‘Superwomen! Belted, buckled and booted!’ No other tagline would better describe Russ Meyer’s 1965 masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! This is the story of three thrill-seeking strippers driving, murdering and seducing anything in their path. Heaven help anyone who tries to get in their way!
The film opens with the half-naked trio of pussycats crazily dancing and thrusting away for the lone few male patrons of a strip club. The men shout ‘Go baby go!’ without realising just how far these bad girls will eventually go. Led by the Amazonian Varla (Tura Satana), the girls go on an adventure in the desert that culminates in a car race with a couple they meet along the way. After a brief fight, Varla swiftly dispatches of the boyfriend and kidnaps his young girlfriend. A quick stop at a gas station introduces an old man and his no-brains-all-brawn son Vegetable. The attendant at the station tells the girls that the old man has a hidden stash of money at his run-down ranch and Varla hatches a plan to rob him of everything he’s got…
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! works so well because of its female leads. Never before had cinema had such tough women who were so sexually provocative and enjoyed sadomasochistic violence. Whilst the movie world has seen imitations and variations of the characters ever since, there has yet to be a group of women who live up to the spectacle of Meyer’s fabulous trio.
The group, completed by Billie (Lori Williams) and Rosie (Haji), are essentially comic caricatures blown up to ridiculous proportions. Varla is the gender role challenging leader, made to intimidate and excite all at the same time. She also happens to have an enviable catalogue of stinging one liner’s. Rosie is the exotic ethnic beauty with lesbian desires and no time for men. Lastly, Billie is the American girl next door-gone bad, at times sensitive but only ever out for a good time.
It’s inevitable that such strong personalities will clash and after much play fighting at the start of the film, the group fall apart at the run down ranch. Fed up with babysitting the crying emotional wreck that the girlfriend has become, Billie goes out to seduce the Vegetable who seems to be more in touch with trains than attractive young women. Rosie ends up double-crossing her fellow friends and pays for it like other lesbian Meyer characters – death by phallic object. Varla is the last girl standing, out to get what she wants until the bitter end and always only ever thinking of herself.
If you’ve never seen a film by Russ Meyer then Faster, Pussycat is a good place to start. It bears all the hallmarks of your typical Meyer film and includes ideas he would later expand on; tough women, gratuitous violence, impotent men, sexually active females and his idea of redeeming social value. Compared to some of his other sexploitation fare, the film is low on nudity. However, the girls skin-tight outfits and Satana’s terrifically well contained cleavage more than make up for it.
Chances are that even if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll know of it in passing reference and not just because of its fantastic title. The film has been spoofed and mentioned in shows as varied as Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Simpsons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s the main influence on Tarantino’s 2007 release Death Proof and director John Waters has made no secret of his love for the film calling it ‘the best movie ever made, and possibly better than any movie that will ever be made’. With an endorsement like that, what are you waiting for?