“The Glandscape Artist: Russ Meyer” at Anthology

Repertory Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

Published on August 18th, 2013 | by Michael Rawls

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The Time for Hesitation’s Through: Time to Wallow in the Meyer

For those divers within plunging distance of Anthology Film Archives‘ current retrospective, “The Glandscape Artist: Russ Meyer,” running through August 25, might I suggest:

The twin peaks of the Meyerian corpus: “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” In “Faster…,” Haji (who passed away on August 9), Lori Williams, and the amazing Tura Satana embody three go-go girls Porscheing their way around the edge of the Mojave Desert, taking time out for drag-racing; back-breaking, recreational fornication with a virtually mindless Adonis; and plotting to steal the fortune on which said Adonis’s train-maimed, embittered old father is sitting. And also finding time to take showers that involve no more than PG-level exposures of flesh, for this time out Russ was trying to cater to Puritans in burgs both large and small by sublimating sex into violence. Although it was a flop at the time, over the years enthusiasm for this seminal work has spread beyond the cognoscenti. With a nice bit by Mickey Foxx as a gas station attendant rather too obvious in his admiration for Tura’s spectacular cleavage (“I envy you girls. Traveling around the country. Discovering America…”—”Well you won’t find it down there, Columbus!”). August 24 at 9:30pm

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (Russ Meyer, 1970)

In “Beyond…,” working under the auspices of 20th Century Fox and with the collusion of screenwriter Roger Ebert, Meyer manufactured a camp classic, a merger of a soap opera with a stoned episode of “The Partridge Family,” interspersed with nudity, sunshine pop (“Come with the Gentle People”), and that rousing ditty, “Look On Up at the Bottom.” Three nice girls form a pop group, The Carrie Nations, and they and their equally nice young manager clamber into the Great Slimy Hot  Tub of drugs, degenerate sex, and clandestine Nazis that was ’70s L.A. and soon find themselves immersed in betrayal, paralysis, murder, and perhaps, just perhaps, redemption. Two characters, at least, would appear to be inspired by so-called real-life people: the versifying prizefighter Apollo Creed and the murderous media mogul Z-Man. A box office success but moralizing wowser backlash (LIFE Magazine was most upset) to Fox’s release of two X-rated epics of depravity, “Beyond…” and Michael Sarne’s catastrophic assault on Gore Vidal’s “Myra Breckinridge” in the same year led to that standard Hollywood  response, retreat. After Russ’s “The Seven Minutes,” an attack on censorship which was contractually obligated to earn an R rating (there’s an irony in there somewhere), Fox and Meyer were no longer in bed together. The Janis Joplinish vocals one hears from the The Carrie Nations’ lead singer are provided by Lynn Carey, daughter of MacDonald Carey. The best description of this mash-up of the disparate sensibilities of Roger Ebert and Meyer was written by John Simon, who is most assuredly not a fan: “a real curio, something like a Grandma Moses illustration to a work by the Marquis de Sade.” August 19 & August 23 at 9:15pm

Vixen!

“Vixen!” (Russ Meyer, 1968)

“Vixen!” was the independent smash that led to Meyer’s abrogated contract with Fox. While I enjoyed Erica Gavin’s energetic-on-all-fronts perfomance, the lengthy scenes of simulated sex produce torpor rather than arousal, falling in some tedious middle ground between soft core and hard core. Limp core, perhaps. On the other hand, so to speak, the Jacksonville, Florida Vice Squad were positively galvanized by the celluloid goings on. On October 5, 1969 they raided the Five Points Theatre and charged the theatre owner with showing “an obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, and indecent picture depicting graphic visual and audio representation of a physically attractive female engaging in sexual intercourse with a mountie.”  I could make some sort of joke here involving “mountie” but I have chosen to take the high road and that has made all the difference. August 20 at 9:30pm & August 25 at 7:00pm

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About the Author

, a Florida-based writer, made his screen debut as "Sparky" in the 1950 Howard Hughes Production "RED SCOUTMASTER!"



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