MEYER MONTH – Meyer and Mike.

8 Mar

Mike from Videotape Swapshop recalls watching Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for the first time…

I don’t remember the exact moment I discovered Russ Meyer – except that it would have been a late night TV screening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and it was around the same time I picked up Redemption’s VHS release of Vampyros Lesbos and NTSC’s of I Spit On Your Grave and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in those dark days before the interweb and Amazon made curios accessible to anyone with a smart phone and a paypal account. 

I’d stop short of calling it a Eureka moment – I’d already subjected myself to Tetsuo: The Iron Man and had been mesmerized by the scary box art of Zombie Creeping Flesh (a title, inexplicably, my grandparents had on Beta), but I suppose Beyond… was when I first started connecting the dots. Here was this whole universe of left of the center films that you had to go out and look for or read about and they were all bubbling just under the surface. As an impressionable 14-year-old, that spelt FUCKING COOL…

I got a battered VHS copy of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. And loved it. To this day, it’s my favourite Meyer film. In the same way that I’d taken a punt on Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One – expecting a record full of noisy lo-fi punk, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a special moment when you put faith in something and it takes you somewhere else.

I’ve never found Meyer’s films particularly sexy. In fact, his characters are often quite repulsive. I don’t have any of the adolescent nostalgia that comes with sitting under the covers late at night, furiously jerking off to the excessive mammaries of Chesty Morgan in Serial Mom. Nor do I invest too heavily in the “celebrating the female form” angle which always feels a bit too much like a confidence trick. I kind of look at Russ Meyer in the same way I look at Sam Arkoff. Here’s this larger than life personality with a popular party trick – neither exploitation nor art. But somewhere in between both, and all the while, it’s good transgressive fun…

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