MEYER MONTH – ‘Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!’ (1968)

7 Mar

Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers isn’t your atypical Russ Meyer film. A picture that feels like a small slump in his career, Finders has none of the sleaziness, fun and venomous swipes of its predecessors Common Law Cabin and Good Morning… and Goodbye!. Nor is it as exciting and charming as its successor, the certificate challenging Vixen!. Sadly, this is a feature that feels like the director switched on autopilot and stopped caring, creating a picture that feels like a dull thriller television movie then a tantalising sexploitation escapade.

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Kelly (Anne Chapman) and Paul (Paul Lockwood) are an unhappily married couple, cheating on each other and generally being miserable in each other’s company (and in typical Meyer fashion, it is the husband’s sexual inadequacy and neglect that has forced the wife into adultery). Paul owns a bar and has a mistress Claire on the side (Lavelle Roby). Anne, unbeknownst to her husband, occasionally dances at said bar when he isn’t there and shows the punters a lot more than she shows him. On this one particular night however, the two of them get caught up in a heist job, headed by a man named Cal (Duncan McLeod) and things get… well, remotely interesting?

You’d be forgiven for assuming it all sounds a bit drab, because, quite frankly, it is. Now don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusions about Russ Meyer as a filmmaker and certainly do not consider him in some mythical, underrated ‘best filmmaker of all time’ in some semi-quasi Orson Welles kind of way. But Finders is without a doubt one of his weakest films. It’s tiny cast and minimal locations just aren’t enough to pull itself out from the ghastly shadow that is a terrible script. Full of badly written one-liners and dialogue that lacks any kind of emotion, the picture essentially feels like a made-for-television movie, with some added tits. And even then, there isn’t as much breast as you would have thought for a Meyer picture. Everything feels a little, well, lacklustre and probably at the expense of the plot’s restriction to allow much else to happen.

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What doesn’t help the picture is that its cast is one of the most forgettable out of all those used in Meyer’s filmography. Leading lady Anne Chapman, to bluntly put it, has none of the looks or charm of any of the other Meyer girls. Whilst it feels horrible to say she isn’t pretty, it’s just simply that there is nothing about her that makes her memorable; none of the natural good looks of Alaina Capri, the feminine caricature of beauty that Babette Bardot had or attitude that Tura Satana possessed. She certainly attempts to make the most of the main role that she has but is easily upstaged by Lavelle Roby who has a considerably smaller supporting act. Roby manages to ooze confidence, sex appeal and authority in the maximum of ten minutes screen time she is given, giving the role of brothel owner Claire much more of an impact than that of Kelly. When she turns up at the end of the picture in a cream mac and go-go boots touting a gun at the male cast, you almost wish Meyer had taken her character and made another film (Roby was cast two years later in Meyer’s first studio release Beyond the Valley of the Dolls). One can totally imagine the likes of Roby, Capri, Erica Gavin, Haji and Kitten Natividad going up against each other in some gang war-esque melodrama about their character’s sex lives.

The male cast is also just as mixed. Duncan McLeod (another cast member who would also later crop up in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) is brilliant as the heist mastermind Cal, managing to effectively display his boredom for the job alongside his sadistic attitude to dealing with hostages. Robert Rudelson as his partner Feeny is a different kettle of fish altogether, playing the role of a complete nut job of a maniac with so much cliché that you wish he was written out of the script altogether. Sadly for the other two male cast members, Paul Lockwood and Gordon Wescourt, their fate is very similar to that of Chapman’s. With no personality or good looks and minimal acting ability, they are instantly forgettable. Even the director himself makes more of an impact in a split second cameo at the start of the film, leering over the bar’s topless dancer.

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Not that the film doesn’t have its clichéd Meyer moments, with the major sex scene being a highlight amongst the directors filmography. Underwater shots of bodies bumping and grinding against each other (which I will admit are beautifully lit) during sex are inter-cut with cars smashing each other at a derby. Yes its frenetic, yes it’s fast, but it’s also Meyer adding his ‘social redeeming value’ and moralisation to the story. The sin of the act of adultery is equatable to death. Not only does the editing get Meyer’s moral message across but diminishes the intensity of the characters orgasms, making it less of a target for obscenity persecution by the censors.  It’s worth fast forwarding the film to that one scene alone, probably the most entertaining and humorous part of the whole film which is only beats the ‘chest shaving’ scene to the top spot. In this, Paul gets his chest shaved at Claire’s brothel by one of the prostitutes who recounts her Amish childhood and incestuous relationship with her brother (flashbacks to her dressed in full Amish costume included). Meyer at one of his most random and equally un-arousing moments, it’s a scene that manages to equally appear quite innocent, as if the two were having sex for the first time. Apparently this was one of the directors favourite scenes and he was practically smacking his lips whilst shooting it.

Meyer had noticed the trend at that time of films switching from playing at drive-in theaters to hardtop indoor cinemas, one way of ensuing that those ‘tough’ moral types couldn’t catch a peek at what was screening and kick up a fuss. Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers turned out to be a huge hit and even found itself playing at legitimate cinemas by May 1969. It’s booking into Philadelphia’s first-run Randolph Theatre (replacing the MGM release of The Shoes for the Fisherman which had tanked) is a significant breakthrough for Meyer as a filmmaker as up to this point in his career his films had usually played art-house cinemas. That didn’t stop people trying to get him into trouble, even though they weren’t very successful… There were at least two incidents, one in Louisiana and one in Missouri, were the court ruled in Meyer’s favour after prints of Finders were seized for being obscene, without a prior adversary hearing determining if it actually was.

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Not one of the directors best but worth a watch for his unconscious attempt at doing somewhat of a serious film, the noir feel of Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers is one that could have been capitalised more on with a different cast and the final result eclipsed by the rest of his filmography.

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