1 Hr., 23 Mins.
When Sergio Leone was taking hairy casts and crews out into unbearably hot deserts for his prized 1960s spaghetti westerns, exploitation-movie god Russ Meyer was escorting big-breasted, sexually aggressive women to the backdoors of the Mojave, for none other than quick, cheap filming of transgressive mayhem for audiences to devour.
Of course, being the orgy of cartoonish violence and off-the-wall satirical humor that it is, his masterpiece, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, was too outlandish for critics and audiences of 1965 to really devour — but now that we’ve come to understand that pictorial dumpster-diving can be a tasty pastime, it is considered to be a camp classic. Meyer, then scoffed at as something of a sex-obsessed creep, is viewed as a master of the B movie much too perspicacious to cast aside.
His films share a clear fondness for sex and the ballsy single girl, but supplementing the disreputable atmosphere is a keen self-awareness you’d have to be blind not to spot. Just listen to the way his characters spew out deliriously pulpy lines like well-oiled machines (“Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive — even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president,” a side character grumbles at one point), the way its women go far beyond being mere sex objects and end up throwing our libidos way out of whack as savage beasts far superior to men. Exploitation doesn’t get any better than this; John Waters didn’t call it the best movie ever made for nothing.
It follows three sadomasochistic go-go dancers, Varla (Tura Satana), Billie (Lori Williams), and Rosie (Haji), after work, watching as they race cars and look for trouble in the crosshairs of the California desert. Billie is seeking flings and fun; Rosie, Varla’s lover, is tagging along for the ride; and Varla, scarier than any Hells Angel you’ll ever meet, lusts for spillings of blood and flesh. The latter’s dream comes true when they stumble upon a young couple who foolishly pushes her buttons after calling for a drag race; Varla kills the man (Ray Barlow) of the relationship in a brutal fist fight, and the girls, against good judgment, decide to kidnap his girlfriend (Susan Bernard) in hopes of saving their asses.
The plot thickens. While pumping their tanks a few miles down the road, they spot a beefcake (Dennis Busch) and his crippled father (Stuart Lancaster). Varla immediately devises a plan to rob them, adding even more fuel to their crime-ridden fire. But, alas, such a tense situation cannot go on forever, and despite their apparent immortality, the gang may just end up driving down the road to hell without looking back.
There isn’t a thing to be improved in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! — its mediocre acting and obvious low budget make it all the more charming. And Meyer, no matter what serious film buffs may believe, has an artistically interesting aesthetic, often utilizing angled, low medium shots that evoke the simplistic but specific black-and-white griminess of pulp artwork. His screenplay, co-written with Jack Moran, is as excellent. Whereas most exploitation films go through the motions of stock dialogue, Meyer’s characters speak with acerbic quotability similar to that of Raymond Chandler. They don’t speak realistically, sounding more like parties living on the distant planet of Camp, and it’s terrifically expressive.
Charged by an explosive performance from Satana, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! doesn’t deserve to be brushed under the rug as a better-than-average exploitation film. It is its own animal, ingeniously made and endlessly entertaining. There isn’t anything quite like it, and it’s all the better for it. A