Spanking the Monkey

Killer animals of a different sort wreak havoc and draw blood in Russ Meyer's trash-o-rama 1962 masterpiece, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Voluptuous femme fatale Tura Satana and her pack of man-killing, karate-chopping, speed-racing, buxom go-go dancers blaze a trail of seduction and mayhem across the southern California desert in the cult classic that director John Waters cites as "the best movie ever made."

Oddly enough, the film, which predates Meyer's better-known Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by Roger Ebert back in the days when his thumb wasn't the only appendage raised by the sight of a Meyer skin flick) and his Vixen trilogy, features no gratuitous nudity (a Meyer staple). Oh, sure, the "Eisenstein of sex films" (as Waters once referred to the producer-writer-director-cameraman king of do-it-yourself sexploitation moviemaking) stuffs his four female leads into provocative outfits and lets no opportunity pass to fill the screen with cleavage or to photograph his lethal Amazons from low camera angles that accentuate their long legs, bulging breasts, and undulating butts. But the only nipples bared in this movie are those of a well-muscled male.

And what glorious dialogue! Who can forget the immortal words of Satana's character, the ruthless ringleader Varla, seducing a smitten male who innocently has asked her what she expects from life: "I want everything or as much as I can get. Right now you're first on my list and I always start on top." Varla makes the black widows at the heart of film noirs from Double Indemnity to Body Heat to The Last Seduction look as harmless as daddy longlegs by comparison.

Russ Meyer was equal parts visionary, sick fuck, and shrewd businessman. His Faster, Pussycat antiheroines take shit from no man. It's important to remember in the post-Charlie's Angels era that before Faster, Pussycat! came along, the sight of an attractive female not only physically confronting a man, but kicking the bejesus out of him was not a common thing. (Come to think of it, it still isn't.) Varla simultaneously embodies and sends up the emerging hard-line feminist dogma of the Sixties, while at the same time fleshing out (and I do mean fleshing) the traditional male nightmare of the castrating bitch. And she's bi to boot! Talk about prescient.

Meyer's films have enjoyed a revival of late, no doubt driven by their camp appeal (where else can you hear swingin' lingo such as, "You're all shook up, aren't you baby?" delivered straight by a strutting, leering vamp dressed like a mail-order dominatrix?) and their maker's (justifiable) reputation as a cynical maverick. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the type of movie that simply would not get made today, while lame, de-sexed pabulum such as Boys on the Side does. See it and spit directly into the prevailing wind of political correctness blowing out of Hollywood.

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