhibition flyer by Mitch O’Connell

My beautiful picture

By Dave Dorman

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‘The World of Suzette Wong’ by Alex Wald

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‘The Key To The Carrera’ by Shag

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Artist Aron Gagliardo and his painting (photo courtest of Gagliardo)

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By Thorsten Hasenkamm

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‘Tura: Black and White and Red All Over’ by Terry Beatty

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By Lance

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Artist Alex Wald with Tura Satana (photo by Mitch O’Connell)

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By Mitch O’Connell

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‘Violent Planet’ by Alex Wald

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By Dr. Alderete

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Artist Marc Nischan with his piece of art

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‘Nice Kitty, Tura!’ by Lou Brooks

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By Mark Atomos Pilon

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‘Tura Satana‘ by Molly Crabapple

Buxom Bosoms Back On British Screens? – Showing Russ Meyer Films In The UK by James Flower

6 Nov

So, you’re a UK-based film club/film society/cinema and want to show a Russ Meyer film at your venue? Splendid! You truly haven’t seen all those big heaving bosoms until you’ve seen them on the big screen, where they belong.

Tracking down screening rights to cult films can often be quite a laborious process, especially films made independently; since, however, Meyer retained the copyright to most of his films, it is relatively cut-and-dry here. The issue of who can grant licenses to legally screen the films in the UK, however, is somewhat more thorny. I’ve written the below in a FAQ format that should be easy to follow for both new and experienced film programmers.

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If you’re new to film programming and the below text confuses you completely, I would highly recommend getting in touch with the Independent Cinema Office, who offer excellent advice to both cinemas and amateur programmers alike.

Can I license the Russ Meyer film I want from Arrow Films/Video, since they released it on DVD?

Until earlier this year, it was possible to put on a screening – as long as you didn’t mind showing from DVD in most cases – of basically any of Russ Meyer’s films in the UK (1964’s Fanny Hill, a German-financed director-for-hire job for Meyer, is an exception as its worldwide rights are much more complex. But who in their right mind wants to show that?!). As well as having released an essential, comprehensive DVD boxset of Meyer’s work, Arrow Films also held theatrical rights to many of these films, licenses for which would be granted via Park Circus. This enabled Meyer’s work to stay active on the repertory cinema circuit well into the 21st century, often 50 years after these films were produced.

Unfortunately, Arrow‘s rights to the Meyer films lapsed in early 2013, which means that most of Meyer’s films are now unavailable to screen (at least easily) in the UK.

I still really want to show the film.  Is there someone else who can grant me a screening license?

To clarify for those who don’t know much about copyright: the primary worldwide rights holder for most of Russ Meyer’s films is RM Films International, who sublicensed the UK rights to Arrow. Now that Arrow‘s rights have expired, RM Films are by default the UK copyright holder, at least until they sublicense the films to someone else. If you want to show one of the Meyer films previously distributed by Arrow, you will have to approach RM Films via the following contact details:

RM Films International

P.O. Box 3748 Hollywood, CA 90078 tel. (323) 466-7791 rmf@rmfilm.com

This writer contacted RM Films for a statement on UK rights availability, but a response from either Janice Cowart or Julio Dottavio was not forthcoming. If you do get a reply from them, it’s worth bearing in mind that their price would probably be considerable; think about your budgets, and whether the expense, time and effort to put on such a screening are factors you’re happy to incur. (Incidentally, Park Circus‘ site still lists a few Meyer films as being available for the UK; this is erroneous, and I would not recommend attempting to book the films through them.)

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Are there any Russ Meyer films not owned by RM Films International that I can screen instead?

There are two main exceptions, however, and it’s no coincidence they are both titles not included in Arrow‘s boxset. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls and The Seven Minutes were both made for 20thCentury Fox, who own all rights to both films in perpetuity, including for the UK. You can organise single screenings of both films via Hollywood Classics, who handle theatrical and DVD rights on library titles from Fox, MGM and other studios.

Are 35mm prints available for either of these films?

No 35mm prints of Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls are in active circulation in the UK, but one was shipped from Fox in LA specifically for a Somerset House screening in 2012; this may also be available should you want to pay for it. There are no materials available in the UK to screen of The Seven Minutes (not even a DVD or a DigiBeta tape), so unless you know where to find a print or you’re happy to screen one of the many fuzzy bootlegs of the latter, BVD is your easiest option for legal UK-based big-screen Meyer thrills. A license to screen either film from Hollywood Classics will usually cost you a £100 minimum guarantee (MG) and a 25% take from the box office, not including print hire or transport if this is applicable.

I want to screen BVD but in a pub/alternate screening space from DVD than a cinema. Does this require a different type of screening license?

If you are just screening BVD from DVD in a pub or similar venue and require a ‘non-theatrical’ screening license, you can also book it via Filmbank (which will normally cost around £100 inclusive of VAT), or it will be covered by an MPLC license.

I know where to find a 35mm print of one of the Meyer films previously released by Arrow. Can I screen it anyway, without a license?

Unfortunately not. Ownership of a film print is very different from ownership of the film’s copyright.; you will still need permission from RM Films to show the film, even if you own a print or have permission from someone who does.

If I don’t get a response from RM Films, can I just go ahead and screen the film anyway?

You can try, but it is at your own risk. If you are caught out by RM Films, there is nothing to stop them from demanding a penalty fee from you (even after the screening has taken place), or even threatening legal action. Having had a US-based rights holder do this to me in the past, I would strongly advise against it!

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One hopes that RM Films will eventually sublicense the rest of the Meyer oeuvre back to Arrow (or some other enterprising UK distributor) so classics like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Supervixens can be put back on UK screens.

Links

RM Films International: http://www.rmfilms.com/

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls on Hollywood Classics: http://hollywoodclassics.com/Movie/Beyond_the_Valley_of_the_Dolls

The Seven Minutes on Hollywood Classics: http://hollywoodclassics.com/Movie/Seven_Minutes_the

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls on Filmbank: http://www.filmbank.co.uk/film_details.asp?id=50620

James Flower runs Savage Cinema, a London-based cult night that has shown films such as William Friedkin’s SORCERER, the UK premiere of Bill Gunn’s GANJA & HESS and a night devoted to British filmmaker Philip Ridley. By day he works for UK independent film distributor Soda Pictures, and by night he thinks about how to win the annual FrightFest quiz, after coming second place in 2013.

Geek To Geek Chic – Happy Friday the 13th!!

13 Sep

I love Friday’s where the thirteenth day of the month falls on them! Am I superstitious? Not really. I just love the slasher franchise Friday The 13th! Last year I spent one Friday the thirteenth in my favourite cinema watching a marathon of films featuring the iconic killer Jason Voorhees. It was a lot of fun, but ultimately left me with little will to live by the early hours where I was struggling with the latter films which, lets face it, aren’t that great. Knowing a lot of people like cake, this year I thought I’d do something different! So here are a few of the best Friday The 13th themed cakes I could find online! If any of these are one of your cakes let me know so I can give credit!

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Linda Lovelace & Her Loops

11 Sep

For many, it started with one film, the film. Linda Lovelace was a no-one before Deep Throat, but upon its release, the whole world knew who she was. Yet what many don’t know is that Lovelace had quite a prolific career and gained a significant amount of notoriety by starring in a number of 8mm loops before going on to do the infamous feature. Shot in dirty motel rooms and sold underground or on the streets of New York, this is where her career in pornography, or her private hell as she referred to it later on in her life, began…

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The start of Linda’s pornographic career begins on a sunny Florida day in 1970. Linda Boreman (her real name) was staying at her parents, recovering from a bad car accident (which included a lacerated liver and a broken jaw, the scars of which were always cleverly hidden or as best as in her films and pictorials). Lounging outside the house in her bikini, Boreman was spotted by Chuck Traynor, a then bar owner and pimp who was driving past her family house. Approaching her, he offered her a joint and a ride in his car, and that was it. They became an inseparable couple and within a few weeks they had moved in together. She, by admission (a lot of which is in her first book Inside Linda Lovelace), knew nothing about sex, whilst Traynor was physically possessive, very rough and promised to use hypnotherapy on her to help her deep throat, a technique he’d taught her after studying it whilst in the Army. It seemed to ‘work’ and eventually Traynor was pimping Boreman out to customers in one of his clubs. In 1971, the couple married.

That year Traynor had an idea; he’d move them to New York City where he would try to sell Boreman’s skills and services to Xaveria Hollander, the famous author of The Happy Hooker and a successful call girl and brothel owner. After moving to New Jersey, Hollander turned her down, and so Traynor moved on to plan number two; loops.  Loops, also known as stag films or peeps, were short films shot on 8mm film cameras that were illegal and sometimes funded by the Mafia. They’d be shot in dingey, dirty apartments with an ‘anonymous’ cast and crew and were then usually sold privately or shown in peepshows.

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Above image courtesy of Eric Danville at The Complete Linda Lovelace

Chuck ended up meeting Bob Wolfe, a successful 8mm producer, and eventually introduced him to Linda. They started working together, using an apartment on 48th Street and a guy named Rob Everett as Linda’s partner, and Wolfe would wind up directing five of the eight loops she filmed (another one directed by Gerard Damiano and the other two by Traynor). The loops they shot are pretty impressive, and its very clear to see Boreman’s appeal. Not overly stunning but naturally pretty in a girl-next-door way, Boreman has charm and, more importantly, is really up for it. You can tell in her face and the way she moves that she’s enjoying what she’s doing and the girl really does have talent. after watching a few of them, it seems hardly surprising that Deep Throat happened when it did. If the film was never made, I think Linda would have eventually become famous anyway from escalating projects off the success of the loops. Initially the short films started out as basic hardcore loops, with Linda doing lesbian scenes and getting involved in a threesome. After a while, the content of the hardcore loops started to cater for more select fetishes. In one loop Traynor had Linda quite literally fuck a foot (which is actually rather impressive to watch and quite easy to find on the internet if you’re interested), whilst another was entitled Piss Orgy and the most infamous one involved a session between Linda and a dog, cryptically named D-1 and D-2 (but also known as the more convenient Dog Fucker and Dogorama). Need I say anymore. All were successful on the Manhattan 8mm scene with Dogorama released into some ‘raincoat theatres’ (porno cinemas) whilst the other loops were eventually released in cinemas as poorly edited compilations with titles such as The Confessions of Linda Lovelace and Linda Lovelace Meets Miss Jones (a film which spliced together scenes from another famous porno The Devil in Miss Jones).

In later years, Linda would completely denounce her career, saying she was forced into prostitution and pornography by Traynor and was, on occasions, held at gunpoint until she finished her work (the bestiality loop being one instance). On the other hand, Traynor has always said that he never forced her into anything, and that she was free to leave at any time. Even Everett and other people she had worked with in the past have said that she ‘loved’ what she did and was always willing to do anything (even Dogorama, with some internet rumours purporting that more than one bestiality loop was made) with none of them seeing any violence against her. It’s a very difficult side of the story to navigate, one that I might explore at another time…

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If vintage erotica interests you, or you’ve never seen Lovelace in anything prior to Deep Throat, her loops are well worth checking out. They’re available on most porn websites and are pretty much stag quality, i.e. grainy picture, jump cuts, blurry from wear on the film itself, however most videos seem to be a compilation of different scenes from different loops cut together (which tend to have an added soundtrack of 70s music so if you hear that you should instantly know you’ve got yourself a mixed video) so if you’re wanting to see a certain loop in its entirety, you may have to visit a few websites. That said, I’ve never seen D-1 or D-2 and don’t intend to so don’t ask for any advice one that one (The Foot or Open Pussy, Insert Foot isn’t that bad).

Traynor and Boreman would wind up meeting with loop director Gerard Damiano, who was at the time shooting a picture called Changes, through Linda’s loops. Damiano had seen a few and eventually directed Linda in one, which also starred future Deep Throat co-star Harry Reems. Damiano was already quite taken with Linda when they met and was also impressed by her skills and ended up writing a script for her. That script would go on to become Deep Throat and the rest, as they say, is history…

‘The Returned’ aka ‘They Came Back’ (2004) review

2 Aug

My review for French zombie drama The Returned is now up over at Cigarette Burns! I really can’t recommend this film enough  by the way, if you can check it out (either before you watch the television series or since, it’s not disappointing) you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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