It’s no secret that Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of the greatest movies of all time. That’s an indisputable fact. It’s been praised for decades for its quick witted dialogue, shoe string budget and of course it’s cast of well endowed beauties. Russ Meyer somehow became infamous for exploiting women. That couldn’t be less true. I think when people see big breasted women it’s automatically assumed that you’re in for some kind of male fantasy. It could also be falsely assumed that you’re dealing with a casting couch director when in reality his wife, whom he was devoted too, did much of the casting and even had personal friendships with the girls. Meyers’ films are always surprisingly refreshing in their portrayal of women. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the most outstanding example of this. Three amazononian towers of womanhood who drive fast cars, do what they want, take what they want and still embrace their femininity.
In case you’re one of the sad few who hasn’t been exposed to this masterpiece Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is about three go-go dancers who are driving through Mojave desert presumably moving on to the next town to start a new gig at a new club. They stop for a break and run into a young couple passing through. The leader of the pack, Varla, played by the late Tura Satana feels threatened by the young man’s hot rod and claims of speed so she challenges him to a race. She wins, by cheating, then kills him with her bare hands. They take his little bikini clad girlfriend hostage and move on. While stopping for gas, the attendant tells Varla about a local family of three men. The father being a crippled recluse with a hoard of money hidden somewhere on his ranch, and his two sons that take care of him. Of course, Varla, being the greedy conniving villain that she is cooks up a scheme to raid the farm and steal the money. A deserted junkyard is the setting for the events to lead up to the explosive climax. Billie, the blonde who's only interested in being fun and fancy free. Rosie whose unadulterated devotion and passion get her nothing but pain and the ruthless Varla who you can’t help but root for, CONSTANTLY.The old man is played by none other than Russ Meyer alumni Stuart Lancaster. He always brings a healthy serving of awesome to Meyers’ films, especially in this one with lines like “Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive – even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!”. He and Varla work well as opposing forces. Both wicked, both killers - essentially the same only put in very different packages.
All of Russ Meyers’ films have and will continue to strike debate amongst its viewers. While many will never see past the enormous breasts there’s much more at work here. Despite his on-the-nose writing, clever editing and cartoonish sex and violence, there’s a basic foundation of womanly prowess. We’re usually seeing the world through the eyes of these amazing women, and in the rare occasion that a man is the star of one of his movies, they’re usually very emasculated and viewed as nothing more than a quickie to these stoic figures of female perfection. Like an R. Crumb comic where his feeble little self portraits are cowering at the waist side of a buxom dominatrix. Russ Meyer had a way at with women. He obviously admired them, and when we worked with them, he turned them into goddesses. Take Tura Satana for example. An unusual half Japanese beauty who was actually a go-go dancer when they met, he worked with her and helped her become the iconic image of savage womanhood that made her famous. And sadly, the rest of her body of work pales in comparison.
Meyers created giants. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! portrayed women in a way that the world hadn’t really seen before. Touching upon pill popping, female aggression, unbridled sex as POSITIVE subject and lesbianism, not to mention Varla’s subtle way of calling Tommy a fag for not wanting to race her. Sure, there had been a few juvenile delinquency and girl gang movies in the 40’s and 50’s, all much weaker examples of this lurid creation. It could be said that these elements had been shown before, but keep in mind, this was not a propaganda film! This was as straight forward as it gets.
I had the pleasure of recently catching a screening at the legendary New Beverly Cinema. It was glorious to see this classic in its natural 35mm state. The theater was packed with people, everyone loved it, and the audience was laughing together as one entity. It’s a very nice feeling. The best part? I just happened to be sitting next to Haji who did a Q&A after the show. Yes. I repeat, I sat next to Haji during a screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Also speaking was Richard Brummer, who did the sound editing on the film and worked with Meyers throughout his career. I was also pleased to find out that he was Fredric Hobbs’ editor! As you may know, I’m a huge fan of Hobbs who’s (in)famous for Godmonster of Indian Flats and Alabama’s Ghost. During one (or both) of my reviews I made a connection between Russ Meyer and Fredric Hobbs' styles. I'm happy to learn that my connection wasn't made in vain! Richard Brummer also named the film “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”! A title so great it warrants THREE exclamation points! I think he’s definitely earned the Atomic Caravan award for “OMFG. SO AWESOME!”. Check out his IMDB profile. His credentials are all over the place.
It’s hard to talk about a film like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. What can you say that hasn’t already been said? I’m amongst a large group of people who see this film as a masterpiece. As time goes on it seems to find a broader and broader audience. It’s as socially relevant now as it was in 1965 and the jokes are every bit as fresh. This wasn’t my first time viewing it, but it felt very new and surreal. I’m happy to report that this screening actually gave me some kind of new hope for humanity. It’s nice to know that other people still care about these movies and that efforts are still being made to share and preserve them. It’s a very satisfying feeling.
The real star of this show was Tura Satana. It was an honorary double feature double feature to commemorate her recent passing. So stay tuned for my review of the second film, Ted V. Mikels’ The Doll Squad!