Still Killing after 50 Years.
August 6, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic films ever made.
Many years back, City TV would show this film right after their televised 'New Years Eve' party from Nathan Philips Square. And every year, I would watch it with utter fascination. I even remember the first time I watched it. It was a New Year's eve party at a friend's house and it was playing on a small tv in the corner of the room . I was glued to the black and white photography of the racing cars whipping through the desert and from that moment, I was hooked.
Russ Meyers 1965 cult classic, 'Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was a film that was certainly not your typical film from the 60's, in fact, it was years ahead of it's time. The film is about three exotic dancers (or strippers if you will) who are out for a ride in the desert looking for thrills. Rosie (Hajie) Billie (Lori Williams), and Varla (played by iconic cult film actress Tura Satana) who resembles a Kabuki actress on steroids, kills a man after a car racing dispute and kidnaps his girlfriend. While getting gas, the attendant tells Varla about a man who lives with his two sons that is sitting on a 'ton of cash'. So they scheme to try and steal the money from him.
Of course in these movies, nothing goes as planned and mayhem ensues.
When Myers was writing this film he thought of key elements to exploit in shaping the story. Cars (Faster), Sex (Pussycat) and Violence (kill! Kill!) By doing so, he created a film that showed as he calls it, 'The Violence in women'. They are certainly not your typical Hollywood pushovers and they will put you down in a single strike courtesy of the intimidating Varla karate chopping her way through men 20 years before Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal started doing it on the big screen.
When the film was first released, it did not make a lot of money but eventually found a cult audience later on and became the classic that it is today. Many people call it the 'Citizen Kane of Trash films' but I think it's more than that, and Russ Myer ended up creating an incredible film that became of part of our pop culture lexicon and influenced many future celebrities. For example;
John Waters was quoted as saying in his 1981 autobiography, 'Shock Value'. 'beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.' This film is credited with creating John Waters style of cinema. Also, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Madonna. The late Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) early in his career, was a screenwriter before becoming the great critic as we knew him for another cult film by Myers entitled, 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'.
It even made an impact on me as a young film enthusiast and photographer, and I did an homage to the film a few years back which you can check out in my portrait gallery.
With an unforgettable soundtrack by 'The Bostweeds', Myers creates his own style and pacing. The women in his films always had the same look (curvy and buxom) and Myers is identified with this very obvious element. He certainly does not shy away from it and it mixes with some of the best dialogue I have ever heard. One line in particular that always comes to mind is this little gem….
Gas Station Attendant: [staring at Varla's chest as he pumps gas] Just passing through, huh? Boy, that motor's sure hot! You gals really must have been moving on these little machines. Yessir, the thrill of the open road. New places, new people, new sights of interest. Now that's what I believe in, seeing America first!
Varla: You won't find it down there, Columbus!
There was even an episode on Seinfeld entitled ' The Pilot' where the dialogue went something like this;
JERRY: I mean look at this. Every waitress working here has the same proportions. Wouldn't you say?
ELAINE: Yes, I would say.
JERRY: What's going on here. How is that possible?
ELAINE: Do you think it's a coincidence?
JERRY: No. I haven't seen four women like this together outside of a Russ Meyer film.
I remember reading an article years ago by feminist and film critic B. Ruby Rich, writing at length on "Pussycat" in a Village Voice article, and how she dismissed "Pussycat" many years ago as just a 'skin flick'. But when she watched the film at the 30th anniversary, she had a very different perception of it. She found the images of female empowerment fascinating to her, maybe that's why this movie still gains popularity with women as it moves through time.
The one disappointment that I have is that there has not been an anniversary or special edition release to mark the occasion, in fact, it's not even available on Blu ray. But, never the less, you should definitely check this film out because it's like nothing you have seen before.
Dominick Petrungaro is an Award Winning photographer that resides in Toronto, ON