Teeming with bellicose barbs and profligate posturing, Russ Meyer’s ode to the midriff beguiles like a carny’s ballyhoo, rhapsodizing over the “wanton” female form on a wave of slinking bass guitar and gyrating hips. It ogles with the blatancy of a blue movie, shooting from well beneath the brassiere, but never objectifies its trio of crooked go-go girls, instead, ridiculing the vigorously horny voyeurs depicted on screen and seated in the audience. By transforming the predator into the prey, Meyer satirizes the concept of “selling sex,” smuggling gender politics and graphic violence into the fantasy world of cheesecake cinema.
Repurposing innuendo into an open threat, Meyer and co-writer Jack Moran constructed their female leads as agents of forceful insinuation, bestowing each burst of growled slang and disdainful glare with a mélange of danger and sensuality. Lead by the buxom and broad-shouldered Varla (Tura Satana), the gang get their “kicks” behind the steering wheel, throwing down the gauntlet to suburbanites interested in time trials and taking “up all the oxygen.”
Meyer conjures tension at the editing bay, capturing competition at a sprint, interweaving driver-side shots of Varla’s grinning maw and her sweat-soaked opponent, each image drowned in the startling bellow of revved engines and a spindrift of sun-dried clay. The desert setting is even manipulated into a foreboding, alien landscape, bolstered by Walter Schenk’s brilliant spatial photography, which utilizes torsos and the limited flora to construct a closed environment out of limitless space.
Each declaration is just as brutal and unforgiving as the terrain, perverting the sentimentality and slang of the era into venomous polemic. Meyer’s authorial transgressions are done in the name of insolence, aimed squarely at prudes and ideological gatekeepers, but without the solemnity of his Gallic counterparts. When one of his clueless victims opines, “Are you trying to say something?,” the double entendres go from self-aware to self-deprecating, preventing any attempt at political statement from devolving into fatuous sloganeering.
The resulting provocation is far sharper than the exploitation label warrants, bearing an economy and acumen that successfully integrates the stimulating and sublime into the confines of a dust bowl potboiler. Russ Meyer’s marriage of the inexpensive and self-reflexive would become the model for independent art moving forward, but few were capable of mastering the object of their parody. A sarcastic attitude shouldn’t imply artistic impotence and Russ Meyer’s films still managed to be ribald and vicious with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (RM Films International, 1965)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Written by Jack Moran (screenplay) and Russ Meyer (story)
Photographed by Walter Schenk
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