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13 February, 2011

The Unimonster's Crypt Screening Room: FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

Title:  FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!

Date of Theatrical Release:  1965

MPAA Rating:  N/A






 
Russ Meyer was one of the most successful of the Exploiteers who churned out hundreds of low-budget pictures for the burgeoning “adult” market beginning in the late 1950’s.  He gets the credit for directing the first “Nudie-Cutie,” THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS, in 1959, and directed seventeen films (both features and shorts) in the next nine years.  In the mid-‘60’s, he made four films that he termed his “Gothic” cycle.  These films were exemplified by their gritty, cheap texture; strong stories; black-and-white photography, weak male characters, and domineering female characters.  These four films were LORNA, MUDHONEY, MOTOR-PSYCHO, and FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!  Of these, FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! has become recognized as Meyer’s signature film, the one with the greatest popularity among his fans—all the more surprising due to the lack of Meyer’s customary nude sequences.

FASTER PUSSYCAT… is an atypical Meyer film in that regard; it is virtually the only Meyer film without nudity.  That doesn’t mean it lacks sexual tension, or that it is less exploitative.  In fact, it is pure Exploitation Film, with even the title intended to convey a sense of speed, sex, and violence.

The movie follows three exotic dancers—Varla (Tura Satana [see Bobbie’s Tribute to Tura Satana, above]), Rosie (Haji), and Billie (Lori Williams)—as they race their sports cars through a Southern California desert.  They encounter a young couple, Tommy (Ray Barlow) and Linda (Susan Bernard), and Varla, the group’s leader and a woman with significant anger issues, rapidly loses control.  She beats Tommy to death, and kidnaps Linda, drugging her and tying her up.

A short while later, they all stop at an isolated gas station on the highway.  As they talk, they notice an elderly man in a wheelchair being tended by a younger man, physically imposing but mentally impaired.  The attendant (Mickey Foxx) informs them that the pair (Stuart Lancaster and Dennis Busch) are father and son, and that they live on a broken-down old ranch nearby.  The old man has another son (Paul Trinka), and there’s rumored to be a fortune hidden on the property.

This is enough to pique Varla’s interest, and she hatches a plan—a plan to murder and rob the old man.  What follows is a whirlwind descent into violence, as greed, lust, and hatred boil over on the old man’s desolate ranch.  He and his sons are concealing secrets of their own, and Varla soon discovers that she might not be as much in control as she believes.

FASTER PUSSYCAT…, though atypical in regards to nudity for Meyer, is in other ways pure Russ Meyer ‘Sleaze.’  It focuses on many of the themes he loved to explore—the lower-class rural life of those who can be termed, “poor white trash;” isolated groups in conflict; weak, amoral men and dominating but equally amoral women; and lust, envy, avarice, all the baser emotions.  As is usual for a Meyer film, there’s really no one whom the audience can root for in this movie—every character is a flawed, twisted specimen of humanity.  The viewer sympathizes with Linda’s plight as Varla’s captive, but she appears, innocent and child-like, as a rabbit in a den of wolves, with scant hope of survival.

FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! may not be my personal favorite of Meyer’s movies, but it’s undeniably one of his best.  The story is classic Exploitation Film gold, the performances are great, the bizarre cast of characters perfectly conceived, and the black-and-white photography is top-notch.  Musician and director Rob Zombie, in introducing the movie on Turner Classic Movies’ TCMUnderground, referred to it as Meyer’s, “… pure vision.”  That it is, and while Meyer’s “pure vision” might not be to everyone’s liking, one can’t pick a better film to act as an introduction to this director.

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