Russ Meyer claimed the success of his movies was entirely due to the oversized breasts invariably attached to the actresses he cast in them. If that were true, his work would have no more appeal than the banal nudist films it rendered all but obsolete. Meyer was no lowest common denominator pornographer; he was master of his material, father of a genre, and perhaps the most cheerfully perverted mind ever to be allowed to make movies.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is the Annie Hall of his oeuvre, made in the sweet spot between the earlier films in which he honed his style, and the later work in which his snowballing fixation with hot air balloon bosoms would unbalance his movies just as the bosoms themselves unbalanced the actresses whose backs struggled to support them.
Three Zeppelin-breasted beauties take a break from go-go dancing and drive across the desert looking for kicks. Their leader, played by the architecturally eyebrowed Tura Satana, is Varla, an amoral, karate-chopping psychopath so fearsome she could – and soon does – snap a man in two. (Satana, who was gang raped aged nine and then sent to reform school for supposedly tempting her attackers, admits to having a good deal of anti-male anger to channel into her performance. And it shows. Were there an award for the most kickass anti-heroine in movie history, Varla would stride nonchalantly over the bloodied corpses of Lady Snowblood and Beatrice Kiddo to claim it.)
Soon, the girls have kidnapped the ultra-innocent Susan Bernard, learned of a wealthy, wheelchair-bound recluse living 5 miles from a phone line, and set off to help themselves to his fortune. Rolling up at his rundown farmhouse they discover that said recluse is a sexual sadist set on revenging the railway accident that crippled him on all womankind – and, from here on in, events play out in an orgy of inter-gender violence, man against machine violence, and racing car versus wheelchair violence. (The key term here, as Alvy Singer would say if he overheard me in a cinema queue, is ‘violence’.)
Although atypical among his work in that, for one thing, it doesn’t feature any frontal nudity, Faster, Pussycat! is now universally acknowledged as the greatest of Russ Meyer’s films, and one of the finest of all exploitation pictures. And so it is. The plot, never a necessity in a Meyer movie, is tightly adhered to and so the tension never slackens; the camera work and composition seem to fetishize everything onscreen; and, as ever with R.M., the editing is a cut above superb.
John Waters (director of Hairspray and Pecker) famously kick-started the cult of Faster, Pussycat! by calling it both ‘beyond a doubt the best movie ever made’ and ‘better than any film that will be made in the future’. Did he genuinely believe that? I doubt it. But the point he was making, and the point made by all of Meyer’s admirers, is that this movie is so overwhelmingly wonderful that anyone who has ever sneered at it, or dismissed it as beneath consideration, should be immediately disregarded as an imbecile.
When the work of other auteurs of exploitica has long since fallen from memory, Russ Meyer’s movies will remain. When (and if) Meyer’s other films should themselves be forgotten, Faster, Pussycat! will endure as the ultimate cult movie – one of the trashiest, and most entertaining, films ever made.