Tag Archives: Death Proof

‘Revenge of The Cheerleaders’ (1976) review

18 Apr

A quasi-sequel to 1973 release The Cheerleaders, Revenge of The Cheerleaders see’s Aloha High’s ever popular cheerleading squad deal with a potential merger with local rivals Lincoln High. Hailed as having a ‘morality crisis’ by local press and the town’s education board, the squad attempt to quash anything from happening by sabotaging school inspections (a rather hilarious sketch in which the school lunch is spiked with drugs and alcohol making students, teachers and outside board inspectors run havoc on an extended trip) and making sure current Aloha life continues as normal (sunbathing on the school lawn, having sex openly on campus, couches casually scattered outside the school for people to chill out). A second chance for the school comes in the light of a new principle, who eventually sacks the cheerleaders and sets about cleaning up Aloha for the better… Until the girls find out a secret plan behind it all to sell the school! Cue the cheerleaders on a mission to right the wrongs and have sex along the way (the suggestive rim-job in the local diner is a particularly nice touch). Were you expecting anything less?

Returning to this feature was director Richard Lerner, who was the DOP on the first film, and actress Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith as cheerleader Heather (who starred as Andrea in The Cheerleaders). Smith was heavily pregnant in the film (having a baby with the films composer John Stirling), something the Lerner didn’t know when he originally cast her but decided to go with anyway. It makes for a strange contrast amongst the girls but works the promiscuous angle with obvious effect. Another gem in the cast in David Hasselhoff in his first feature role as basketball player Boner, just to see him getting to caught up in the campness of it all.

revenge-of-the-cheerleaders-1

For a sexploitation feature, there’s a lot less sex going on here than in its original big sister, with the adult focus more on numerous topless shots (and lots of pubic hair) and the occasional sexually suggestive scene. You’d be forgiven for feeling a little disappointed (like I was) if you were expecting a lot more sex scenes from a softcore picture with cheerleaders as its focus. That said, it’s a lot funnier and more bizarre than its predecessor making it a little more enjoyable and giving it a bit of a zany twist. A mass bubble bath in the school’s shower block is contrasted against a scene in which two girls hold up one Lincoln High classroom with a fire extinguisher, whilst there are three dance numbers, one of which is set in the local diner and has them all dancing around a jukebox, very reminiscent of Tarantino’s Death Proof. That said, it does have a different vibe and its nice to see the girls actually running the school as opposed to just being content as the playthings of the school sports teams. The film is worth a watch, a feature that is probably more fun when watching with a big crowd or a group of friends.

Lets be honest, you can’t really go wrong with a film that has a scene where a girl takes off her pants to use as smelling salts to wake up a knocked out basketball player…

Geek To Geek Chic – Film Inkorporated

12 Aug

My latest dilemma happens to be one of my most vain; trying to sort out my next tattoo. Now, I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea but I have been a lover of body ink since I were a child, much to the dismay of my father… I’m always looking at other people’s, admiring the artwork of the tattooist (when it’s a good obviously) and being intrigued as to the story’s or reason behind people’s choices. I have always known I was going to get one, it has been an inevitability that I, Lydia, would one day turn up at home and go ‘Hey Ma, look what I got!’. And I have, five times so far. To varying reactions.

So my recent problem, if you can call it, has been planning number six. Question number one, where to put it? The older I get, the more I start thinking about this one more seriously. I have always wanted sleeves, I haven’t got there yet but know that some people like to attach a slight amount of stigma to arm tattoos on show in the workplace. So that’s arms out of the equation for now. I’d always thought about my feet, until it hit me that Quentin Tarantino may not like tattooed feet and if I ever wanted my dream of a foot rub from him to come true, my best bet would be to leave them clear. So that’s no feet. Ever. Wrists, calves, thighs, back of my neck? Maybe. My back? Potentially. Although that’s another dilemma in itself. I think my back is kinda sexy (hey, we all need to have something we like about ourselves right?!) but there’s also this huge, beautiful tattoo of a frigate ship that I’ve wanted since I was eighteen that would fit perfectly in the centre of my back above two swallows I already have (what can I say, I love nautical tattoos…). But enough of that problem, unlike some women, I can’t multi task. Then there’s the issue of symmetry. Right now, everything is sort of symmetrical and my ex always used to moan that I should keep it that way because it looked nice. Then again, he was a lying cheat. Fuck symmetry (and for that matter people who take pride in telling others that ink makes them look ugly, everyone is different and beautiful in their own way, okay).

Putting the location aside, the next thing has been what the hell to get! When I was a teen, I’d always pictured myself with tonnes of film and music tattoos, Tim Burton iconography mixed together with artwork from Rancid and Deftones album covers. Luckily for me, times really do change. I still love Rancid as a band, did get Deftones album artwork tattooed a few years ago and, praise the Lord, the idea I had for a Nightmare Before Christmas sleeve has firmly been washed down the drain (I blush with embarrassment still thinking about it). Eventually film overtook my love for music, and film related tattoos have always been something I’d thought about, a way to celebrate and show my love for the medium. But how? Being a huge sexploitation and Russ Meyer fan I’ve often thought about getting a beautiful pin-up done but, sometimes, they don’t always come out looking beautiful if you know what I mean… Which is why I went and got Stuntman Mike’s car logo from Death Proof tattooed on my ankle instead. As a fan of slasher films (which the film essentially is), Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (which Death Proof homages the shit out of) and skull and crossbones, it was the best fit.

Which got me thinking, why don’t I just turn my right calf (over time) into a horror leg of sorts. Not only would it provides hours of entertainment in watching my father groan about how disgusting it is (the Death Proof tattoo went down very well…) but would really encompass everything I’d always loved about tattoos; beauty, personality, individuality and artwork. Which is why I’m now getting a gorgeous, bleeding zombie forearm inked on the other side of my ankle. The fact that it was designed by legendary film poster artist Graham Humphreys, someone we know, for a film that involves other people we know, just makes it that little bit more personal. Excited doesn’t even begin to describe it. And who knows where I’ll go from there. I’ve always wanted a Creature from the Black Lagoon pin-up and the odd panel or so from the Scott Pilgrim books… One thing I know for sure is this, Jack Skellington ain’t setting a single bone near my skin.

Geek to Geek Chic – Let There Be Cake!

7 Apr

I have made no secret of the fact that I bloody love cake. Cream cakes, sponge cake, birthday cake, iced cake, cupcakes, cake – I love it (but not ginger cake, carrot cake or fruit cake). So this Easter I thought ‘What’s better than chocolate?’. The answer, chocolate cake. Inspired by some incredibly delicious WWE themed cupcakes that a friend of mine made for my boyfriend’s recent birthday, I decided to search the internet for the cakes that pleased my inner geek. And boy, did I find some impressive spectacles. I warn you, this post is another that’s very heavy on the pictures but they are all well worth the waiting time to load. Have credited where I can but if you spot your cake on here and it’s not credited, tell me and I’ll add it in! Ladies and gents, I present a few of the geekiest cakes I could find. If you know of any others, leave a link in the comments box below!

Watchmen cupcakes by Sweet Lizzy’s Cupcakes

Avengers birthday cake

Corpse Bride wedding cake

Friday 13th birthday cake by Your Happy Baker

Pokemon cupcakes by Polkadots

Star Wars Millennium Falcon birthday cake

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles birthday cake

Jurassic Park cake by CMNY cakes

Sailor Moon cupcakes by The Sweet Treat Leap

Alien inspired wedding cake

Sonic birthday cake

Evil Dead inspired cake by Karen Zinna

Star Wars Max Rebo birthday cake

Twin Peaks cupcakes

Where The Wild Things Are wedding cake

Cheetara birthday cake

Back To The Future cake

Death Proof cupcakes by Clares Cupcakes

A Nightmare Before Christmas wedding cake

Little Shop of Horrors cupcakes by Shane Russell

Star Wars ATAT cake

Alien themed cake

Ghostbusters wedding cake by Charm City Cakes

Indiana Jones golden idol cake

Friday 13th cupcakes by Alicia Zak

A Nightmare on Elm Street cake

Ramona Flowers bag cake by jennyvier

Star Trek Borg cupcakes

Kill Bill birthday cake by Cake Rhapsody

Frankenstein and his Bride wedding cake, complete with angry mobsters!

WallE birthday cake

Thundercats cupcakes by The Baking Bird

Buffy the Vampire Slayer cake by Cake Nouveau

Evil Dead cake

Scott Pilgrim cupcakes by sweetheartcupcake

Venom cake

King Kong inspired cake by Rosebud Cakes

Sailor Moon/Tuxedo Mask cake

Vintage comic book cakes by Charm City Cakes

A Nightmare Before Christmas wedding cake by Pink Cake Box

Optimus Prime cake

Watchmen cupcakes

MEYER MONTH – Top Ten Meyer Homages

22 Mar

#10 – PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE  (1974)
So not a homage or direct reference but similarity and sort of brotherhood, Phantom of the Paradise and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls have two of the best film soundtracks of the 1970s, if  not the entire history of film. Brian De Palma’s 1974 release also features a scene in which a bevy of beautiful ladies (and one man) are are lying on top or around each other on a circular bed, draped in underwear just like the promotional shots for Meyer’s Beyond. Both also happen to have a singer taken under the wing of a big music producer…

#9 – AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (1987)
Okay, so maybe not a reference so much as a cameo, but this top ten wouldn’t be complete without Meyer’s fifteen seconds in the 80s comedy anthology Amazon Women on the Moon in which he plays a video rental store owner trying to persuade a guy to rent a video date VHS. With a giant Supervixens poster visible in the background, one can only imagine some of the X-rated wonders Meyer would have had in his video store if he’d owned one. Well, we can wonder because we know there wouldn’t be any hardcore and everyone would have big boobs…


#8 – SPICE GIRLS – SAY YOU’LL BE THERE (MUSIC VIDEO)
As much as a lot of us probably don’t want to admit it, the Spice Girls music video for Say You’ll Be There has plenty of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! lashings on its back. The desert, girls chasing boys, leather, fast cars, costume aesthetic, girl power. Whilst I admit that I learnt more about feminism from Meyer than this band of half wits, this has a more deserving place in a top ten than Lady Gaga’s Telephone which owes FAR more to the women in prison genre.

#7 – THE DOUBLE D AVENGER (2001)
If Russ Meyer were to do a superhero movie, it would probably have gone something like The Double D Avenger. The only film which has a ‘reunion’ of-sorts of Meyer stars Kitten Natividad, Raven De La Croix and Haji, the picture see’s an incredibly busty woman fight crime with her breasts. Laced with tonnes of exaggerated cleavage, incredibly bad lines and a scene involving giving a plant/banana a blow job, I have no doubt in my mind that had Meyer been asked to keep doing films in his later years, he would have churned out something like this. In an incredibly polite way, it isn’t worth checking out.

#6 – SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)
At the end of the film we find out the killer has gender issues. No Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, no Sleepaway Camp.


#5 – SUPERVIXENS (1975)

It’s well known that Meyer liked to reference his own work and one of the instances of this is his reference in 1975’s Supervixens of the snake bite scene from earlier release Motorpsycho (1965). After being bitten by a rattlesnake out in the desert, the bitten men then shout at their female companions to ‘suck out’ the poison. With lots of emphasis on the ‘sucking’ part. Not that you’d expect anything less from the director of sleaze…

#4 – SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)
A small town band of three members find their way into a music scene run by a hot shot producer who drives a wedge between each member and crushes their dreams of stardom, the film’s soundtrack is music by the said fictional band, the band’s biggest fan starts out being their friend before being ostracised and returning for the final battle at the end of the picture, the lead girl gets led astray by the record producer, there are parties and gigs. Yep, its pretty much Beyond the Valley of the Dolls without the murderous ending. Although the producer does die at the end…

#3 – GRINDHOUSE (2007)
Both films in Grindhouse riff off Meyer’s masterpiece Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Rodriguez’s opening to Planet Terror is an inverted copy of the go-go club opening of FPKK. Instead of hypersexual, gyrating women dancing to salivating, screaming men, Rose McGowan’s character pole dances to a barely packed room and cries tears of unhappiness at the end of her routine. Tarantino’s effort Death Proof is a more obvious love letter to the feature, taking the cars, the women and the attitude and putting them all back on the big screen to kick some sweet butt!


#2 – PERVERT! (2006)
A film which has a stupid amount of Meyer references, so much so that your stick will be snapping after ten minutes of shaking, Pervert! is a perfect example of how to take the grindhouse/sexploitation genre tone/feel and play it out right. Boobs, porn stars, fast cars, desert ranches, hypersexual women, familial bed swapping, dinners filled with innuendo, yes, it’s all there. If you like Meyer, chances are you’ll love this.


#1 – THE PIPETTES – PULL SHAPES (MUSIC VIDEO)
One of the best homages to Meyer’s work, the music video for The Pipettes single Pull Shapes riffs Z-Man’s party scene in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Introduced exactly like The Carrie Nations, the band have got all the points in the scene down to a T, starting off with a backing group that are wearing similar clothes to The Strawberry Alarm Clock in Meyer’s feature. All the major characters are there; The Pipettes playing The Carrie Nations role, the Harris-esque boyfriend/manager, a Z-Man type party host, the Emerson Thorne bartender, the attention seeking Ashleigh St. Ives. Even the minor characters and bit players are referenced such as the dancing hippy, Princess Livingston’s Matron, the Nazi bar man, Z-Man’s assistant Natalie (wearing what looks like a total knock off of the gold dress actually worn in the film), Porter Hall, the girl who’s dancing naked. Top it off with a 60s sound and some great dance moves and even Meyer would be proud. Well, maybe with a little more tit action…

MEYER MONTH – Jimmy McDonough interview

9 Mar

Writer Jimmy McDonough is a big deal in the world of Russ Meyer. This is the man who wrote Meyer’s biography, a feat that probably wouldn’t have happened when it did if Meyer hadn’t have been unwell. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer is an illuminating portrait of the director with some great stories from all of those who were nearest and dearest to him. The book has been a bible for me since it’s release and I’m very grateful to Jimmy for taking some time out to answer some questions and talk about the great man. To say that this is a personal life-greatest-moment for me is an understatement and my sincerest thanks go out to the guy. His latest biography, Tragic Country Queen, on Tammy Wynette is out now and previous biographies include Neil Young and Andy Milligan. The film rights to Big Bosoms were bought last year and a biopic is currently in the works with director David O. Russell linked to the project.

How did you first become aware of Russ Meyer and his career?

At some point I spied an old girlie mag calendar with photos Meyer had snapped of Lorna Maitland and June Wilkinson. Kablam!  His photos were so much better than nearly all the competition.  There was an X factor present–a crazed euphoria, a palpable sense of whoopie…One felt it in the grinch, as RM would say.
 

What was the first thing of his that you saw and what were your first impressions of it?

I think it was Supervixens at an Indiana drive-in when I was a teen.  Seeing Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens during its theatrical run at at a decript old Jersey City movie palace is what really blew the back of my head off, though. The way the camera just locked onto Kitten Natividad and didn’t let go.  The barrage of closeups: lips, eyes, breasts, radios, pinatas, and the wiggling wheel beneath a bedframe.  An insane attention to the details, down  to the garish set painting.  Meyer appears in the end of the film, addressing the audience as he packs up his film equipment.  The guy came at you with the con-man confidence of a car salesman who has you in a bear-hug and won’t let you leave the lot until the deal is sealed.  It felt so personal, so maniacally single-minded. Once the lights came up I felt as if I’d hallucinated the whole thing. Everything about the film was wacko.  Yet it’s strangely heartfelt.  Beneath was a tribute of sorts–a love letter to Kitten.  
 
How have these impressions changed over the years (for better or worse) and did doing the research for the book radically change how you felt about his work (film or photography)?
 
Not that I can think of.  Doing the book only enhanced my appreciation of his work.  And underscored how undeniably cuckoo RM was.  Crazy family + combat photography + big bosoms + industrial photography + fear of insanity…it all made sense, really. 
 
Where did the idea for the biography come from?
 
It was in the back of my mind for years.  I had worked in the exploitation business for that other RM exploitation king on the opposite coast–Radley Metzger–and knew the lay of the land.  My first published book was on Andy Milligan, who was the grimy, gritty low-down opposite of Meyer in every way.  I wanted to go to the glossy end of the exploitation spectrum, say a few more things and get the fuck out.  Plus I knew the book would be a million laughs.
 

Was it something that you’d always had in mind after discovering Meyer?

Yes.  I spend a long time thinking about projects before I do them, because once I jump in I won’t quit until it’s done.
 
What was or is so special about Meyer that made you want to undertake the project?
 
I am attracted to people who are helpless in the face of an obsession. I can relate. Obsessions drove Meyer.  And in the end they did him in. For better or worse, I see certain things in the same way as RM.  Not everything, thank Christ, but…certain things. My wife Natalia could be a Meyer star. All the right curves…long, flaming red hair…the same bad attitude.  She could hold her own with any of the Faster, Pussycat gang, believe me.
 
During the project, did you at any time feel like you may have taken on too much, in terms of trying to contact those closest to him, going through his extensive archives, the fact that he was, at the time, ill?

No, I wish I had found more interviewees, actually.  I never went through RM’s archives, unfortunately.  This was a completely unauthorized project.

 
Did you have any real difficulties along the way, in terms of contacting people or getting permission from his estate?
 
It took a bit of time to convince some people of my sincerity.  A zillion nutcases have chased after these women.  I actually had a number for Uschi and when I left a message I got so carried away I probably sounded like perv #4,567.  I’m not 100% certain it was still her number but when I called back a few days later it was disconnected.  Needless to say I never got to speak to her.  A great loss for the book, unfortunately. I sought no permission from the estate nor was any granted.  
 
Was there anyone in particular who really needed to be persuaded or talked around into contributing? You mention in the book how difficult it was to try and arrange meeting with Erica Gavin and how Alaina Capri had abandoned the business all together and never really talked about her time with Russ.
 

I specialize in difficult characters.  Look at my books. Gavin is the Howard Hughes of the Meyer women, and the most psychedelic. She’s impossible to pin down on anything, even going to the Quickie Mart.  But once gotten Erica was fantastic.  She even flashed her cans at me, albeit in a brassiere.  That chick should write a book–she’s been a lot of weird and wondrous places. Alaina was nervous about talking after all these years.  She didn’t want to be laughed at.  I hope I did her justice. Capri’s tops in my book.

Do you think (without sounding incredibly cruel) that his illness worked in your favor at the time of compiling research? 

I had no idea what kind of shape RM was in when I started the research.  I thought about chucking it once I knew the extent of the situation.  His friends encouraged me to plow ahead, though, which was inspiring.  But I have to say if RM had been in cognizant of my project there is no doubt in my mind that after my third question he would’ve punched me in the nose and unleashed the lawyers.  Believe me, I would’ve loved to have picked that strange brain but Meyer wasn’t an introspective guy.  I think he would’ve find my approach to be an assault on the fantasy.  Needless to say I don’t see it that way.  The women are what interested me, anyway.  They hadn’t talked all that much. RM had ample opportunity to tell his story and spent three self-published volumes doing so–A Clean Breast.  What an achievement–over a thousand pages and nary an insight to be found.  Fantastic photos, though.

On ‘A Clean Breast’, do you think (if he’d completed it) his original idea of doing an autobiographical film would have been somewhat more insightful?

The bit of The Breast of Russ Meyer floating around is just fantastic.  That was the last Meyer project of any interest, in my opinion. Insightful?  I don’t know if Meyer was capable.

Did his illness or seeing him ill change your view or opinion on him in any way?

I felt for RM.  Again, in the end his obsessions were his undoing.  He’d become a feeble mark begging for mammary salvation, a pathetic john who’d empty his wallet to snuggle up to any big tit.  Curiously it was a position not all that far from the weak males he’d mocked in his films.  And then Meyer lost his mind–literally.  The details are in the book, and it really is like something out of one of his mid-period films.  His old screenwriter John Moran couldn’t have penned a more sordid tale. 

Do you have a favourite/s Meyer girl and did your opinion of her change after you met her (if you did)?

Tura and I really hit it off.  I mean really hit it off. Had circumstances been different…Kitten was absolutely fantastic.  I nearly proposed to her after six questions.  Unfortunately I was already married at the time.  Hanging out with Erica Gavin was a mind-bender.  They were all great and it was a thrill of a lifetime meeting them.  Is there a grifter in the bunch?  This is the world of Russ Meyer, what do you think?

What do you think it is about them that have made them so endearing amongst Meyer/film/sexploitation/cult film fans?

Their spirit.  Dare I say they seem almost pure and innocent these days.

Do you think that that’s part of the charm of Meyer’s work, that by today’s standards of explicitness there’s a great deal of innocence in some of his portrayal’s of sexuality and some of his characters themselves?

Yes. The humor, which doesn’t always work, is another big part.  Sex can be such a heavy, oppressive topic. Meyer lets you laugh at it.  

Did any of them disappoint you in any way in reality?

No.  If anything they were even more impressive.  Life hasn’t been easy for them and they’re not easy dames to live with. Forget the physical attributes, these women vibrate with an energy that could charge 1000 Teslas. There’s a blinding light behind the eyes. Never a dull moment!

What do you think it is about Meyer himself that has kept the girls so loyal and proud of their work and association with him?

However much an asshole Meyer could be, he immortalized these women.  How flattering is that?  Last time I checked nobody’s building me a shrine.

There are a number of instances documented where he has fallen out with his actresses or treated them badly at some point. Is there anyone you think he was particularly harsher on?

Oh, I don’t know, everybody got the short end of the stick sooner or later.  Meyer’s right-hand man George Costello was banished forever when Meyer discovered he’d been consoling Erica Gavin behind his back during the making of Vixen.  During the shoot RM had a secret stash of Treesweet orange juice and Costello was brazen enough to filch one can and slip it to Gavin behind the boss’s back.  RM took this as a great betrayal and never spoke to Costello again. Meyer made little plaques commemorating each film.  And what was on the Vixen plaque?  A can of Treesweet orange juice.  A symbol of Costello’s treasonous behavior.

Did any girl surprise you in any way in reality?

Tura was ultra-right wing, which didn’t exactly surprise me, but it did crack me up.  Very patriotic, loved Reagan and Bush, torture and kill the terrorists, etc. She was very loyal, very sweet and had a way of getting to you. She signed her letters “Always” and she meant it. Tura was just too big for the movies. Too bad.

Out of all the girls featured in his films, who you do think is or are the most memorable/most typically Meyer/most overrated or underrated? Are there any that you think he should have worked with more or less? 

I just wish there was more of all of ’em.  More Tura, more Lorna, more Uschi, more Kitten, more Alaina, more, more, more…I’m not a big Edy Williams fan but she certainly clawed out her place in the Meyer oeuvre.  RM wasn’t interested in helping his stars build a career.  He was always lusting after next year’s Cadillac. I really, really wish Eve had done more film work.  And I wished somebody had properly interviewed her.  What a dame.  

I’m sure some will consider this heresy, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls isn’t my favorite, either.  I admire the achievement but it’s a little too chilly, a little too arch for me.  Give me Mondo Topless/Common Law Cabin/Faster, Pussycat…

RM’s last couple of films are just an embarrassment.  His taste was of course vulgar, but exuberantly so.  At the end it turned grotesque, tired, creepy.  The women seem factory-made, joyless. You feel embarrassed for the guy, cringe at his pathetic fetish.  This wasn’t the case previously, at least not for me.  He made it all seem fun.  And funny.

At what point do you think his career really peaked?

In 1968 Vixen made a pile of dough, so much so that a desperate 20th Century Fox came knocking on Meyer’s door to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.  A Hollywood studio INVITED an exploitation filmmaker into the kingdom and let him run amok.  Unheard of!  The joke was definitely on them for once.  And the moolah was in the Bank of Meyer!  Fantastic.

Mentioning Eve Meyer, how important do you think she was in relation to Meyer’s early career? She seems to have played a big part on the finacial side of business, helping Russ out on a few occassions…

From what his friends told me, Eve really understood Russ.  And could stand up to him.  Eve was a very sharp dame and a fantastic businesswoman–she distributed his films.  I think RM’s life can be split into BE and AE.  Russ seemed increasingly rudderless After Eve.  But nobody was going to tell RM what to do.  Look where it got him.  Heaven.  And hell.  Had he been a little more humble…but who wants a humble Meyer anyway? His life was like his movies.  Absolutely nuts from beginning to end.

Women are the obvious topic to discuss when it comes to Meyer but he also had a lot of male friends and actors around him from his service during WW2 and the films he made. Which of them stand out as being the most memorable and loyal towards him?

Undoubtedly the most loyal was Anthony James Ryan AKA The Handyman.  He helped create the movies, appeared in them, and cleaned up many a Meyer mess.  He was loyal until the end.  He knew how crazy Russ but was loyal until the end.  A hell of a guy, Ryan.  I loved visiting his dusty old photography store to shoot the shit. Little bits of Meyeribilia were everywhere, like shots of Kitten Natividad appearing in a local parade.  I’d rather have a colonoscopy than attend such an event, but a parade with Kitten.  Now that’s exciting.  I hope she threw candy to the kids from the back of the Caddy.

How much of an impact do you feel Meyer had on cinema in terms of depicting sex and sexuality on screen?

He kicked down the door and did it with panache and wit.  However crude and bizarre the point of view may be, RM was there first.  He fought many an expensive battle in court defending his films.  Everybody who came after benefited from his ballsy and brazen approach.  To what end, one may ask.  Nowadays anything goes and how dull is that?

As an independent filmmaker, do you think he is successful in what he did?

Are you kidding me?!?  The guy saw his demented fantasies come to life on the silver screen, had incredible broads throwing themselves at his feet and he made a shitload of dough–the kind of loot that allows you to tell the world to take a fucking hike.  He circled the globe attending tributes to himself.  And outside of the films for 20th Century Fox RM owned everything he created and controlled how it was presented down to the minute details.  He got away with everything,  answered to nobody.  I don’t know about you but I’d trade places in a second.

The bulk of sexploitation is really tedious unwatchable crap.  Dave Friedman was a hell of a guy, but his posters and trailers were far better than most of actual movies. And that’s in keeping with the exploitation con.  Moviemaking was no laughing matter to Meyer.  He gave it his all.  Experiencing Meyer’s work is akin to listening to Little Richard belt out “Keep A-Knockin’.” A runaway train–you either get on board or get the hell out of the way! 

RM nearly killed himself getting shots as a combat photographer in WWII; he nearly killed his cast and crew making these films.  Nobody told me making these films was fun.  Raven De La Croix tore up her feet running like a maniac barefoot and naked through the woods.  You think Meyer cared?  Naaah. RM demanded take after take.  He just wanted it to look good.  So somebody dies, so what?  Filmmaking is war!

My one wish is that Meyer would’ve made a 3D movie.  But the medium wasn’t technically ready for somebody like Meyer.  Could you imagine if he were still around?  Scorsese made Hugo.  Meyer could’ve done Huge-O.

Do you think the content of his films has stopped him from being celebrated or his achievements in independent filmmaking from being recognised at all?

Not really. Love him or hate him, Meyer was recognized as his own genre.  Sure he was vilified by the conservative and the humorless, but RM demanded and got different consideration than most smut peddlers.  Meyer was also lucky–powerful critics like Roger Ebert (it must be said, a fellow tit man) championed him in the mainstream press.  And being hilarious and endlessly quotable made RM great copy and earned him endless ink. He was great at playing all the angles and knew controversy only enhanced box office.  He’s been fully absorbed into our culture–these days you can buy Faster Pussycat t-shirts and lunch boxes at the mall.  Unfortunately the films themselves have become harder and harder to show theatrically or buy in a store and that, I think, has been the worst thing for his longevity.  Nobody’s really promoting or taking care of his work, except for draining the last easy dollar to be made.  Go look at the website for RM Films.  Is it still 1982?

Is there anything about him personally and professionally that you think he isn’t but should be remembered for?

I just think he should be remembered, period.  Everybody agrees that the estate has missed the boat.  No Blu-Rays containing state-of-the-art transfers of his films?  Meyer would’ve been on top of that from the get-go.  Rumors that the negatives are rotting away?  It’s a disgrace.  I think RM would be appalled at the state of his archive.  This is a guy who turned his own home into a museum to himself–where are all his treasures?  Why can’t the world experience them?  There should be a Russ Meyer Museum.  How great would that be? You think people wouldn’t visit, write about it, put it on TV?

It does seem a real shame that for someone who embraced the VHS market so early on, his films haven’t been transferred to BD yet. Who is in charge of his estate? I know that Arrow had some difficulties when they released his films on DVD which seem to be the best and most definitive way of getting hold of them.

Meyer’s secretary and contractor joined forces to become the, ahem, finely-tuned machine that runs the empire.  Everything I have to say about the estate is in the book, specifically the “Janice and the Handyman” chapter.  I’d rather not give them any more attention, they’re a bit internet-excitable when it comes to me.

In regards to his house, the descriptions of it in the book are incredible. What was it like being in that environment where Meyer is literally coming at you from all directions?

I was never in the house, unfortunately.  All my knowledge comes from those who had been there.
 
What do you think of the homages and imitations of Meyer’s work that are raising his profile? Have you seen films like ‘Pervert!’ and ‘Bitch Slap!’? What, if you’ve seen them, do you think of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s references to his work in ‘Death Proof’ and ‘Planet Terror’?
 
Haven’t seen any of these and don’t feel compelled to catch up.  That whole referencing-films-past has become a little cliche, don’t you think?  The TV set on in the background showing Kiss of Death?  You’ve seen a few movies, we get it.  Go teach a class. If I need a jolt of Meyer I just turn on Mondo Topless for ten minutes. What’s that line from The In Crowd–“The original is still the greatest.”
 
In terms of his treatment of women (both on screen and off screen in his personal relationships and friendships), how much do you think he cared for/respected the opposite sex?
 
As great and fun a guy as RM was, he treated everybody like crap sooner or later. There was always suspicion, a plot, a betrayal. Women were certainly no exception.   And yet despite himself he recorded a certain greatness about them, however absurdly specific it is.  I think this talent was beyond his control.  Obviously he never got over dear old mother Lydia.  Interesting that a frequent Meyer POV is a low-angle, I’m-way-down-here-looking-way-up-there at these towering femme infernos.  A child’s eye view, perhaps? It should come as no surprise Meyer came from a demented family.  He was surrounded by a couple of crazy women; enemas were involved.  Need I say more? 

What do you think his honest opinions on male/female sexuality were? 

As Jane Hower–one his last paramours–told me RM was “very straightforward–hug, kiss, touch put it in.”  There’s a picture in the book of Meyer’s spartan bedroom  that says it all. Box of Kleenex on the nightstand, no-frills bed…It might as well be army barracks.  Sex to Meyer was like backing up a Mack truck, dumping a load and  heading straight back to headquarters to hang out with the fellas.  A very old-fashioned guy.  To him oral sex was a commie plot.  Just the word “sexuality” would’ve been met with derision from RM. He couldn’t have cared less about anybody’s needs except his own. “Making love”? “Sensuality”? That was for sissies, Yes-Dear men.  Meyer approached sex the way he tore into a steak: not a lot of finesse and blood dripping off the knife.

How do you think Meyer will be remembered in 50 years time? What do you think people will see as his legacy by that point?

He was a complete original.  How many filmmakers are?  Not many, if you ask me.  A minute or two of Meyer and you know you’ve fallen through a hole in the universe.  A little more interesting than another Spike Lee retrospective or the complete oeuvre of Jonathan Demme.

Lastly, I don’t know whether you can or can’t talk about the film? Not in terms of where it is in production or who is being considered for casting but your view on it. Did you ever think that this would be an opportunity that would happen to you and how deserving do you think Meyer is of a film biopic?

I can tell you that the actress attached to play Eve Meyer was my first choice–she’s a dead ringer for Eve and can convey the mountain of moxie required. Some very talented people are connected to the project.  But it’s Hollywood.  I’ve been through this before.  Of course I wish them the best.  How will they recreate those women, anyway?  CGI, or your dread porn cyborg types?  I hope not.  These were one-of-a kind women.  Hard cups to fill. 

MEYER MONTH – Russ Meyer, the Gothic Year (1964-1965)

3 Mar

The lovely Vince D’Amato expresses his thoughts on Russ Meyer’s black-and-white ‘Gothic period’ of filmmaking…

Very arguably the highlight of Meyer’s career, though if the films contained within this one-year period are not his definitive work, they are doubtlessly his most famous. Lorna (1964), Mudhoney (1965), Motorpsycho (1965) and the epitomic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) have all been immortalized into pop culture consciousness, even for those who haven’t seen his films. But for those of us who have been lucky enough to bear witness, the immortality strikes us because these films are just so fucking loony tunes, throwing images into our faces from the screen that are forever seared into our brains while burning into cinematic culture simultaneously (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Motorpsycho specifically). Fourteen years after having seen these films, I can still recall numerous shots from them. For people only beginning to experience their love of cinema, even if they haven’t seen these films, they undoubtedly want to see them because they’re familiar, at least, with these films’ iconic imagery and still-moments from their motion picture origins, immortalized for decades on t-shirts, posters, flyers, blogs, band names, graphic media and illustrated cinema books, and paid homage to in many later films (Wild at Heart, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Grindhouse and Bitch Slap, to name a few famous ones). In other words, infused indefinitely into pulp culture.

I would be surprised if someone’s first Russ Meyer experience wasn’t one of the films from this era (likely Faster, Pussycat!), just as my own was. Who couldn’t resist the allure and pop-culture pounding of the image of Amazonian Tura Satana, her feet planted into the desert ground as she hauls a guy through the dirt and snaps his arm backwards. Three buxom women, car races, go-go dancing, attempted kidnapping and general mayhem all ensue in the stark desert locale. One really needs to say nothing more before Faster, Pussycat! is in some cinephile’s hot little hands running up to the cash register. Well, that was back in my day of brick-and-mortar video stores and VHS rentals. Now, I suppose the curious cinephine would just order from Amazon or download it.

So, yes, my own introduction to Russ Meyer’s cinematic world was via Faster, Pussycat! and Mudhoney circa 1997 (my time, and as I’d mentioned, via VHS) and I can say that he had me hooked forever at the wickedly dutched camera angles and luminously photographed black-and-white images of the go-go-dancers that open up the first few seconds of Faster, Pussycat!. No amount of exposure to the runaway pop-culture imagery of this film can prepare you for the film itself. And that, in itself, is saying something monumental. Riffing on this original opening is exactly what Robert Rodriguez got right with Planet Terror (forty years later in 2007) and the idea of having three amazing chicks running afoul of bad-ass cars and bad guys is what Grindhouse partner-in-crime Tarantino riffed on, also successfully, for his Death Proof segment. I sure hope they remembered to give Meyer his due credit, as should many other influenced filmmakers and rock bands of the last thirty years. 

What these filmmakers could never replicate, however, is really the sheer lunacy of Meyer’s cinematographic sensationalism – though many have tried, most notably former Corman staffer Rick Jacobson in his pastiche Bitch Slap (2009). Sure, in Meyer’s films, the voluptuous women are something to behold on their own, but really, whatever Meyer was photographing in this time period (with cinematographer/camera operator Walter Schenk), be it water-logged catfights, sand-strewn catfights, busty sunbathing beauties, chick-on-car action, motorcycle gangs, or even an excavated tree stump in the desert, it all seriously looked like a black-and-white live-action Warner Brother cartoon as gothic films noir – for adults. Of course the horn-blaring big-band go-go soundtrack of Faster, Pussycat! helped with that, too. And for ages I thought this cartoon aspect was some highly introspective revelation of my own intelligent devising, until I recently discovered that even Meyer’s latest works of the seventies (and in full colour) were unofficially dubbed “Bustoons”, named for the big-breasted women who starred in them as well as the “cartoonish” use of colour and framing compositions. Well, at least I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Cartoonish or not, his films were undoubtedly electric. 

Russ Meyer, over the course of his lengthy and successful independent film career, was his own self-made one-man film crew and studio, something that he has yet to be dragged from the shadows of fellow indie men Corman, Lewis, Band, and Kaufman to be properly lauded for. Or perhaps he just needs to be yanked from the cast shadows of his own big-breasted films and actresses. Yet somehow, wherever he is, I’m sure he’s just fine with his place in cinematic history.

Vince D’Amato is a filmmaker with independent production company Creepy Six Films and Brivido Giallo. He has just finished shooting his current feature, the neo-giallo Reversed, and has completed the screenplay for his next film to shoot next year. Vince also writes for Videotape Swapshop and the fiction site Creepy Six Tales, and is currently writing a cinema book.

Geek to Geek Chic – My Top 10 Christmas Lust-Haves

30 Dec

One of my favourite things about Christmas is the twin fun of giving and receiving. And for all those regular readers of my blog, I’m not just talking innuendo… I’m talking presents! This year I got to watch my boyfriend’s niece and nephew open their parcels from Santa and it got me thinking about all the presents I’d had as a kid and the excitement about waking up on Christmas Day and finding out which ones were under my tree. So while you all do your Top 10 best and worst films of the year, I bring you my all time, most lusted after Christmas presents…

LUST-HAVE #10 – Sony Playstation.
CURRENT STATUS – Owned, AWOL.
Oh Sony Playstation, how I longed for you and loved you from afar. You see, I was seven when my four-year old cousin got the original Playstation console for Christmas the year it came out. Now, I love my cousin, but he was a right little shit about it and he never let me have a go on it until a few years later. So for a very long time, I used to sit there and watch him play Crash Bandicoot and Porsche Challenge whilst I sat there hoping he’d give me a chance. Eventually he did and years later we used to gang up on his younger brother and beat him all the time at multiplayer Crash Team Racing. After four years of not getting the hint, my parents finally gave in and bought me one which I never thought would happen as I wasn’t (and still aren’t) very good at gaming. My cousin rang me to tell me there was a Playstation-shaped box under the tree for me. I cried because he had to be lying. My Grandparents bought me Star Wars Dark Forces and I got even more upset because I didn’t have my own console to play it on. In reality, my cousin was right, my Grandparents thought I’d already opened the damn thing and I was just incredibly stupid for not getting the hints myself. Was loved for years and is now lost, along with the annoying dance mat which isn’t a bad thing…


LUST HAVE #9 – Hungry Hungry Hippos
CURRENT STATUS – Wanted aged 5, got aged 19…
Like many a child in the 1990s, I was drawn into the lie that a game about obese Hippopotami would fulfill my life. Ever since I saw the advert aged five, I’d always wanted my own game. I played it at nursery. I played it at my friend’s houses. I never got one. Fourteen years later and I receive one for my nineteenth birthday and, in all honesty, it wasn’t really the same. If a future me had visited my five-year old self and told me I’d spend my nineteenth birthday playing Hungry Hungry Hippos whilst being pissed out of my mind, I would have stopped asking for it. Currently collecting dust in the attic and not making a reappearance at parties any time soon…

LUST HAVE #8 – Chemistry Set.
CURRENT STATUS – Got one Christmas, binned the following week
Ok, so this isn’t something I lusted after but remains a very memorable present because the whole kit was in Ukrainian. Which no one in the family speaks. The week after Christmas it was binned for safety reasons and because I hated Chemistry. Best. Christmas. Ever.

LUST HAVE #7 – Anything related to The Lion King
CURRENT STATUS – All gone except the slippers I still have even though they haven’t fit me for the last 15 years…
I loved The Lion King so much as a child and was lucky enough to have a lot of stuff. Figures, leggings, cuddly toys, playsets, CDs, pyjamas, sweatshirts, t-shirts, beakers, towels, I had the lot. The memory that sticks with me the most is not getting the VHS the Christmas when everyone else got the VHS because ‘Santa had forgotten to deliver it’. In reality, it had fallen down the back of my Grandparent’s wardrobe and they couldn’t find it. This problem was rectified a few weeks later when ‘Santa delivered it with an apology’, i.e. when my Nana had found it. Everything has gone except the slippers that have Simba’s head on them which I plan on making my own children wear should I be blessed with any of the little buggers. My Nana got me the Blu-Ray this Christmas because she wouldn’t buy me an Emanuelle/Emmanuelle DVD…


LUST HAVE #6 – Bass guitars.
CURRENT STATUS – Got. Played. Now gathering dust.
When I was a teen, I wanted to be in a punk rock band. Brody Dalle, nee Armstrong (in the video above), was my idol and I was determined to be like her (and after I’d been to a gig and smoked a couple of packets of fags I sounded like her which pleased me greatly). I desperately wanted to learn bass guitar because it was just a hell of a lot cooler then playing the guitar and I pestered my Mum for years before she gave in. I was sorted. I had my music. I dressed like a crack-addicted prostitute. I was sure I was going to find love with a gorgeous, older punk and live happily ever after. I was going to be in a band. Except that it never happened. A few years later I stopped playing, grew out of the scene and realised my heart belonged to film. Now my beloved bass beauties are gathering dust and looking for a new home, whilst my Mother breathes sighs of relief that I no longer dress like a teenage Lolita…

LUST HAVE #5 – Anything related to Jurassic Park.
CURRENT STATUS – Bring it on!!
As a kid, I loved dinosaurs and Jurassic Park is one of my all time favourite films. I was four when it came out and had a few toys but not all the ones I’d wanted… So for my sixteenth birthday I asked my Mum for some raptors. Didn’t get any. Asked for my seventeenth and eighteenth, nothing. Nineteenth came and went with no dinosaurs. Enter my ex who bought me something Jurassic Park related every Christmas for the last three years and cue this summer when I went all Envy Adams on his arse and we broke up. Which now means I have to buy dinosaurs myself. Or ask my Mum again. Think I’ll have more luck going alone on this one…

LUST HAVE #4 – Anything sex/Sexploitation related.
CURRENT STATUS – I ask nicely but end up buying myself.
Who knew that asking for presents the older you get would be so bloody problematic. Now that I’m older, and also incredibly fussy at times, my family ask me what I’d like. Except that when I tell them what I’d really like, they tell me no. No porn, no sexploitation posters, no softcore DVDs, no sex books, nothing. Before I’d even been asked what I wanted this year, my Aunt rang my Mum and said that Emmanuelle or anything sex related was out of the question. So I got The Lion King instead. I’ve been asking my Father for the same academic book on sexuality for the past six years and somehow it never seems to be wrapped and delivered by Santa. He promptly suggested that he buy me a coat when I suggested he buy me a vintage quad poster for Sex Dens of Bangkok that would have only cost him £3.99!! God bless my boyfriend who spoils me endlessly by entertaining my interests. Next year I’ve threatened to decorate the tree next year with topless pin-ups if there’s no porn under the tree. Watch this space.


LUST HAVE #3 – Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
CURRENT STATUS – Pokemon Master! Games AWOL…
Remember earlier when I said that my cousin wouldn’t let me have a go on his Playstation for years? Well, I got my own back. The year I got a Gameboy and the three Pokemon games, he didn’t and he really wanted to have a go at playing them. So I went all sadistic eleven year old and didn’t let him play once, mwhahahahahahahahahhaahhahaha! For someone who was absolutely terrible at gaming, Pokemon was my chance to shine, and shine I bloody well did. The only girl in school who knew how to play the game and be better at it then the boys who proclaimed they were amazing at it. I ruled, and it helped when you owned all 150 species and had trained them all to Level 100. No one I knew could beat me. Looking back, it just sounds really, really lame. Still, I’d give anything to have a real life Pikachu or Squirtle of my own…

LUST HAVE #2 – A footrub from the master himself.
CURRENT STATUS – Dream on you absolute weirdo.
It’s ok, I already know. I’m weird. It’s weird. But I can’t help it. Ever since the age of sixteen I have been keeping my feet beautiful and soft in the hope that one day, Tarantino himself will walk up to me and go ‘give me your feet’ and I’d give him my feet and he’d play with them and kiss my toes and it would be amazing aldskhf;akjbwvm sncxpojihkjfmdvxc… Ahem. For those who follow my Twitter feed, this isn’t exactly new news and I know it lumps me in the category of strange or perverted but I know it would be amazing. So, if anyone knows QT and knows he wouldn’t be put off by my Death Proof tattoo, tell him there’s some girl in London that would let him have his wicked way with her feet. That said, nothing compares to when my boyfriend slips off my shoes and massages my feet in the cinema. Word of warning, if the cinema is fairly empty and we’re sitting near the back alone, probably a good idea to join us later…


LUST HAVE #1 – Mr Frosty.
CURRENT STATUS – Owned, now disowned.
I’ll say this once, and I’ll say it over and over again. Mr Frosty is a paedophile. When I were a wee kid I saw the advert above and longed for a Mr Frosty. He looked so cool, so fun and had the promise of being able to make Slush Puppie-esque drinks at home. I never got a Mr Frosty… Until I turned nineteen. Yes, fifteen years after I first asked for one, I finally got one and realised they were pretty bloody boring. Flash forward to the following summer and cue me, incredibly pissed after downing around fourteen shots of vodka, telling a group of four to eight year olds that Mr Frosty is actually a paedophile and has spent the majority of his career grooming and abusing Penguin (the little juice squirter (See, it gets worse!!!) that comes with Mr Frosty (quite literally…) that is a small snowman in the advert above) into being his lover. This rant went on, and on, and on until my friend physically dragged me away. And it was done in front of their parents. All I remember are horrified faces and not a lot else. Mr Frosty hasn’t been seen since.