Tag Archives: Lori Williams

‘Tura! The Tura Satana Documentary’ Kickstarter Campaign

31 Mar

The Kickstarter campaign for the long-awaited documentary on Russ Meyer star and B-Movie legend Tura Satana is finally underway! The film, the release of which was Satana’s deathbed wish, is being produced by longtime manager and friend Siouxzan Perry and produced and directed by Cody Jarrett, with support from the YOMYOMF Foundation. With eleven days to go, the duo still need to raise roughly over $30,000, but there are some fantastic rewards up for grabs if you choose to back! Plus the end result of the documentary itself!!

tura doc

I, for one, am very excited for this project! Tura stunned audiences when Meyer’s cult film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was released in the 1960s and became a firm fan-favourite when the film became a midnight movie darling and cult favourite on the drive-in circuit. She left a lasting impression in cinema and pop culture with her dynamic depiction of Varla, the dominant, fast-driving, karate-chopping lesbian leader of a small girl gang, but unknown to some fans, also had a dynamic and turbulent life, including a childhood spent in a WWII Japanese relocation camp and a racially motivated rape that she would later avenge. It goes without saying that Tura was one hell of a woman, and her story deserves to be told.

There is some great involvement so far in this project, with contributions from Dita Von Teese, Ted V Mikels (who directed Tura in Astro Zombies and The Doll Squad), Margaret Cho (who will be providing the documentary’s narration), Shannon Lee, fellow Pussycat actors Lori Williams and Dennis Busch, and, of course, director John Waters, whose early championing of ‘Faster, Pussycat!’ in the 1970s helped elevate its cult status. As he so eloquently puts it; ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is beyond a doubt the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future’. 

tura model

Covering Satana’s personal life, career and the impact she left on the worlds of film, art, fashion, music and pop culture, Tura! looks set to be a rollercoaster of fun, and an eye-opening look into one of cinema’s unforgettable women of power.

Please, please donate where you can and help support this project to get off the ground. Tura had and continues to have so many fans, and if we all chipped in $5 each we could get this made and her story out there. I know personally how hard Siouxzan and Cody (and Helen!) have worked to get to this point, and all the work they have done to date to keep Tura’s memory alive and maintain and restore her estate. This has been a long time coming, and I have absolutely no doubts that it’s going to be great. This project could not be in the hands of more capable people, and I really wish them all the best with this.

You can contribute to the Kickstarter campaign here, and keep up to date with news on the project by following Tura Satana Productions on Twitter and Facebook!

MEYER MONTH – Russ Meyer Fan Art

24 Mar

Whilst trawling the internet for images for this month’s Russ Meyer dedicated month, I’ve stumbled across a lot of Russ Meyer related fan art and posters, some of which are beautiful. I’ve collected a majority of my favourites here for a pictorial post but there are plenty more out there. I will say one thing, if any one of the artists who did any of these ever come across this page or blog, please get in touch! I would pay for some of the originals of these…

The girls of Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by Becca’s Art

artwork by the Pizz

Supervixens character sketch by Jeremy Polgar

Tura Satana by Nathan Fox

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by Scott C

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by Jeff Victor

Vixen! by WacomZombie

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!  by kirbynasty

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by SHAG

Supervixens by Arbito

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! inspired painting by Sandra Equihua

minimalist Russ Meyer film posters by roosterization

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by Ghoulish Gary Pullin

The Lust of Flesh by Sam Gambino

MEYER MONTH – ‘The Cutting of Russ Meyer’ by Eugenio Triana

20 Mar

Like many talented filmmakers there is a general sense that Russ Meyer was great at what he did without much real sense at what those skills were. Meyer often gets called “Eisentenian” in his style, but what does this adjective really mean? This is what makes film such an enjoyable art form, just how persuasive it is – each frame is composed of so many elements that parsing every single decision that goes into making an effect work in a scene can be difficult for even the most hard-working critic. As such, the word “style” gets overused in film criticism, as a placeholder for whatever a film is doing that works. Like a man under hypnosis we get the general sense of purpose but the specifics get blurry.

Film is also expensive enough an art form, and dependent enough on technology, that it is also useful to consider how a filmmaker managed to arrive at those decisions and whether they were under his control at all. How decisions were affected by constraints, as much as the freedom of imagination to put up anything on-screen, is part of appreciating what goes into a filmmaker’s style.

With Russ Meyer, it is possible to simplify the conversation by concentrating solely on his editing skills, since this is such an important part of what makes his films his. Although he had plenty of other talents too, it was his editing that earned him the lofty “Eisensteinian” adjective above. But, like the cliché line about every smut film ever made, writing was not one of his strengths. This was due more to a lack of interest than a lack of effort, Meyer was the kind of filmmaker who preferred to pick up a camera and go than spend months in careful pre-production trying to refine a story. And in any case, he was enough of a realist to know that nobody paid for his films for the dialogue, to recycle another hoary line about the softcore and beyond.

Meyer spent most of his life making low budget films were he controlled almost every decision directly – and were there were major limits to what he could do. Actors were never well paid and never that good, and in any case he was rarely casting for acting talent first and foremost. Films had to be short and quickly made, and re-shoots were hard to come by, a tough limitation for a perfectionist like Meyer. Editing was the way he could hide a lot of these limitations and try to squeeze style out of dried out situations, and so came a prominent part of his directing style.

According to Jimmy McDonough in his biography Big Bosom and Square Jaws, Meyer was often editing on site, taking a van with him with a suit on site to see what he had. This was likely why Meyer’s films, for all their other faults, always have a great sense of rhythm – his editing was reactive, and often informing the film as it went along.

In the case of his first feature and hit, the film was almost entirely made in editing. Saddled with even fewer resources than he’d had before, and friends as actors, the director had to keep the film short and snappy to distract attention always. To screen means both to show and to cover, and very early Meyer showed he was in good control of both. From The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959) comes one of the main staples of the Meyer style, the plentiful use of cutaways. Meyer had started his career in industrial films, the corporate videos of those days, and had learnt how a few still shots, some music and a well placed voice over was enough to create a piece that worked. Mr Teas was the sex film as an industrial film, which is appropriate, since there’s never been a larger industry.

So Meyer starts his film with still shots of California, with a largely nonsensical voice-over getting quick to the point of the movie as these images go by: “The guitar as we know it today, came about as a result of many types of earlier stringed instruments. There was first the harp, the lute, then the zither, and mandolin. The guitar is a very sensitive instrument, with “G” being the third string, and is played over a system of frets. Sensitive men have been fretting over G-strings for years!”

Certainly not the obvious way to start your smut film. Unlike the industrial films, where the copy was earnest and mannered, Mr Teas’s voice over is loose and sardonic: this is a tease rather than an open sale. Meyer manages a lot of character in such a short space: that of a fun, subversive movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And this done with almost no resources, just his camera to take what are essentially moving stills and recorded sound. That he had enough confidence to start a film without characters, dialogue or acting showed early on that Meyer was a distinctive filmmaker, one with bold ideas for his films, never mind the genre or budget.

Mr. Teas, saddled with an actor who had the look Meyer wanted but not any experience, also made plenty of use of the point of view shot, much more so than any of his later movies, which for obvious reasons tend to show their characters in medium shot. These uncomplicated techniques allowed Meyer to make a tight film on zero resources. The main shoot took only a four-day weekend but Meyer then spent days putting together additional bits of film, shooting those early shots, adding some more point of view of scenes with local models, slowly layering the film with more and more material. Meyer learnt the lesson that he could create a film himself in the editing room, getting plenty of coverage and putting slowly splicing it together in his mobile Steenbeck. His films usually feel very episodic, born not out of screenwriting rhythms but out of creating short sequences in editing.

With the success of Mr. Teas, Meyer had found a style he could make work in practice, and he made sure to keep learning as an editor, moving away from his still photography, industrial film days, to work that was more dynamic, more in tune with the moving image. Perhaps his best film, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), was the culmination of Meyer the filmmaker. It has one of the best-edited opening sequences of any independent film ever made. Meyer starts on his three leading ladies, with shots of Haji, Tura Sutana and Lori Williams, alternating between six, second vignettes of them go-go dancing shot from the director’s favourite angle (below to above) and a medium shot of the three.

Slowly, Meyer starts to intercut the source of the music, with close up shots of a jukebox.

And finally the punters, from whom Meyer gets great reactions.

Notice how all three elements are shot separately against black backgrounds (in fact each of the three spectators is also shown separately, never all of them together) so Meyer could build this whole sequence separately, without needing them all in the same room, or even to use the same place again. The sense that they are all in the same club is created by rapidly juxtaposing all these different elements together. This is where Meyer gets called “Eisensteinian” by the critics. One of the early proponents of this juxtaposing techniques, the Russian director in his books of montage looked at studies of audience reactions when different still elements where edited close together, a scene followed closely by close up shots of a crying woman created a feeling of sadness, etc. Meyer might not have intellectualized his approach in the way Eisenstein did but understood that film editing meant you didn’t need to start everything in a master shot. Film wasn’t theatre, cut it all together and the audience would get it.

Meyer creates a great rhythm in this opening sequence, slowly decreasing the time he gives to each element, down to a few seconds and then flipping between the dancers and the punters in bursts of as low as sixteen frames at a time. For those who find Meyer an unappealing self-publicist who only knew to shoot topless women, it’s worth noting how much care and work it must have been putting this sequence together. This was before the days of Final Cut and digital editing, and cutting such short bits of filming meant actually handling small pieces of material and carefully splicing them together. To make such a loose “MTV-style” editing required at the time focus, patience and an early belief that it would cut together and the work didn’t need to be repeated.

The sequence also allows Meyer to make a great jump in time and space, as he gets closer to each element until he is in macro shots of the jukebox (if Quentin Tarantino, one of Meyer’s most prominent fans, shows his influence it is in his careful use of the macro, otherwise their editing styles are diametrically opposite). From this close up of the jukebox we jump into a close-up of a radio car (for a moment it seems we are still at the club), a hand changing the clutch, a wide shot of three cars, and we are in the main narrative.

Faster Pussycat!’s great opening sequence introduces the characters, sets a mood, serves as its own self-contained scene and Meyer even finds a way to tie it seamlessly into the main body of his film. And the sequence would have been so easy to actually shoot, any independent filmmaker could do it, it is all created in the editing room. This is where Meyer shows he is worthy of all the accolades.

In Vixen! (1968), the director would get even more inventive with his juxtapositions, creating a fun, subversive tone not dissimilar to The Immoral Mr. Teas tone through smart use of subjective editing. When Vixen is circling the female half of a couple that is staying at her husband’s mountain resort, we get a brief look at the wife in negligee:

Followed by a quick reaction shot of Erica Gavin, a tossed off over the shoulder look with a twinkle in her eye (Erica Gavin really was Meyer’s best actress):

Followed by the wife sans negligee:

The effect is all in the quick editing between the first setup, the reaction, and the second setup repeated with the exact same framing minus one key element, but it manages to be witty and please the director’s core audience at the same time. Meyer always found an interesting way into nudity, which placed him head and shoulders above any other X-rated director out there.

Meyer developed his style as a fight against the limited means he had to make his often self financed movies with. Editing was a way to get the most out of little, of making a point with the use of what he was getting into camera alone. Often directors, particularly in those days, abandoned these down and dirty independent styles when they hit the big times, buckling down to the Hollywood house style of well lit, wide, medium and close up shots. This was usually due to the bigger budgets, which went to an outside editor, cameraman etc, which diluted a director’s idea into blander committee decisions. But not Meyer, who requested what for the studios was a small budget in his first big Hollywood film, precisely so he could retain his control and style. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) is where Meyer showed he was a true artist, committed to his ideas through good times and bad, in the big film or the one shot with friends, because he believed they worked for what he was trying to say, regardless of budgetary pressures.

Beyond… is in fact a compendium of all of Meyer’s editing ideas. There is the montage of California shots with a sardonic voice over (a great improvement on the sequence from The Immoral Mr. Teas). There is the fast juxtapositions of short sequences, which Meyer uses for the crazed Hollywood industry conversations – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has the fastest dialogue scenes you’ll ever see on any film. Meyer also plays with cross cutting of action, in a beginning and ending sequence were a crazed maniac threatens the film’s young heroes. He also even experiments with cross fading in montages where he shows the development of the main protagonists all at the same time. Meyer’s only misstep was in choosing Scope to shoot the film. The 2.35:1 wide frame does not suit his low angles and how he likes his to photograph his women. But overall, it’s obvious watching Beyond the Valley of the Dolls that Meyer was the right director for the material. Only Meyer could have shown the fast, crazed world of Hollywood with so much style, the film is as full of unconnected off-the-cuff ideas than its vacuous characters.

Editing was the saving element for Meyer’s first film and through it he learnt that he could get a lot out of very little. It was also the difference between the worlds of photography and static industrial films he was used to and the super accelerated films he wanted to make. It is a crucial element in what makes Meyer’s films recognizably his own, since often he didn’t have the budget to make choices on any of the others. By his later films Meyer had truly become a master editor, and a precursor of the fast editing styles that are now so tired because they are so easy to do (his fan Tarantino would push the other way, with long medium shots of long dialogue sequences). In Meyer’s time of manual editing, and particularly with the lack of resources the director had, it was a style that required ambition, precise cutting, and hard work above and beyond the call of duty. It is in his editing (and flawless photography) that Meyer showed he wasn’t just another smut film director but had dreams of being the ultimate exponent of lust in film.

MEYER MONTH – Top 10 Russ Meyer Women

5 Mar

Director Russ Meyer was defined by the female form, building a successful and profitable career on his personal breast fetish. The first thing you remember about Meyer’s filmography, after the initial reminisce of the pictures in their own right, are the beautiful and glorious women who have graced his celluloid. However, it wasn’t just those who starred in his films that had an impact and influence on the man himself and here I present the Top 10 Women in Russ Meyer’s life and career…

My second favourite Pussycat next to Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Williams is memorable for being the most girl next door dancer out of the bunch. Whilst Satana has the classic stinging one-liners, Williams has lines that are dripping in innuendo and lust as she tries her best to seduce The Vegetable and even got royally drunk whilst filming the dinner scene. Those drunken slurs are real folks!

Undoubtedly the star of Meyer’s 1970 menage a trois Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, Digard was the last minute savior for the film when the lead actress left the shoot early and Meyer had twenty minutes of footage left to film. Digard appears in intercut scenes memorable for having nothing to do with the plot and only wearing an Apache headdress. An actress loyal to Meyer until the very end, Digard appeared in cameos in his later films whilst having a career on pornography.

The star of Lorna (1964) and Mudhoney (1965), Maitland entered Meyer’s filmmaking world at the time when he started to move from shorts, scenario films and burlesque movies to pictures that had more of a structured plot. Alongside Satana, Maitland ranks as one of the most iconic women from his gothic period, with Meyer using the only colour stock footage of her in his mondo documentary Mondo Topless (1966).

One of the few actresses to appear in Meyer’s film who was not only genuinely beautiful but actually had some acting ability. Capri only starred in two of the director’s films which were both released in 1967, Common Law Cabin and Good Morning… and Goodbye!. With hips that shook perfectly when she walked and a mouth that could give off acid tongued attacks, Capri is only second to Tura Satana in her sassy attitude and deadly looks.

The burlesque queen captivated Meyer with her voluptuous form which led to the  two working together on numerous photo shoots, pictures of which were distributed and published in girlie magazines. Storm was the subject of Meyer’s first film, The French Peep Show (1952), for which the director got his first credit as Director/Cinematographer. Produced by Pete DeCenzie, the film is presumed lost having been out of circulation since its theatrical release.

Star of the first couples-porno Vixen!  (1968), Erica Gavin is the reason Meyer wound up at 20th Century Fox making Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970. Gavin’s incredibly good looks and ability to appeal to both men and women made Vixen! one of Meyer’s most successful films of all time, arousing the interest of the major studio. Gavin is brilliant as the ‘sexual healer’ Vixen and was given a memorable role in Beyond… as lesbian fashion designer Roxanne, whose on-screen relationship with Cynthia Myers just sizzles with eroticism.

With a cleavage that rivaled Tura Satana’s, the narrator of Up! (1976) and star of Beneath the Valley of the UltraVixens (1979), Natividad went on to become Meyer’s on-off partner for the fifteen years. Probably one of the only women Meyer really did love, second to wife Eve, Kitten and Russ had some serious chemistry. Incredibly loyal to Meyer until the end, she nursed and looked after him at times when his dementia became worse and even visited and cared for his mother Lydia in the final years of her life.

Meyer’s second wife and pin-up beauty queen, Eve was an important factor in Meyer’s early filmmaking career. An intelligent business woman, Eve helped cut film deals as early as Meyer’s first picture The Immoral Mr Teas (1959), co-financed Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and helped to bail Russ out of financial trouble to ensure that the successful Vixen! got made. The producer of thirteen of Russ’s pictures (under the banner of Eve Productions) both during and after their marriage, Eve was the lead in his 1961 feature Eve and the Handyman in which she is truly mesmerizing. A gorgeous Playboy Playmate (June 1955), Eve sadly passed away in 1977.

Arguably Meyer’s most iconic actress, Tura Satana epitomised the director’s vision of a glamorous Amazonian statuesque woman. Whilst she only ever starred in one of his films, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Satana is without a doubt the most iconic of all the women to ever be cast in one of his films. She is on fire playing the murderous, highly sexually charged and venomous Varla in the film that is usually one of the first seen by Meyer virgins. If you’ve never seen the film, chances are you’ve seen Satana as Varla whose influence can be felt in Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007), Lady Gaga’s music video for Telephone and the countless female leads with attitude across the film world.

As much as I love Mother Monster, it really is all about Mother Meyer. This is the woman who, as legend goes, pawned her own wedding ring so that Russ could go and buy his first camera, the UniveX Cine 8, starting an obsession with film that lasted the rest of his life. Lydia was very supportive of Russ’s ambitions and endeavours, letting him develop his pin-up photography in the family bathtub, but none of the women Russ ended up with were ever any good for him in her eyes. Upon her death, Russ would visit her gravesite every Christmas. A fiercely independent woman, this was the one girl who Russ never got over.

Whilst more a personal Top 10 then a definitive list, notable exceptions include Meyer regular Haji, Cynthia Myers, June Wilkinson, Phyllis Davis, Candy Samples, Edy Williams, Marcia McBroom, Raven De La Croix, Shari Eubank, Babette Bardot and Dolly Read amongst a plethora of others!

MEYER MONTH – Meyer and me.

1 Mar

Over the years, one thing has never changed. The reaction I get from people when I tell them that my favourite director is Russ Meyer. It’s a strange mix of disbelief, hilarity, disgust, shock, surprise and complete bewilderment. The impression that I get from these people is that they don’t believe me, as if I’m saying something just to get a response out of them. What usually follows is a barrage of questions; ‘Are you serious?’, ‘Really? Russ Meyer, what’s so great about him?’, ‘How can a girl like you like his movies?’. The thing is, no-one has had more of an influence or effect on my life than the man himself.

I still remember vividly my first Meyer experience. I was ten and watching Channel 5 not long after it had launched in the UK. The station, which now plays nothing but CSI repeats, used to have awful soap operas on during the day and softcore pictures playing during the night. No doubt the plethora of tits and ass that I watched during this time contributed to the love and interest I have in human sexuality and sex in cinema now, but it was the first picture of this kind that I ever saw that stuck with me for years. That film was Meyer’s 1968 release Vixen!.

I can remember everything about that night. Sitting in my room now, as it is in 2012, I can picture exactly how it was back then in 1998 and can see my ten-year old self sitting in the dark, my wide eyes illuminated by the television screen. Firstly, I was mesmerised by the gorgeous Erica Gavin in the lead role, her long dark hair and cat-like make-up a look I’ve wanted to achieve ever since. Secondly, I was hooked by what she was doing. I’d not long before had sex education at school but it was nothing like this! What seemed monotonous, gross and distinctly biological (in terms of the emphasis on ‘having babies’) looked magical and enjoyable. Plus she was making it with a woman! That was something they didn’t tell us about at school! I’ll never forget that mix of surprise, excitement and awe that came with the knowing that I was watching something I shouldn’t have been.

Amongst all the films I watched, and trust me there were a lot, the images from Vixen! were the only ones that ever stayed with me. I never forgot about that beautiful woman in the yellow bikini who would come and haunt my dreams over the following seven years, my first ever girl crush. During my teens, I went through a phase where I was totally into feminism and women’s rights and I hated men (for no absolute real reason either, thank God that changed…). I’d read book after book after book on female politics and commentaries on society, with one thing always sticking out for me; the conflict between groups of women who would argue over female sexuality. I read articles that blasted women for enjoying sex, having lots of it and letting themselves be used by men as male tools of consumption. Then I’d go and read another on how women should be allowed to express and explore their sexuality to whatever degree it suited them. As a teenager, I found it all a bit confusing. I didn’t want to be used and I didn’t want a slutty reputation, but at the same time all the experiences I was having were pretty damn rubbish. I continuously kept thinking about how much fun Vixen looked like she was having. How could that be wrong? I couldn’t understand why something inherent in all species and a key part of human character was considered so negatively when it came to women. Needless to say, all this reading and thinking ended up leaving me with a huge interest in human sexuality, which rivals only my love for film…

Which is where Russ Meyer and my moment of enlightenment finally come in. When I hit seventeen, I spent one whole summer doing nothing but watch movies. I rented films every day, bought dozens of TV guides and went through a tonne of Biro pens circling films to record. It was then that I stumbled across what I thought was one of the best film titles I’d ever heard, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. There was no way I was missing that. Except that I did, sort of, in that I missed the first half of the film, tuning in at the exact moment where lesbian lovers Casey (the fabulous Cynthia Myers) and Roxanne finally get it on. I watched the second half all the way to the end, my heart thumping and a big smile across my face. For me, this was a film. There was sex, violence, beautiful women, gender bending men, fantastic music, drugs, morality tales, horror and true love all wrapped up in this terrific satire on the 1960s as a decade. As soon as it finished I got straight on Amazon and bought the Criterion steelcase edition knowing that this was going to be one of my favourite films until the day I die, and that the woman who played Roxanne looked more than a little familiar…

Once the DVD turned up, my love affair with Meyer began. Where the hell did a film like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls come from and who would direct such a picture? I did my research, a lot of it, and started buying Amazon out of Arrow‘s brilliant DVD releases of Meyer’s films. I bought Good Morning and… Goodbye! and Common Law Cabin falling in love with lead actress Alaina Capri, marvelled at Meyer’s gothic soap operas of Mudhoney and Motorpsycho, came across the cult classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which I’d read about in countless film books and bought a little film called Vixen!. I can’t begin to describe the surprise and amazement I felt when I realised that this was the film I’d watched all those years ago.

So where am I now? Six years after first proclaiming that Meyer is my favourite director and thirteen years after he first entered my life, at twenty-three I’m still being met with surprise and bewilderment! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that he made some of the best films ever, that he is one of the greatest directors or should have been lauded with Academy awards, but no other director has connected with me in the way in which he has. My interest in gender and sexuality sparked from those first images of his I saw as a kid. My love for sexploitation films, sex flicks and how sex and society has interacted and influenced each other both on and off screen is all his fault. I went to University with the purpose of writing about his work in assignments, and I made sure I did. If I ever went back, it would be on the condition that I could study and continue to write about his work in modules. This blog? Inspired by the man.

I know that for some people, Meyer is just a director who shot and sold sleaze. For me, he’s one of the most successful independent filmmakers in cinema history, he was a smart and incredibly savvy businessman, he showed intelligence and humour where he denied he did, he was incredibly talented at photographing women in all their unique beauty, he’s incredibly influential and responsible in terms of bringing in the amount of sex and nudity we see on today’s screens and he understood women. Where women scorn at his depiction and treatment of the female sex on-screen, I rejoice. As a curvaceous girl myself, I’m glad to have found someone who was so committed to putting big, buxom women on-screen. As a person, I’m thankful and love the fact that he was one of the first directors to openly show and explore a positive female sexuality, showing that women weren’t always passive, that female sexuality wasn’t always ‘vanilla’ and that we can rival a man’s sexual appetite.

I could go on but we’d be here all day. All I know is I’m set for life. Big bosoms and square jaws? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fast Cars and Kick Ass Girls; ‘Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ (1965) & ‘Death Proof’ (2007)

17 Aug

Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog will know one of two things; that I absolutely love Russ Meyer and that Death Proof is my favourite Tarantino film so far. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton were screening a Grindhouse double bill of Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Death Proof  as part of the Scala Forever Film Season.

It’s not surprising that Tarantino references and emulates Faster Pussycat! in Death Proof as it’s well-known that the director loves his films, especially B-movies and exploitation fare. What may interest some people is just how much he uses elements from Meyer’s 1965 masterpiece, from the obvious, a Faster Pussycat! t-shirt used in costume, to the slightly less obvious (depending on how big a fan you might be), such as plot and characterisation points.

The first thing that struck me when I saw Death Proof for the first time years ago was the fetish versus fetish angle. Everyone knows that Russ Meyer had a breast fetish which he practically and successfully based his entire career around. Although Tarantino hasn’t based his entire career so far around his fetish for feet, like Meyer he doesn’t exactly hide it in his films. So just as Faster Pussycat! has its female leads clad in tight tops, bikini’s and sees Tura Satana’s cleavage lovingly and impressively exposed to the world, Death Proof shows us that feet are damn sexy. Need a reminder? There’s the feet that get wet when they’re exposed to the rain, the close up of Butterfly’s feet as she walks across the bar, Stuntman Mike gently tickling Abernathy’s feet, Jungle Julia’s feet at the start of the film and Butterfly’s feet that perfectly place themselves in Stuntman Mike’s crotch during his lap dance.

So whilst I’m sure Meyer and Tarantino aren’t the only directors to show their fetishes so blatantly on-screen, Tarantino certainly owes his depiction of overt female sexuality in Death Proof to Meyer’s characterisation. Faster Pussycat! was one of the first films to portray strong sexually charged women with no apology, paving the way for women to be shown as more than the clichéd innocent and gentle virgin. Just as Varla seduces everyone and anyone she can, knowing full well when it will end on her part, Butterfly makes sure that she is the one with the upper hand when it comes to her relationship with Nate. Both films have the guys chasing after the girls with the girls being the ones in control. Just remember, we have a sexuality too! As Butterfly says, ‘No whining, no begging’.

It’s not just sexuality that Tarantino copied from Meyer but behavioural traits and plot similarities. Tura Satana’s Varla would probably have had a violent war of words with Sydney Poitier’s Julia or Tracie Thoms’ Kim, both of whom Tarantino uses to reference Varla’s bad ass attitude and speech. Satana’s infamous fights in Faster Pussycat! are all emulated in the final fight scene in Death Proof, where the three remaining girls, Kim, Zoe and Abernathy, all beat the crap out of Stuntman Mike. Note the further visual references to Varla in the costume of these three characters, where Zoe is wearing similar gloves and boots, Kim is in leather and Abernathy has lashings of eyeliner and a straight cut  fringe. In terms of Varla’s dominance within her group as the leader, Tarantino continues this with Poitier in his first group of girls and Thoms and Bell in his second bunch of chicks, all three being the ones that coerce their friends into acts and determine where they will be going.

The other female caricatures in Meyer’s picture are made up through the rest of Tarantino’s casting. Haji’s exotic beauty Rosie is channelled through Vanessa Ferlito’s Butterfly and Zoe Bell and the all-American good girl up for a bad time, Billie as portrayed by Lori Williams in Faster Pussycat!, is played well through Rosario Dawson’s Abernathy, the single mum who has boundaries but knows how to have fun. Even Susan Bernard’s irritating character of Linda gets a double in Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lee. Both play the naive younger girl in the group left to fend for themselves against men whilst the other girls leave them (Abernathy leaves Lee just as Billie leaves Linda). That and the fact they are both sexually objectified in their costume; Bernard in the bikini and Winstead in the cheerleader outfit.

Lastly, and ridiculously obviously, lets not forget those beautiful babes that are the fast cars that make both these films. Tarantino harks back to the Grindhouse era of the 60s and 70s by featuring old American cars, such as Stuntman Mike’s 1970 Chevy Nova and 1969 Dodge Charger, whilst the girls get to drive a 1970 Dodge Challenger towards the end of the film. My personal favourite would have to be Kim’s Ford Mustang Mach I, the gorgeous car with the yellow and black paint job which I have lusted after ever since seeing Death Proof for the first time. Meyer’s girls can be seen drag racing a Porsche 356, an MG-A and a TR-3 Triumph across the Mojave Desert with power and style, whilst the unfortunate drag racer Tommy drives an MG-B. In both instances, it’s the girls who drive more fearlessly, crashing through any gender stereotypes about female drivers.

For those who went, I hope you all found the double bill enjoyable! I couldn’t have picked something more perfect myself, although I may have added Vanishing Point and made it a triple bill! There are another two Russ Meyer screenings as part of the Scala Forever Film Season which I will be attending and I look forward to seeing some of you there…

Ten Things I Learnt About Sex from Russ Meyer

24 Jun

I’ve learnt a lot from Russ Meyer over the past eleven years, and no doubt there are a few of you out there who could do with learning a thing or two yourself. Filled with frequent mild adult content, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from me, I give you the Top Ten things I’ve learnt from the King of sexploitation himself. Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

1. Lesbianism always ends in tears.
It didn’t work out in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and the lesbian couple in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls got murdered in the most phallic way of all; getting shot in the head via a gun blow job. Meyer himself even reduced actress Erica Gavin to tears filming the girl on girl scene for Vixen. It’s never worked out for me either.

2. Sex is always fantastic outside.
Need visual proof? Check out the outdoor fun the couples are having in Up!, Vixen and Good Morning and… Goodbye! Enough said.
3. Men love lashings of eyeliner and stockings on a woman.
Thanks to Meyer, I’ve never had any complaints. Men love something they can peel off a woman and who doesn’t like the look of bedroom eyes…?
4. Women think about sex just as much as men.
The biggest misconception in life is that men think about sex or are driven by it far more than women. Wrong. Thanks to characters like Varla (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), Sheila Ross (Common Law Cabin) and Ashley St. Ives (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) I’m planning on making a career out of analysing it in cinema.  And that’s just the nicest way I could end this point…
5. Breast is best.
Meyer had the biggest breast fetish known to man and it influenced his whole career. He made sure he had everything on film from, in his own words, ‘small’ (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) to ‘normal and relatable’ (Vixen) to ‘the biggest’ (Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens and Pandora Peaks). He even made one film strictly on the basis of dancers getting to show their talent and boobs, Mondo Topless.
6. Germans are perverts.
Being German myself, I already know this. If you need proof, just go and take a look at Hitler in Up! or Martin Bormann in Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
7. Sex can sometimes equal death.
One I’m hoping I never get involved in… Meyer could see the link between sex and death long before the slasher film made franchises out of it. Most violently seen in Supervixens but also Lorna, Motorpsycho, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Up!
8. Fetishes are ridiculously fun.
Meyer knew that people liked to get off on different things. So whether its feet, body paint, outdoor fun, being spanked, leather, big boobs, domination, sadomasochism, same-sex, submission or kinky underwear, chances are there’s a scene in at least one Meyer film for you.
9. ‘Normal’ vanilla vaginal sex is great but sometimes only anal will do.
And if you don’t believe me, go and watch Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens.
10. Sex really does make the world go round.
If you didn’t realise it was everywhere before watching Meyer’s filmography then you bloody well will afterwards…