It was extremely difficult picking my five favourites of Russ Meyer’s filmography. Meyer – the gigantic-mammary-loving auteur – was one hell of a consistent filmmaker. Of the twenty-plus films he made – and I really do mean made; he not only directed but wrote, produced, shot and edited the bulk of his work – not one could be considered worthless. Even his worst craps over most exploitation flicks from the fifties through to the seventies. If you’re yet to see a Russ Meyer film, you might imagine clunky shots of huge knockers strung together with weak editing and no plot. This, I can assure you, is not the case (unless we’re talking about Mondo Topless – but even that is nicely shot and edited). Meyer’s skill behind the camera was impressive to say the least – even those that don’t enjoy the subject matters of his films would have to admit that the man knew how to shoot and edit a film. And his scripts, while chaotic, were well written and full of hilarious dialogue. Meyer’s films became progressively more manic and cartoonish as he neared the end of the seventies (I’m ignoring the existence of 2000’s Pandora’s Peaks, by the way), but never did they dip in quality.
After much deliberation and in no particular order, here are my five favourites from the late, great Russ Meyer…
FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965)
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is not only my favourite Russ Meyer film, but one of my all-time favourite movies from any director, genre and decade. It is Russ Meyer perfection, despite being one of his few films to not feature nudity. (Is it his only film without nudity? I’m struggling to think of another without nudity.) It looks and sounds great, the dialogue is endlessly quotable, the cast is phenomenal (featuring more than a handful of Meyer regulars) and the story is a good blend of action and humour and, most importantly, the screen is permanently filled with tough women kicking the shit out of weak men. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is so fucking good that it almost doesn’t seem real. Many filmmakers owe a huge debt of gratitude to the earth-shattering genius of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
GOOD MORNING… AND GOODBYE! (1967)
There’s a lot of reasons why I enjoy Good Morning… and Goodbye! – Russ Meyer’s cinematography and editing is as excellent as ever, Haji shows up in a wild role, Stuart Lancaster has a solid screen time and the script handles a large cast of characters very well. But the real reason I love Good Morning… and Goodbye! is Alaina Capri. Capri plays Lancaster’s sultry and slutty wife, and her performance is magnificent. She plays a similar role in Common Law Cabin (1967), but there’s something especially intoxicating about her presence here. And it is not only her looks. Her smoky voice, her delivery, her body movements – everything she does screams sex. See Good Morning… and Goodbye! for all the usual Meyer goodness and see it for Alaina Capri!
Supervixens is the perfect example of the brilliant excess of Russ Meyer’s work of the mid to late 70s. Supervixens follows the plight of Clint Ramsey (Charles Pitts). After his super hot (and super bitchy) wife (Shari Eubank) is murdered by a psychotic cop (Charles Napier), Clint goes on the run to avoid being framed. In his journey across the States, Clint is constantly harassed by beautiful nymphomaniacs. An intensely violent film at times, Supervixens is so outrageous in its execution that it never becomes offensive. The cast – as per usual with Meyer flicks – is excellent. Clint’s pursuers are played by big names like Uschi Digard and Colleen Brennan, and it’s a blast to see regulars like Napier and the great Stuart Lancaster chewing down the scenery. Possibly the most hyperactive film in Meyer’s back catalogue, Supervixens never lets up.
BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is Meyer’s most commercial outing and thus his most accessible – and, I’m guessing, it’s also his biggest budgeted movie. There are fewer abnormally massive boobs than usual, and the cinematography and editing is noticeably restrained. But this is undoubtedly a Russ Meyer film, and one of his best too. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is sneakily gentle for most of its running time, appearing to be a not-too-unusual and entertaining drama. Then things spiral into (very much welcomed) Meyer madness in the film’s excellent finale. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls‘s final act is, without a doubt, some of Meyer’s finest work. Shocking even by today’s standards, the ending of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls had me squealing with glee the first time I watched it.
MOTOR PSYCHO (1965)
The fantastically titled Motor Psycho is very similar to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, so much so that I almost didn’t include it in my list. Shot the same year as Faster, Pussycat!, Motor Psycho is somewhat of an inverse version of Meyer’s more famous film with the male and female roles reversed. Motor Psycho is just as fun as Faster, Pussycat! with an equally exciting soundtrack and visual style. Best of all is its villain played by the out of control Alex Rocco. There’s some pretty rough content in this for a film from the mid-60s, and Meyer throws on genuine layers of tension at times. A seriously underrated effort, Motor Psycho is perfect to watch after Faster, Pussycat! has left you gagging for more.