Tags: Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Black Snake, Cherry Harry & Raquel, Common Law Cabin, Europe In The Raw!, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Finders Keepers Lovers Weepers, Mondo Topless, Mudhoney, Russ Meyer, Supervixens, The Immoral Mr Teas, Up!, Vixen
#10 – LADY GAGA – TELEPHONE (MUSIC VIDEO)
Whilst Gagaliscious’s video owes more to women in prison films than the sexploitation genre per se, there’s no denying the visual influence of Tura Satana’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! character Varla on Beyonce’s attitude and costume design.
#9 – SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)
Putting all other references aside, director Edgar Wright includes one nice little reference to Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in his 2010 feature. When Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) cracks his neck we hear the musical signature of Universal Pictures, the studio that made his picture, just like when Z-Man beheads Lance Rock and we hear the Fox Studio fanfare, the studio that made Meyer’s first studio release.
#8 – NRA – SHE’S DRIVING (MUSIC VIDEO)
This cool little song not only visually pays respect to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! but lyrically too.
#7 – THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
Not quite an homage but Rocky Horror shares a very similar dinner table scene to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Both scenes include a dimwitted muscular blonde who continues to eat meat at an awkward dinner party after a revelation has disturbed all else at the table.
#6 – SCOOBY-DOO! MYSTERY INCORPORATED – IN FEAR OF THE PHANTOM (2010)
The recent episode of this popular television show includes the manager of a band who looks a lot like Z-Man, the manager of the girl band The Carrie Nations, in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
#5 – FROM DUSK TIL DAWN (1996)
So vampires never appeared in a Russ Meyer film but From Dusk til Dawn features a similar bar, stripper and ensuing madness to the one shown in Up!
#4 – NORAH JONES – LITTLE BROKEN HEARTS
In a visual homage to the poster for Mudhoney, the album cover for Norah Jones’ Little Broken Hearts is almost a replica.
#3 – BENNY BENASSI – SATISFACTION (MUSIC VIDEO)
Girls with big boobs and lots of cleavage? Check. Power tools that clearly stand in for sex? Check. Monotonous narration full of double entendre? Check. It’s as if Russ Meyer took his core elements of Mondo Topless and made a music video.
#2 – WHITE OF THE EYE (1987)
White of the Eye shares a fair amount with Supervixens. Aside from the beautiful lush locations of both, you have a girl unknowingly bedding a serial killer, a serial killer targeting women, an attempt to kill someone at the top of a rocky area and lovers being chased in an attempt to murder them.
#1 – STAR AND DAGGER – YOUR MAMA WAS A GRIFTER (MUSIC VIDEO)
The music video for Your Mama Was A Grifter by Star and Dagger has Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! written all over it. Three girls, sound waves at the start of the video, black and white photography, a Go-Go bar location, near identical costumes, a fast car, a ride out in the desert, a desert ranch… You do the maths.
Behind every successful man, there is a woman. Director Russ Meyer had three wives in his lifetime but it was his second wife, Eve Meyer (nee Turner), who really stands out from the crowd. Russ and Eve were a hardworking team, one that knew how to work with and bring out the best in each other. Even after they divorced, Eve remained a formidable force in his life. She was his original pin-up queen, the star of one of his films, the producer of countless others and a savvy business woman who knew how to deal with the sexploitation film market as much as her husband did. Eve Meyer, one of a kind.
Evelyn Eugene Turner was born into the world on December 13th 1928 in Atlanta, Georgia. After working a while for Western Union she was eventually transferred to San Francisco where she became a legal secretary for Pepsi. Turner always knew she could handle men and match them as an equal, being a great poker player and having a keen interest in fishing. She also has a vivacious sexual appetite, once even throwing Russ Meyer out of her house after a date when he (of all people!) suggested that they wait until their wedding night! A woman ahead of her time, her friend once said of her, ‘Eve was the first person that I ever saw wear pants and heels’.
As soon as Meyer set his eyes on Turner he knew she was the one for him. With a bust described as ‘conically maddening’ (a good thing for our breast loving director), Russ admitted that he knew he’d marry her the minute they’d met and he’d even go on to name his filmmaking company Eve Productions. She was the secretary of a lawyer, he was a divorce client of the said lawyer. He was given her number and the rest is history. After a tempestuous engagement, the two were married on August 2nd 1952 in San Francisco.
Eve was an incredibly beautiful woman and it wouldn’t take long for her to become a pin-up superstar in front of Russ’s camera. Her looks photographed well and her personality shone through in all her pictures; a woman that was able to be a girl-next-door one minute and a sultry vamp the next, Monroe crossed with Turner and then some. She already had some modelling experience behind her when she first met Russ, but it would take him months of persuasion to try to get her to pose for him. It’s not surprising that she eventually became one of the most popular pin-up models of the 1950s, constantly appearing in magazines like Adam, Fling, Modern Man and Frolic. Mr. Meyer even told stories that actress Ava Gardner had the hots for Eve (Mrs. Meyer accompanied her husband on one of his early jobs as a studio stills photographer and Gardner was his first assignment). In 1955, Eve appeared in Playboy as Miss June, in a fantastic spread photographed by her husband. The pictorial is electric and the gatefold in particular is more arousing then any porno picture I’ve seen that’s been shot in the last twenty years or so. The spread featured Eve by the fireplace, wearing a sheer gown that shows just about the right amount, with a look on her face that screams ‘Well, are you gonna come get it or not?’. I have always maintained that she was and is one of the most beautiful creatures to have ever graced this Earth, this spread being proof (a nice selection of some more gorgeous photographs from across her career can be found here).
Not content with being just a model, Eve also did some film work, predominantly working again for Russ in front of the camera. In 1954 or 1955 (dates vary according to sources) Eve starred in Russ’s first involvement within the exploitation movie business, an expose on abortion entitled The Desperate Women. Circling around innocent women and a shady backstreet abortionist (a clichéd character that Meyer revived for his studio picture Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970), the posters showed an angst ridden Eve under the tagline ‘Shall I Take The ‘Easy’ Way Out?’. An uncredited role followed in 1955 as a model in Artists And Models and four years later Eve landed a lead role in war drama Operation Dames aka Girls In Action (1959). Difficult to find on home video format, the only video I’ve seen (posted below) shows that she is just as good in this as she was in her later picture with her husband, her natural good looks standing out and her enviable figure making more than an impression.
It would be Russ Meyer’s 1960 release Eve and The Handyman which saw Eve finally become her husband’s moving-image muse. Eve had been upset that Russ had ignored her whilst filming The Immoral Mr. Teas. Used to working as a team, Eve wasn’t the star in his first feature and was upset that some of the interiors were filmed inside the couples actual home. Russ made up for it by writing his second feature for his wife and, wow, does she shine in it. Using the scenes like Playboy photo shoot set-ups, Eve looks beautiful as she marches around in a trench coat and underwear following the Handyman, played by long-term Meyer friend Anthony James Ryan. By this point already used to Russ’s way of directing and shooting, Eve is one of the few women most comfortable in front of the directors camera throughout his entire filmography. The two could really work well together and it shows. He knows all the right angles to film her at and she knows just what the camera, and audience, are after. It’s just a shame that Handyman would be her last acting role. God knows where she would have gone had Meyer used her as an actress over and over.
It wasn’t just in front of the camera that Eve felt comfortable but behind it too. When Russ Meyer ran into trouble with Bill Teas over the distribution of sexploitation classic The Immoral Mr. Teas (the distribution of which Eve oversaw), it was his wife who came to the rescue, buying Teas out of his 2% share in the film. She also accompanied him to Europe in 1963 to help him shoot the footage that would comprise Europe In The Raw and eventually show up in a recycled form in Mondo Topless. She put up half of the bankroll for the production of Mudhoney. It’s no secret that she hated Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and had to be talked into co-financing it, only for it to bomb on release and drain Eve Productions dry. Eve even bailed out Russ during the production of Vixen! after he ran out of money, a bail out which saw very hefty returns in profit. Basically put, no Eve, no sexploitation/cult film classics from the 1960s. In total she produced fourteen of her husbands films, both his independent and studio releases. What do you expect from the girl who learnt to develop photographs so she could develop her husbands own pictures of her!
Once things started heating up for Russ in the mid-sixties, things in his marriage began to cool down. Eve reportedly didn’t like the direction his career was going in and was terrified of him getting involved with other women. Eve also began to drink, and by drink I mean really drink, which Russ detested. The two eventually divorced in 1968. An amicable separation (apparently even using the same attorney), the two still remained friends up until Eve’s tragic death in 1977. She was the distributer of all Russ’s films and produced a significant number of them after their divorce, including the studio pictures made under 20th Century Fox. Ever the savvy businesswoman, in 1970 she sold the entire catalogue of Meyer’s films to Optronics Laboratories for home video viewing. In 1971 she produced her only non-Meyer feature, The Jesus Trip, a drug/religion drama that involved motorbikes concealing heroin and a nun that doesn’t know whether she wants love or the Church. In 1975 there was a rumour that Eve was planning to write a book about her years collaborating with Russ that was to be titled This Doll Was Not X-Rated. Sadly the book never materialised but one wonders that it might have been full of juicy stories about the pair.
Eve Meyer died on March 27th 1977 in one of the deadliest aviation accidents in history. Arriving in the Canary Islands from Los Angeles for a holiday, Meyer’s plane was hit by another Boeing aircraft. Due to dense fog along the runway, neither plane nor Air Traffic Control could see that two planes were about to collide. In total, 583 people died with one plane being wiped out in its entirety. Despite their divorce, Russ was reportedly beside himself.
There is no doubting that Russ and Eve were meant for each other and loved one another very much. Not that their marriage was an easy one, with a fair few infidelities on Mr. Meyer’s part and a few alleged lesbian dalliances on Mrs. Meyer’s side. She also wanted children, whilst he was adamant that a family would only get in the way of his career. During the shoot for Lorna, Eve checked herself into a hospital for an unknown infection. Her words to Russ when he finally visited her were apparently ‘I can never have a baby, now. I hope you’re satisfied’. God knows how Eve would have felt if she found out that Russ actually had an illegitimate son with one of his starring ladies. No doubt their explosive marriage would have been far shorter. Differences aside, the two were a force to be reckoned with. Each knew the best in each other, what the audience wanted and how to deal with the business side of things. It’s hardly surprising that Russ Meyer’s most successful years were those with Eve at his side, whether it be as his muse, producer, wife or business partner. Whilst the world of sexploitation owes a lot to Russ, it seems that he couldn’t have done it without Eve.
Eve Meyer, one of a kind.
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
Mentioning the name Princess Livingston might not ring any bells amongst you. If I said she was an actress in some of Russ Meyer’s films, you’d probably scratch your head and try to remember which memorable busty beaut of a woman she was and which films she starred in. Most of you would still be guessing if I gave you the clue that she was a red-head. Now, if I were to tell you that she was actually the toothless old woman, most memorable for dancing at Z-Man’s party in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, most of you will know instantly who mean. Once seen, Princess Livingston is not easily forgotten, so I set out to try to find out as much as I could on her for Meyer Month.
As it would seem, there isn’t a lot of information floating around out there about her which is a bit of a shame. She was born in New York in 1900 and according to actor John Furlong, in Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Meyer Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, was running a motel in Hollywood. No one seems to know if she had any acting experience but it obviously didn’t bother Meyer who appears to have cast her for her noted look and strong sense of humour. There are no reports on how these two met (one can only imagine…) but Livingston’s first cameo in Meyer’s filmography came in the 1962 release Wild Gals of the Naked West. Credited rather aptly as the ‘Scary Woman in Saloon’, Livingston cackles and winks her way through the brief scenes she is intercut into. Every town has them (where I live, we had ‘Jesus Man’), and Meyer made sure as hell his fictional Western contained a weird older character that everyone knew of and never forgot.
Princess reappeared in 1963 when Meyer directed his short Heavenly Bodies! and then again two years later with a more prominent role in the 1965 release Mudhoney. I say prominent, she still cackles through most of her ten minute screen time but at least in this instance her character gets a proper name, Maggie Marie, and a role relative to the plot, the proprietress of a neighbourhood brothel. Without a doubt, Livingston adds some dark humour to the depression set morality tale, working her look like she’s the female equivalent of Marty Feldman. Furlong, who starred alongside her in this feature, recalled an incident one day on set where ‘She was sitting on the porch and her skirt was kind of up. Sitting there with no underpants on! Russ took one look at her undercarriage and muttered, ‘It’s hairier than a blacksmith’s apron!”. I will be delighted with myself if I’m pulling stunts like that when I’m that old.
After one appearance on television and in the 1970 film Pufnstuf, Meyer would give her one last cameo in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This is where most of you will remember her from, dancing madly at Z-Man’s party with an Indian hippy and decked out with red-almost orange hair and an orange shirt. She doesn’t say a lot but has a few fantastic lines, exclaiming ‘I think it’s better after the change!’, something about that line and her makes you think that she wasn’t she acting that one… Next up is ‘It wasn’t very long but it was four inches thick!‘ and some very intent listening whilst porn star Ashley St. Ives rants on about her latest picture. This is the type of Grandma I want to be when I grow up. Finally the immortal ‘I’d like to strap you on sometime’ is uttered and that is Princess Livingston. 1972 saw an uncredited part in Unholy Rollers and she passed away in LA four years later.
It’s such a pity that nothing more is known about her, even if it’s just how she met Meyer or even got into acting. Needless to say, in the world of Meyer she will never be forgotten. I only hope she’s represented if they do film a biopic on the director, I’d love to see who would be cast as her. Obviously it would only be in the background but it would have to be memorable enough. Time to start brainstorming Hollywood…
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.