Russ Meyer’s filmography would have been much better off had he left his filmmaking career at 1979 release Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. However, 2001 saw the release of Pandora Peaks, which featured the titular adult model herself. Whilst it has the hallmarks of a Meyer film, it feels distinctly underwhelming and not quite one of the sexploitation legend’s film’s at all.
Given that most of the openings to Meyer’s films are quite fun, this opens with a rather drab, title card sequence using a stereotypical porno font that is nothing short of boring. And, sadly, boring is a word I’d use to describe the rest of the film. There really is nothing to it. The entire film consists of sequences of Meyer’s famous montage shots, this time re-tracing parts of his history and intertwining it with parts of his female stars. So we have brief run downs of the town where the director was brought up, his school, where he did his industrial films, memories of his time in the War and even passages of him reading from his epic autobiography A Clean Breast. As much as I love the guy, Meyer certainly isn’t much of a narrator. Being the only male voice present in this film, sadly Meyer doesn’t fill his memories with half as much excitement and wonder as the many men who have played narrator parts in his previous films. However, it is nice to hear him run through his career and see him in retirement life enjoying his trout fishing (his second love next to breasts).
Strip this away from the film and all you have left is footage of the eponymous Peaks and another german model called Tunde. Not a lot happens. It’s essentially Tunde bouncing around her bedroom and Peaks taking of her clothes in various locations (one being the ranch featured in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which almost seems a little sacrilegious). Like Meyer, both stars talk about their lives in a track reel played over the top. Except that you don’t really learn an awful lot about them except that they both love their breasts and Peaks absolutely loves the attention. It almost wants to be an updated Mondo Topless, except that Mondo was actually interesting. In that, the models talked about their lives, their hopes and dreams and gave their opinions on a lot of things. The results, when put together with the images, were sometimes hilarious and at other times completely absurd. Here, it all just seems self-indulgent and mundane.
Given that, at this point in his life, Meyer was quite financially well off and well aware that his brand of films wouldn’t pull the audiences into cinemas that they used to, it’s hardly unsurprising that Pandora Peaks had no theatrical release. What does surprise me is that he even bothered to make it at all. Whilst the production values are still very tight and very much of the top quality that the director prized himself on doing in every one of his pictures, the film seems to lack the passion and soul that the rest of his movies have. The whole thing does come across more as a vanity project, as if in his late seventies, Meyer wanted to show everyone he still had it and could still get it. A real shame as it sits like an embarrassing blip on what was an already stellar career. Some people just don’t know when to stop.