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With: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, Dennis Busch, Ray Barlow, Michael Finn
Written by: Russ Meyer, Jack Moran
Directed by: Russ Meyer
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 83
Date: 06/08/1965

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Fast Cars & Fast Women

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When is Russ Meyer going to be taken seriously as an "auteur"? Here is a filmmaker who made some 25 successful independent movies, kept control over every aspect from editing to distribution, and owns all his negatives. (You will never see a bad print of a Meyer film.) He hasn't worked in over 25 years now, but that seems to be his own choice. He apparently starts and stops projects all the time, and is working on some mysterious and lengthy autobiography. In the meantime, his best movie, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) still makes the midnight rounds (it plays Saturday night, July 29 at the Bridge) and we can be reminded of what an energetic and fearless filmmaker he is.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the story of a trio of go-go dancers/race car drivers, the likes of which the cinema has not seen before or since. Tura Satana (who is reportedly part Japanese and part Apache) is the leader, Haji is the Italian (complete with Chico Marx accent), and Lori Williams is the blonde. Following a race, they kill a young car enthusiast (Ray Barlow, straight from Squaresville) and kidnap his perky girlfriend ("Playboy" playmate Sue Bernard). They hit the road and discover a run-down ranch owned by a sinister, cranky old man in a wheelchair (Stuart Lancaster), his dumb brute of a son named Vegetable (Dennis Busch), and his seemingly normal other son (Paul Trinka). Apparently, the old man has a fortune stashed away and the girls plot to get their hands on it any way they can.

Though the normal son and the perky girl come out as the heroes, Meyer's sympathies, I suspect, are with the three girls. He is known for his fondness for big-breasted women. And indeed, every single Meyer film has a large-breasted girl at its center. But these girls are demonic and downright evil. They live for pleasure alone. I think that's the draw. We want to see these heathens go after their worldly pleasures. "I do things to feel good," Williams says. In the course of the movie, they kill, drive fast, kidnap, bathe (though there's no nudity), seduce men, get drunk, steal, and kill some more. The movie is not sugarcoated, either. These are three blackhearted souls.

If Meyer is unafraid to wallow in darkness and evil pleasures, then he's also skilled enough to not keep us there for long. His pacing is furious and crisp (he did his own editing). The music, by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, is loud, dusty, sultry, and sudden, keeping us on our toes (not to mention the cool title theme song by The Bostweeds). The rich black-and-white photography (by Walter Schenk) always fills the frame with emptiness, dust, or off-kilter faces. Best of all, Meyer's dialogue (co-written with Jack Moran) is dime-novel snappy with phrases like, "you really do have a yen for the long green, don't you?" and "We'd better make tracks." Film students would do well to study Meyer's achievements instead of more mainstream idols like Lucas and Spielberg. (Quentin Tarantino and John Waters are both acknowledged Meyer fans.)

For some reason, this is one of Meyer's few films that does not feature nudity at all. I think he sensed that to show his girls nude would take away their power and make them objects. He wanted to keep us in fear and awe of them, and their nudity would have negated that. (Though there's more cleavage than most movies have the guts to show.)

If you have a chance to see Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in a theater with a crowd, it's an unforgettable experience. But even on home video, it's mesmerizing. You can't take your eyes off it. Of the four Meyer films I've seen (Mudhoney, Vixen, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), this one is my favorite by far. It belongs on lists of the great movies of the century, and not just B-movies. It's a solid dose of vinegar that the American cinema desperately needs.

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