I’d read about it and seen some stills that Russ Meyer had shot on set but never thought that I might actually see This Is My Body, a ten minute short shot in 1959 by the director. Out of circulation since its original 1960 theatrical release, the short featuring model Diane Webber was never re-released and one part of Meyer’s early career that many people (including the man himself) thought would never again see the light of day. That was until late last year when the Russ Meyer Trust announced the release of a DVD set that featured his early films that had never been released before.
As part of the Vintage Bodies set, This Is My Body stands out as a beautiful example of Meyer’s early career as a pin-up photographer transcending perfectly from static shots to moving image work. The only time the director ever used sepia film stock, the short benefits largely from its subject Webber. Webber and Meyer had worked together before over the later half of the 1950s, with the latter’s photographs of the former being among some of the best in his career. Meyer shot Webber’s spread when she was Playboy Playmate of the Month in February 1956, looking very curvaceous thanks to her secret early pregnancy. Never one to shy away from being honest, Meyer later moaned that her body was never the same after childbirth and pulled This Is My Body from circulation completely using the postpartum excuse.
Not seen for over fifty years by the pubic, the short definitely isn’t a ‘must-see’ for Meyer fans. It provides no further illumination on his career and as a short with no plot will doubtless be very boring for some viewers (it is essentially Diane Webber sunbathing). But for completists and fans of his nudie-cutie or photography work, the ten minute delight really is a lucky joy to watch considering the Estate’s previous reluctance to shed any light on his early career. Whilst the DVD set it is included in notes that it is digitally restored, it’s unknown whether it is a restoration of an old existing transfer that Meyer made himself in the past or a direct transfer from an original print (one doesn’t know how many or what original prints the Estate still has left in usable condition, rumours have circulated in the past that things aren’t best looked after). For ten minutes it packs a lot of traits that would eventually recur throughout the rest of the directors filmography; lush natural settings (think gorgeous wood/stream settings like those in Vixen! and Up!) and an interior monologue of banal, superficial one-liners that can’t help but remind this viewer of Mondo Topless. But being one of Meyer’s biggest fans what more could I ask for? Just being able to watch it is exciting enough. Certainly not for everyone but a lovely example of how early on in his cinematic endeavours Meyer mastered his craft.