MEYER MONTH – Russ Meyer’s ‘Wild Gals of the Naked West’ (1962)

6 Mar

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, the premise to Wild Gals of the Naked West is very simple. An old drunk recounts some of the things that the men and women got up to in his old Western town and the audience gets to see them. There is no plot, just scene after scene of various little ‘stories’ (if you can even call them that) playing out over the inflated sixty-one minute picture. There are two guys engaged in a fist fight which goes on forever as each guy appears to be immune to a punch (either that or neither can throw a good one), a couple who keep trying to have a drink of champagne only for their glasses to keep getting shot at, a bunch of saloon girls who keep lassoing and kidnapping men and two men infatuated with tipping a toilet over every time someone new goes in it. This being a Meyer film, there are also a load of topless and scantily clad ladies to stare at. Possibly the only redeeming feature of the entire film. Eventually a clean-cut stranger strolls into town and cleans the place up.

Wild Gals is, without a doubt, one of Meyer’s weaker films. More of a nudie-cutie than an outright sexploitation flick, it tries to be funny but instead fails miserably for a majority of its running time. Meyer knew that westerns were popular at the time but his wit and use of satire which often showed up in his later films is totally absent here. The employment of slapstick and silent comedy is fine but the director takes far too long to get to the punchline of a joke, if the joke even has a punchline at all. The film would probably have worked far better as a half hour short but after the success of his previous two feature-length efforts (The Immoral Mr. Teas in 1959 and Eve and the Handyman in 1961) I’m not surprised that Meyer wanted to make another. That said his next picture, Europe In The Raw, released the following year turned out to be a short. It’s not all that bad, the film does have one or two funny moments, in particular an incompetent Indian who can’t seem to shoot an arrow properly or start fires without eventually having to use a match.

Bad points aside, the picture is shot well and visually is very reminiscent of old 1950s and early 1960s pin-up photo shoots, with Meyer’s previous career and experience in this field clearly coming to play. Each women looks glorious in her own unique way; stockings, corsets and many nipple tassels played against beautiful back drops of the desert or bedroom scenes played out in primary colours. For a film so early in Meyer’s cinematic oeuvre, there are many techniques and cast players which and who would crop up again and again in future projects. Only Meyer himself could get away with depicting the Civil War in a montage that shows a sword against a map of the States, paint washing down a river and not one person in sight. As we all know, his love for montage would never die. The cast includes one of the director’s favourite female models Donna X, aka Trena Lamar who would eventually appear in Mondo Topless in 1966. Other notable cast members include some of Meyer’s fellow combat buddies from World War II especially Anthony-James Ryan (one of Meyer’s closest friends and producer on several of his films) and one-time Meyer producer Pete DeCenzie. Actor Jackie Moran has the unfortunate job of playing the old drunk narrator, wearing a white beard and moustache that ain’t fooling anyone. He would wind up five years later playing the father potentially lusting after his own daughter in Common Law Cabin

Certainly one for the completest, this is definitely not one of the films to start with if you’ve not seen any of Russ Meyer’s other efforts. Wild Gals of the Naked West has its charm but be warned, there’s very little of it.

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