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February 09, 2006

Russ Meyer or Bust!


Russ Meyer - 1975
Arrow Films PAL Region 0 DVD


Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens
Russ Meyer - 1979
Arrow Films PAL Region 0 DVD

In the summer of 1975 I had the opportunity to meet Russ Meyer. What made this somewhat strange is that it was with my mother. She was an entertainment reporter at the Denver Post at the time. Unlike my mother, I had actually seen a couple of Russ Meyer's films. While I had read about his films but wasn't actually old enough to see any until the release of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I had also seen The Seven Minutes, Meyer's most mainstream, and least characteristic film. Having seen two Russ Meyer films gave me enough knowledge to assist my mother in her interview.

As this happened about thirty years ago, I don't remember very much. I can verify that like everyone else, we found Russ Meyer fun to converse with, whether it was about his career or war-time experiences. I do remember he was thinking about doing a spoof of Dick Tracy possibly re-titled as "Dick Racy". As enjoyable as Meyer is in person, he is much less engaging in his commentary tracks. I never thought I would be lulled to sleep by the sound of Russ Meyer's voice, but I kept nodding off while watching Ultra-vixens. Some may be interested or amused by Meyer's stories of his escapades with his star, "Kitten" Natividad. Others may even give "thumbs up" to a discussion of screenwriter Roger Ebert's predilections. With his constant euphemisms for female body parts, I started to feel like I was in the company of the world's oldest horny teenager. After a couple of winks and nudges, I just want to slap that annoying elbow.

Letting the films speak for themselves wasn't much of an improvement. Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens and Supervixens have aged badly. Maybe Meyer was creatively spent after his stint with 20th Century Fox. A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a showing of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls on cable. I was watching the last hour or so, and was surprised that there was a note that the film was edited for cablecast, as I felt I wasn't missing anything. Even this third time around, Beyond remained fun to watch. A midnight screening two or three years ago of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was also entertaining. The story of Russ Meyer is of a filmmaker who helped change the movie marketplace, only to find himself displaced by that same marketplace.

Beneath, which turned out to be Meyer's last theatrical film, fails as an erotic comedy because it is neither funny nor erotic. Having a character named Martin Bormann or using the song Stranger in Paradise during a gay seduction scene are tired jokes from past films. Seeing a woman singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" while having sex may make for a brief chuckle as a Playboy cartoon, but becomes increasingly less inspired after its first use in the film. Until a very late scene appeared with square-jawed Charles Napier tossing dynamite to his would-be victims, I completely forgot that I had seen Supervixens in a theater thirty years ago. Even The Seven Minutes, seen four years earlier, has managed to be more memorable. As it happens with some filmmakers, Russ Meyer kept on making films that were shadows of past successes, as meaningful today as 8-track tapes and quadraphonic sound.

Posted by peter at February 9, 2006 01:33 PM


This is very interesting. I just refurbished and added to Meyer's Wikipedia page which was very scant; he really was one of a kind. I like his outdated style of lust because of it's innocence. Great read. Thanks, Super Amanda

Posted by: SuperAmanda at December 16, 2006 09:18 PM