The name usually conjures up images of sleazy things happening with buxom beauties and just about everything that someone might call “exploitation” when it comes to 60s and 70s cinema. While it may seem like his movies are full of that sleaze, many note that his films were important in terms of female empowerment and showing women who aren’t just sexually free, but generally more powerful than the men in his films. That said, he would also place his female characters in ordeals that they would have to prove their strength and their ability to overcome the obstacles that they face in his movies. It’s probably true that his films were subversive in many ways that would eventually strike at the heart of a rising feminist movement.
All that and more will be discussed over the course of the next five weeks as B-Movie Enema tackles Russ Meyer Month! We begin with 1965’s Mudhoney…
Mudhoney would be an interesting film for Meyer. Not his earliest by far, as he had been making movies since the 50s after returning from World War II. Meyer was not overly fond of the film. Critics, on the other hand, disagree. Roger Ebert, a friend of Meyer’s, and a collaborator on two films, called Mudhoney a “neglected masterpiece” while The Los Angeles Times called a “perfect dirty picture. Unspoiled by either undue sadism or outright nudity.” Meyer felt the film was overreaching. He thought the movie was a little too ambitious for his normal style. He mostly claims he was in love with a particular girl that led him to make a movie he shouldn’t have made – or at least led to an outcome he was not pleased with.
That’s an interesting point to bring up about Meyer. He’s known for being a little self-deprecating. He supposedly never used a casting couch situation in his heyday. He also mostly known as being a one-woman man and not a philanderer. By all accounts, he seemed to be mostly on the up and up and was well enough liked by many who worked with him. True, he was married three times, and would state he felt himself to be too selfish to have children or really that great of a partner or husband. However, he was always known to be very generous to friends and acquaintances. He always liked mixing his groups of friends too so everyone in his life would intermingle through him.
He’s a bit of a mystery and it will be something we’ll peel back the layers on over these next several articles. One story I will tell now concerns him in World War II. Apparently, he was in a French brothel with Ernest Hemingway. Apparently, Hemingway discovered Meyer was still a virgin at this point in his life. So, Hemingway, being the man he was, told Meyer to pick any prostitute he wanted to lose his virginity to. Of course, Meyer chose the girl with the biggest tits.
Alright, onto Mudhoney. This movie takes place in Missouri during the Great Depression – 1933 to be exact. It’s not just the Depression, but it’s also Prohibition. So all around, this is a non-too-fun of a time. It was also based on the novel Streets Paved with Gold by Raymond Friday Locke. So I think that makes this classier mid-60s smut. Also seen at the start of this movie is Sidney Brenshaw (Hal Hopper) who has just left a local brothel for home. He’s been there all night. He drives home drunk and is locked out of his house by his wife, Hannah (Antoinette Cristiani). He isn’t happy about this, but she eventually relents and lets him in… which is a big mistake as he rapes her.
Meanwhile, a man named Calif (John Furlong) is traveling from Missouri to California is passing through town. He meets Eula (Rena Horton – the girl Meyer was supposedly in love with at the time). Eula is a busty mute who has no use for bras. Her mom is some good ol’ fashioned redneck hillbilly. She’s got two daughters (Lorna Maitland’s Clara Belle and Horton’s Eula), a hired hand, and no teeth.
Calif is looking for a job, but this is farm country in Missouri during the Depression. I suspect jobs are hard to come by around these parts. Apparently, there is a job available at the Wade farm, but no one really wants that job because Lute Wade’s niece is Hannah, and, as we saw, her husband Sidney is a dick. Either way, Calif wants to know how to get there so he can see about that job. Hannah meets Calif at the door along with Lute. Lute makes no innuendo that Sidney is likely going to beat the shit out of Calif because he’s done that to the other field hands that came to work on the farm. Lute offers the suggestion that Calif move onto the next town.
Now, I’m fixin’ to suspect that the law is pretty loose around these here parts of Mozzurah… How do I know this? Apparently, Sidney is a fucking monster and no one wants to toss him in jail or, you know… shoot him? Anyway, Lute knows that Sidney is gonna beat up Calif like he did the last guy who worked on the farm. Hannah, being a good battered wife that she is, does say to Lute that whole thing was an accident. Lute knows better.
As does Calif when RIGHT FUCKING AWAY…
Jesus Jumpin’ Jiminy Cricket… Sidney is a psychopath. According to Clara Belle, Sidney apparently has no love for the local folk. He thinks himself above them. Okay, sure… Have you ever spent any time in the sticks during the Depression? Trust me… It wasn’t a good time. Crazy old ladies always trying to marry you off to the really hot mute daughter of hers with the big knockers…
Never mind. That shit checks out. The sticks during the Depression was the BEST. Anyway, I actually love Hal Hopper in this movie. He’s a goddamn cartoon villain. He sizes up Calif by making fun of his name and telling him that he needs to know what kind of fella is gonna be workin’ on the farm so he can get a good idea of what he is. He doesn’t care about Lute or Hannah hiring him. Their opinions don’t count for much because, really, Sidney is just waitin’ on Lute to kick the bucket so he can get that money from the farm.
While chopping down some trees, Lute has a cardiac episode. While he rests with Calif, he reveals that he knows Calif was in jail. Calif won’t say why he was there, but does say he was there for five years. Lute has no issue with him as long as he did his time. Besides, Lute doesn’t think Calif is all that bad of a guy.
While they get back to work, Sidney goes to see Clara Belle to get his rocks off. Her mom tells him to go find Eula, so he does and he likes what she has under her dress. She starts in and he just laughs. Then pushes her into the pond. Sidney is a danger to everyone he comes into contact with.
Back on the farm, Lute talks Hannah up to Calif when she serves pheasant for lunch or dinner or whatever. It’s always kinda hard to tell exactly what time of day these low budget black and white movies take place during. He also cuts right to the chase in telling her she needs to wake up and dump Sidney because he’s MIA and we all know what’s he’s getting up to with Eula. He talks about all the excuses she makes for Sidney right there in front of Calif. Calif tries comforting Hannah by putting his hand on hers, but she pulls away. I guess she knows now that maybe Calif is into her and he realizes the hell she has to deal with regarding that total nutjob she calls “her man” who is “difficult to understand sometimes.”
Speaking of! Sidney is partying with Clara Belle and crew in the craziest, swingin’-est party you ever did see in 1933 Missouri!
So basically, as mentioned previously… Sidney is tittying around waiting for old man Titty to go tits up. He likes these titties on his hot wife, but she’s just a tits to an end to get that sweet farm titties money. Titties. Lots and lots of titties in this movie.
These are the best kind too. It’s the kind that lets your imagination have fun with them. This is hard times in redneck land. It’s hot. Farm life is hard work and you can’t just wear layers and bras. You gotta just let a thin piece of cotton keep your boobs in check. They are itchin’ to come out too and that cotton isn’t gonna hold shit.
Okay, so shit goes from bad with Sidney getting shitfaced with Eula and Clara Belle, but eventually kicked out for fighting with the “farm hand” that lives on that farm/brothel. He goes home and starts whaling on Hannah. Calif knocks him out to stop the beating. The next morning, Calif makes the point that despite her thanking him for looking after her uncle, she really wants to thank him for helping her. However, he leans into the idea that he didn’t really do anything because she’s not going to leave Sidney.
Now that Sidney realizes that Calif is takin’ a shine to his old lady, things aren’t gonna get much easier for Calif around old man Wade’s farm.
Bummed out about Sidney being a total mad man who probably needs to, if I’m being honest, be killed, he goes over to get a little hot action from Eula. But fuckin’ Sidney sees this (I guess Sidney is there, like every day all day). He then plans to watch to see what kind of a man Calif is. Thankfully Maggie Marie, Eula’s mother, comes in and kicks Sidney out. Calif decides maybe he doesn’t want to have sex with the really cute mute girl.
Another day, another problem. This time, Sidney gets tossed in jail for smashing a window. Lute and Calif pick him up and Sidney gives them what for because he thought they took too long to get him. He starts roughing up Lute and Calif decides he’s had enough of this shit and tosses Sidney to the ground. A big fight breaks out between the two. The town was defending Calif, until a kooky crazy pastor shows up telling everyone they should pray for Sidney because he is only trying to defend the sanctity of his marriage from the child of Satan that is Calif.
Suddenly, Sidney hatches a plan to have a conversation with the kooky crazy pastor. Meanwhile, Lute is passed out from a heart attack. He lives, but he’s in a not great condition. Lute tells Calif that he’s put the inheritance and farm’s deed in Calif’s name. If it stayed with Sidney, he’d take the money, sell the farm, and leave Hannah within a week. However, Calif seems to truly love Hannah, and Lute wants him to keep the farm for her.
The pastor comes out to the farm at Sidney’s request. He tells Sidney that the town is fixin’ to run him off. The people in town shouldn’t blame Sidney, though, according to this goofball pastor. They should blame his sins from the whores and the evil shenanigans Calif and Hannah must be up to. Sidney convinces the pastor to convince the people in town that Sidney is good and it’s Hannah, Lute, and Calif who are the ones to run off.
Shit really comes to a head when Calif goes into town to run an errand for Hannah. Sidney comes home drunk (because I think he is perpetually drunk) and Hannah tells him to get fucked. So he tries to rape her again. This time, though, Hannah has had enough of this shit. When it seems like Sidney is going to kill Lute for him interfering with, I dunno, his rapin’ plans, Hannah grabs the closest knife. And I get a little turned on.
Things escalate as the kooky pastor and Sidney’s plan goes into effect. The entire town believes Calif and Hannah are messin’ around with each other. The pastor tells Sidney to stay away from the Wade farm since that is a place of sin. The pastor’s sister, Lucy, who just so happens to have big tits, naturally wants to fuck Sidney and he her, but the pastor shoos her off and decides maybe they should go over and save Maggie Marie, Eula, and Clara Belle. Of course they get there and find Eula bathing naked out back. Inside, their “farm hand” is sexing up Clara Belle.
Now… Here’s where Sidney is a complete moron – other than all the rest of the movie where he did incredibly dumbfuck things. He sets up the pastor to go into the other room with Eula which basically makes him out to be a complete villain to the pastor. I mean, it’s obvious now that Sidney is just using him, right?
Anyway, back to something that is actually kind of sweet and not a bunch of cackling drunks like Sidney and Maggie Marie. Hannah and Calif spend the day together and go on a walk together. She kisses him and then they have a nice little fuck sesh in the field. Lute tells Calif that Hannah needs to divorce Sidney and they can then take off for California. Lute says that he needs to figure out something fast because of how Sidney has been acting, Calif might need to kill Sidney.
A local yokel tells Sidney that Lute signed over the deed and everything to Calif. So he runs home and tries to get the real dope shit from Lute, but he’s already dead. At Lute’s funeral, hardly anyone shows up and the sheriff says Sidney and the pastor has stirred too much shit up and everyone is about to explode in town. Naturally, Sidney shows up at the funeral drunk. Calif beats the fuck out him. He falls into the grave, and Lute’s casket overturns and dumps his body onto Sidney.
Sidney runs off crying like a little bitch and decides to burn down Lute’s farm before the sheriff could take Calif’s suggestion to catch him to heart. A hunter witnessed what Sidney did, and tells the sheriff. Sidney tries to get help from the pastor and his sexy sister and, because these fucking puritan types are fucking jokes, she agrees to help the poor, persecuted Sidney. However, because Sidney is a complete and total cartoon character, he pours booze down Lucy’s mouth and tries to Weinstein her, but that gets him bitten on the fucking face.
Despite Calif and the sheriff’s ideas, Hannah doesn’t want to run off without dealing with stuff with Sidney. The sheriff says the law can negate her marriage if they toss him into the mental hospital. She still doesn’t want to leave until something can be done to get Sidney to someplace for help for his mental illness. Now, Sidney kind of helps the cause here by killing Lucy by drowning her in the creek. Smash cut to Sidney being captured by the townsfolk who are going to lynch his ass at the direction of the pastor for killing his sister.
Now, the pastor has people hopped up on bullshit religion. He wants god’s law to deal with Sidney. The sheriff wants to arrest Sidney, but the mob takes the gun from the sheriff and force him, Calif, and Hannah into the sheriff’s car. He tries to start the car, but someone shoots through the engine and it hits the sheriff’s leg. Eventually, Calif gets out of the car and gets control of the gun and tries to get people backed away from Sidney. The pastor kicks the barrel out from under Sidney and Calif shoots the pastor. The townsfolk have to stand around and wonder what all this was worth, and the police sirens sound meaning Calif probably has to go back to jail again. The movie ends with a poignant message:
No… Not Maggie Marie’s cackling crazy. This…
I really do have to say I quite like this film. I am gonna go ahead and side with Ebert and The Los Angeles Times in their reviews. This is some serious exploitation stuff. It’s got enough charm and camp to make it entertaining, but there’s a grime to this that feels real. You have a drunk psychotic doing whatever he can to drink, fuck, and steal a family’s money. You have a guy who has paid a debt to society who is really a good guy while the bad guy has consistently gotten away with being a total fuck ass.
I’m going to go there… We all know someone who isn’t really a bad guy who got caught doing a bad thing and they had to overpay some sort of debt. Maybe it was drunk driving. Maybe it was shoplifting. Maybe it was just a momentary lapse in judgment. Whatever it is, they did something that they got tossed into the pokey for and meanwhile a real bad dude continues to do supremely bad shit but can buy a good enough lawyer to never pay any price other than that lawyer’s fees. We know these types.
Sidney is sort of that kind of person, but he’s magnified in this movie because of one really important thing that the stinger leaves us on – he’s somewhat a large figure in a small town. It’s not quite stated directly what is so big about him, but he wears a nice suit, a hat, a tie, and he looks down on the farmers and the folks who live outside of the town. If that’s not enough for you, let’s try this another way – he’s significant enough to pull the church onto his side.
But when the big fish in the small bowl is insane and a total psychopath, that’s going to be a giant problem for the town itself. Hence, one man’s evil can become the curse of all.
Wow. Well… Russ Meyer Month is off and running, and we started with something fantastic. Next up, a film that was released on the exact same day as Mudhoney. It’s the second film to be featured on Russ Meyer Month here at B-Movie Enema, but it’s the one that everyone knows the title to – Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!