MEYER MONTH – ‘Up!’ (1976) review

4 Mar

I asked the wonderful Dom O’Brien if he would be interested in reviewing one of Russ Meyer’s films for me as part of Meyer month this month and the gent came back with this great piece on Meyer’s 1976 release Up!. Another great film fan, Dom has his own blog which is well worth checking out! Thanks man!

Now dear reader I’ll graciously admit, barring Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), I was not totally au fait with Russ Meyer’s work other than the fact that several of his films starred the legendary (and late great) Charles Napier. When I was asked to write about his sex comedy Up! (1976) for this cult-tastic blog, I finally felt I had found a genuinely different and obscure Meyer film.

What is this deliciously bizarre sex comedy about? Well to be completely honest I haven’t a clue. Challenging one’s self with different viewing experiences are something I strive for, but after two viewings I still had no idea what took place before my eyes. From what I can understand, Up! is a series of strange events, murders and sex, which are all tied together (settle down those at the back) with a nude, singular Greek chorus summing up the events which have just unfolded.

I looked for the hidden underlying meaning, the reason behind its nuttiness, but alas it was not to be. The more I thought about it the more it hurt my head. This is a film that is to be experienced and sniggered at, preferably with a can in hand. They certainly don’t make them like this anymore. For a film such as this is completely and utterly bonkers. In-between the ludicrous (and deliberately comedic) sex scenes and the bouncing bosoms of Raven De La Croix, is a slim and slender sex romp that has to be seen. Even for a relatively new Meyer viewer, this had my jaw dropping in places, but in the best possible way. Actually that gives the impression that one would just stare at the cavalcade of boobies on-screen.

Within an instant, Meyer bombards the film with coarse humour and camp sex scenes a plenty. This starts with a satirical Hitler being flogged by a pagan man, all the while being 69’d by various ethnic ladies. In this feature Meyer leaves little to the imagination, we get everything from more shots of bushes (ooh err!) then at the Chelsea Flower Show, girl on girl cunnilingus, sexual encounters in the wilderness and the aforementioned nude Greek chorus.

All in all this is wrapped up into a madcap feature that truly boggles the mind. It won’t convert people to Meyer’s back catalogue but it’s certainly an interesting cult experience and certainly one for the sexploitation fans. To say the comedy on show in Up! is subtle would be a lie – it’s about as subtle as being slapped in the face with a double D breast. Now my experience with Meyer is that he has always been a kitsch filmmaker. He has always set his female characters in either strong roles or as the alpha female, ferocious and fearsome.

They could do everything men could back in the 60’s and 70’s but with added judo kicks and Karate chops. Nothing could stop them and nothing did. Although Meyer incorporated a lot of soft-core elements into his features (Up! is certainly no exception), all of his female characters were empowering sexual icons. When Up! was released back in 1976 it was clear Meyer was on a downward slope as his features opted (or rather relied) on gratuitous sex scenes to hook the punters, with his satirical edge lacking the bite that he was known for in his heyday.

In retrospect it would seem that Up! is what many fans would call one of the last great Meyer films. It carried satirical elements he was known for (poking fun at German military), theatrical moments (the use of a Greek chorus between each sequence to tell the story) and sexual politics. This could also be classified as one of Meyer’s most experimental features before his decline. It is undoubtedly a marmite film; some will embrace its sexy eccentric nature, while others will see it as a strange porno. Admittedly it is an odd film but that only justifies the reason for its being, as it’s uniqueness is what makes it stick in the minds of all cult enthusiasts. 

I dare anyone not to be completely entranced by William Loose (how apt a name for a composer in a Meyer film!) and Paul Rhuland’s score which is right up there with some of the stranger efforts from the 1970’s (Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo (1970)score or the little seen Head aka Premonition (1972) to name just a few). It just holds that enduring feeling of psychedelic whimsy that cult film was so good at doing during the 1970s.

If new cult film experiences are about indulging in the different, weird, wonderful and just plain odd (or even anything different from the generic norm) then Up! is most certainly a film that meets (nay, excels) in all this criteria. It’s a mess, but an eccentrically groovy, sexually comical and breast bouncing mess that has just about the right amount of charm.

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