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
HONOURABLE MENTION – June Mack
Unbelievably I can’t find any record of June Mack’s measurements anywhere but it’s safe to say that her enhanced boobs were some of the most unforgettable in all of Russ Meyer’s films. Known for playing Junkyard Sal in Beneath The Valley of the Ultravixens, Mack was murdered shortly after filming finished taking a bullet for a friend.
HONOURABLE MENTION – Alaina Capri
With a 42E bustline, Capri just misses the top ten by making number eleven. She famously had a misunderstanding with the director and refused to work with him again after he showed much more of her flesh on the big screen then he alluded he would.
#10 – JUNE WILKINSON – 43E
Naturally busty Wilkinson was shot numerous times by Meyer in the 1950s with many of his photographs gracing the front covers of pin up magazines. Meyer called Wilkinson and asked her to be in his first feature The Immoral Mr. Teas and she accepted, appearing uncredited in a brief cameo in which only her breasts appear.
#9 – TEMPEST STORM – 44E
Tempest Storm’s naturally conical breasts instantly captivated a young Meyer who took numerous pictorials of the star in the 50s. This eventually led to Meyer shooting her in his first foray into filmmaking, French Peep Show.
#8 – CYNTHIA MYERS – 39F
One of the best known Playboy playmates of the 1960s, it comes as no surprise that Russ had his eye on Cynthia long before he cast her as Casey in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. During her modelling career she featured on the now infamous front cover of Playboy’s December 1968 issue where she was dressed as a Christmas tree.
#7 – LORNA MAITLAND – 42F
Lorna Maitland wasn’t the original choice for the lead role in Meyer’s gothic picture Lorna. In fact, Meyer fired the actress originally cast for having too small a bust after he saw photographs of Lorna on the first day of shooting. Maitland was promptly hired.
#6 – USCHI DIGARD – 44F
Naturally busty Digard found her large boobs attracted a lot of attention and subsequently starred in numerous exploitation films before moving into porn.
#5 – CANDY SAMPLES – 46F
A prolific pornography star of the 70s and 80s, Samples had cameos in both Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens.
#4 – KITTEN NATIVIDAD – 34G
Meyer’s paramour for a long time, Natividad first had implant surgery when she was 21 to aid her Go-Go dancing career. Sadly for Kitten, she had a double mastectomy in 1999 after developing breast cancer. It transpired that the silicone used in her implants was of industrial grade and she has since has corrective surgery.
#3 – ANNE MARIE – 67 inch bustline
Whilst her exact measurements elude me, there’s no denying that Ann Marie’s eye-popping 67 inch bust is a sight for sore eyes, made all the more impressive by her minuscule waist.
#2 – DARLENE GREY – 36H
Arguably the most voluptuous girl to have ever appeared in one of Meyer’s films (and yes, they are natural), British Darlene Grey also has the distinction of being rejected by Playboy for being, er… Too big.
#1 – PANDORA PEAKS – 42J
The older Meyer got, the bigger in size his breast fetish got culminating in his last film and leading lady, Pandora Peaks.
#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.
One cannot deny that the idea of Russ Meyer working with the Sex Pistols is an interesting one. Meyer, the King of sexploitation filmmaking, and the Sex Pistols, the ‘first’ British punk rock band, were worlds apart. And yet in the 1970s, a collaboration between the two began and failed miserably.
Malcolm McLaren, manager and mastermind behind the Sex Pistols, decided that a good way to break the band into the US would be through a feature film. Intended to be released in 1978, the film was to be the punk version of A Hard Day’s Night. McLaren had reportedly already considered Peter Cook, Stephen Frears and Ken Loach for directing before eventually settling on Meyer, who he described as ‘the epitome of American Fascism.’. There are conflicting reports as to who suggested Meyer first, with one story being that the Sex Pistols themselves chose him after seeing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls at Screen On The Green (I’ve read the same story with McLaren in the watching role…). McLaren flew to Los Angeles to meet Meyer, who in turn brought Rene Daalder with him. Daalder was a Dutch filmmaker and script writer active in the LA punk scene. Unsurprisingly, Daalder and McLaren hit it off quite quickly, whereas Meyer and McLaren clashed.
A treatment for the film, which at that point had the working title of Anarchy in the U.K., was written by Daalder and McLaren, centering on the ‘actual story of the Sex Pistols’. Meyer hated it and trashed it immediately. Adamant that he didn’t want to make a ‘depressing’ film, Meyer bought screen writer and film critic Roger Ebert on board to write the script after their successful pairing on 1970 release Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and 1976 release Up!. Ebert installed himself at the Sunset Marquis Hotel and in the June of 1977 wrote the script for the film, now titled Who Killed Bambi?. Although written by Ebert, McLaren had a great deal of input, giving Ebert and Meyer a crash course in punk rock.
With the script written, the group headed to London, although at this point warning signs should have been ringing for Meyer. A successful (practically) one-man filmmaker with studio experience behind him, Meyer at this point had no signed contract and was being paid weekly in cash. It would eventually be money that spelt the end of the project.
Once arriving in London, Meyer and Ebert finally met the band themselves. Ebert later wrote that he and Meyer were ‘a little non-plussed… to hear Johnny Rotten explain that he liked Beyond the Valley of the Dolls because it was so true to life’. Paul Cook and Steve Jones got on with and liked Meyer, the latter impressed that the sexploitation maestro had directed Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, although he had no idea who Meyer was until this fact was pointed out to him. Johnny Rotten and Meyer, however, did not get along. Rotten was rude, anti-American and boasted about the IRA which Meyer did not like. The director ended up calling him a ‘little shit’ over dinner. The sentiment was mutual. Rotten later wrote in his autobiography that he had hated Meyer from the first moment he met him; ‘this dirty old man… an overbearing, senile old git.’. Ebert has said that when Meyer rang him for the first time with the project he stated that the band went to see Dolls every weekend but other accounts I’ve read seem to contradict this. My main impression is that McLaren had more to do with choosing Meyer as the director then the band.
The premise of the film goes something like this. MJ (apparently a swipe at Mick Jagger), a decadent rocker, gets driven around the countryside looking for deer to shoot. He dumps his most recent kill on the doorstep of a family whose little girl opens the door to find the carcass and exclaims ‘Mummy, they’ve killed Bambi!’. MJ then attempts to corrupt the Sex Pistols, as does their manager, whilst other mad distractions happen along the way (including an encounter with a Scientology machine…). The little girl returns at the end to shoot MJ in the face and avenge Bambi’s death. All of this is taken from Jimmy McDonagh’s Meyer biography although Ebert did eventually post the screenplay he had written online in April 2010. Also included in the script was a scene for Sid Vicious in which he had sex with his mother and did heroin with her afterwards. Meyer had already cast Marianne Faithful for the role of his mother. Vicious was livid. Apparently he didn’t mind sleeping with her but he drew the line at the shooting up scene afterwards…
It was during filming, however, that everything began to fall apart. At this point in Pistols history, both Rotten and Vicious despised McLaren and Rotten particularly hated that he was playing a sex fiend in a Hollywood version of punk. Julien Temple, who later picked up Meyer’s pieces and made The Great Rock and Roll Swindle in 1980, claimed that it was during Bambi that McLaren really lost control of the band and that the film was a large part of the reason the group broke up.
It would have been interesting to have seen Meyer’s final project, if not just for his depiction of London as a city. He was determined to include NO shots of red double-decker buses and was obsessed and amused by some of the street signs around town, convinced that they depicted sex in some way. In October 77, the opening scene of the doorstep dumped deer was shot but three days into the shoot it became apparent that there was no money. Sets had already been built near Heathrow and crew was being assembled but McLaren had never finalised a deal. Legal documents and contacts had been produced by 20th Century Fox but McLaren had kept changing his mind. Concerns were also raised about the script’s content once it was actually read by the studio and Fox’s stockholders began to get cold feet. They decided to pull the plug, although rumour has it it was one particular stockholder that nailed the final nail in the coffin. According to Meyer associate Jim Ryan, him and Meyer ended up taking an elevator ride by chance years later with the people who had axed Bambi. According to them it was none other than stockholder Grace Kelly who eventually killed the project saying she ‘didn’t want another X picture from Meyer.’. Who’d have guessed?
Bambi was Meyer’s last hope of making it back into the big league after being released from his three picture deal with Fox after the critical and commercial failure of The Seven Minutes. Yet all he was left with were tangled lawsuits from all sides. Meyer even ended up suing Julien Temple and extracted a printed apology from him published in Screen International. Temple, during the promotional tour for the The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, told a reporter that Meyer had personally shot a deer during the shooting of Bambi, to which Meyer took some serious offense.
Bambi footage ended up being utilised into Rock and Roll Swindle, including the deer shooting opening scene, with more footage emerging for the documentary The Filth and The Fury which was released in 2000. Ebert has claimed that only a day and a half’s worth of shooting was ever achieved, although this is contradicted by Julian Bray, who supplied location services to McLaren’s Matrixbest company. Other shot footage includes musician Sting as a leader of a pop group called The Blow-Waves that assaults drummer Paul Cook as he stops to ask for directions. One can only imagine what Meyer’s finished project would have looked like…
The video above is a small clip from the Meyer edition of The Incredibly Strange Film Show, an interesting half hour show on the director well worth watching to hear him talk about his own filmography.
It would be an understatement to say that director Russ Meyer’s world was dominated by women, but it would also be a misconception to think that this was entirely the case. Just as much as there are women that shaped and characterised parts of Meyer’s life, in equal measure are the men that also coloured various points in his career. So, for once, lets forget about the big bosoms and celebrate those with the square jaws!
#10) German men
A big generalisation to start this countdown with but it’s well-known that Russ Meyer disliked Germans, probably as a reaction to his time spent in Europe during WWII. The director hated the Nazi regime that swept over Germany during the 1930s and 40s and frequently derided Adolf Hitler (yes, I know he was Austrian…) and Martin Bormann in his later pictures. Meyer’s long-absent father was also German, leaving his mother to raise him alone. Go figure.
#9) Harry Sledge
Mean. Ruthless. Vile. Murderous. Chilling. Impotent. Harry Sledge is the nastiest guy in the history of Russ Meyer’s career and the instigator of the most violent scene in the whole of the directors career, the infamous bath scene in the 1975 release Supervixens.
#8) Anthony James Ryan
Many of Meyer’s female stars stayed loyal to him until the very end but if there was ever a male counterpart to all of those combined it would be Anthony James Ryan. A friend since he toured with the sexploitation director in WWII, Ryan was the titular male star of Eve and the Handyman (1961), a producer and writer on several other Meyer projects and looked after the legend during his illness in his last years.
#7) The Old Man
Sleazy, creepy, deceitful and a family man?! Stuart Lancaster’s portrayal of The Old Man in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! ensured his infamy in Meyer-verse by creating one of the most popular villains in his filmography. Confined to a wheelchair, the bitter and twisted man looks after his two sons on an isolated ranch in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Traumatized by his wife’s death, hiding all his wealth in his chair and raising a disturbed and mute son into a muscular vegetable drive this man to eventual insanity and death at the hands of some dangerous and beautiful women. Camp, hilarious and vile. Perfect.
#6) David K. Frasier
Another personal friend of the director, Frasier helped Meyer archive his library for his autobiography A Clean Breast and again for Frasier’s reference book Russ Meyer: The Life and Films. Frasier’s opening chapter ‘Russ Meyer: American Auteur’ remains one of the most comprehensive and informative accounts of the directors career and filmography and Frasier recently wrote an excellent booklet to accompany Arrow Films re-release of their Russ Meyer box set. More must read literature for serous Meyer/sexploitation film fans and scholars.
#5) Charles Napier
The one and only square-jawed actor, Napier was to men what actress Tura Satana was to women in Meyer’s films. Napier was the epitome of the male, Meyer’s archetype for the sex and most loved character actor. Friends since they met on the set of 1970 release Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, Napier went on to star in a further three of Meyer’s pictures; Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seven Minutes and Supervixens.
#4) Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell
One of Russ Meyer’s greatest male (or should that be female…?) creations, Z-Man is a legendary character within the world of cult film. Loosely based on music producer Phil Spector, Z-Man is the villainous producer at the heart of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; host of the best partes, full of theatrical antics and spouting some of the best quotes cinema has to offer with Shakespearean deftness.
#3) Jimmy McDonough
Succeeding where many failed, McDonough is the author of Meyer biography Big Bosoms and Square Jaws, currently being adapted for screen. Prior to becoming ill, Meyer had already stopped one writer from publishing a biography on him and no doubt had Meyer not been ill, he would have stopped Jimmy too. Big Bosoms is an honest and interesting account of the directors life, amplifying his legacy and illuminating light onto the mans character. A must have for fans.
#2) Roger Ebert
Life-long friend of the sexploitation director, legendary film critic Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay for Meyer’s studio masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Not that the collaboration stopped there. Ebert, under a pseudonym, also went on to write a further two screenplays for the filmmaker, Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, whilst also writing the script for the ill fated Sex Pistols film Who Killed Bambi?. Script-writing aside, Ebert was also important for being one of the first film critics to publicly praise Meyer’s work, draw attention to it and describe him as an auteur, championing the director until hs death.
#1) Mr. Teas
The man who started it all, Mr. Teas was the titular character from Meyer’s feature debut The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959). A simple man who starts seeing women in various stages of undress after an anaesthetic, Mr. Teas was the voyeur that Meyer knew existed in most men and who Meyer decided to make films aimed at. Rather innocent in nature compared to later male Meyer specimens, Teas was almost scared, if not terrified, by the beautiful creatures he kept seeing before him, his surprise echoing the shock of the male audience who had never seen nude women in anything other than nudist documentaries or in illegal pornography. Certainly one of the most important male characters in the history of sexual depiction in Western film, without Teas there would have been no sexploitation genre and the later pornography market probably wouldn’t have flourished as quickly as it had.
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
Michael Ewins remembers the first time he caught one of Russ Meyer’s films…
Not to be confused with Pixar’s 2009 family adventure, Russ Meyer’s Up! (1976) is one of the most brazenly excessive (s)exploitation flicks of the 1970’s – a raunch-stuffed smorgasbord of fairytale tropes and volcanic cleavage, featuring B-movie starlets Raven De La Croix (dubbed a “doe-eyed fucking machine“) and Kitten Natividad.
My first Meyer experience, Up! captured me in its opening moments with an unforgettable ménage à quad (yes, that’s a thing) which involves, well… a homo-sado-orient tryst with ze Führer himself, Adolf Hitler (“that fag“). My eyes expanded – exploded, even – upon the sight of the world’s evilest moustache/combover combo being deep throated by a hunk in a gimp mask, but that’s not even the weirdest thing about this sequence. Shortly afterward Hitler (cannily re-named Schwartz) slinks out of his purple robe and dips into a warm bubble bath, only to be snuffed out by a voluptuous assassin who launches a piranha into his nether-regions. Cinema was never the same again. Heck, neither was life.
What really struck me about the film, and still strikes me on re-watches, is Meyer’s complete sense of anarchy, fusing rock’n’roll, pop art, cockamamie plotting and softcore pornography to create one awesome sensory experience. One scene finds dopey Sheriff Homer (Monty Bane), who pronounces karate cur-a-tee, electrocuting Pocohontas (Foxy Lae) mid-romp, and later Hitler’s killer is exposed in a buck-naked, cross-country dildo duel. Yeah, I actually typed that. Moreover, somebody put it on film.
There’s plenty of risqué material – rape, incest, Nazi’s – but what really encouraged me to watch more Meyer was his wit, invention and complete disregard for authority. I mean, the guy even manages to work a Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) reference in here! Up! was one of those films which really changed the way I looked at films. For most people that’s Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941) – and sure, it’s brilliant – but I just figured that if somebody can make this, and get away with it, then film as a storytelling medium is endless in its possibilities. It’s certainly the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off…