Last week, Russ Meyer Month started at B-Movie Enema with Mudhoney, a nice little tawdry tale in the American Plains during the Depression. This week, we pick up a movie that is one of Meyer’s best known – Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
As I mused there, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a fairly well known movie. There are two movies in Meyer’s filmography that probably get the most attention in terms of being trivia answers, but for different reasons. There’s this one that we’re talking about this week for its fun title. The other will be covered in two weeks because of who wrote it.
Curiously, though, as popular as Pussycat is, it was an unusual box office dud for Meyer. Most of his films did fairly well. There was a built-in audience at drive-ins full of horny guys wanting to see big breasted chicks. You’d think none of these movies would fail, but this one did. It wasn’t until later that it gained a cult status.
This film is actually a follow-up and pseudo-sequel to another Meyer film of the mid-60s called Motorpsycho. As Meyer would put it, they had done that movie about three bad boys that performed so well. So… Why not do something with three bad girls? Meyer made the film on a small budget, filmed it in black and white to pinch a few more pennies, and off they went to make a movie about three go-go dancers who decide to go on a murder and kidnapping spree.
As I said, the film didn’t go over all that hot when it was released. When exactly it was released could be up for debate too as Wikipedia lists it being released the same day as Mudhoney. It’s possible that this is the case as the two films were often shown as a double bill. Either way, I bring that up because, after attending a double bill in 1966, John L. Wasserman of The San Francisco Chronicle opined that “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! had the worst script ever written and Mudhoney was the worst movie ever made.”
Well… I’m willing to bet I’m going to love this movie with a review that mean spirited.
Meyer was aware the film didn’t do so well. He made the comment that he didn’t believe the public of that time bought the idea that women could have relationships with other women. In the years since its release, Pussycat has been re-evaluated time and time again. It’s now considered a pretty prominent and important film. Roger Ebert reviewed it in 1995 giving it 3 out of 4 stars. It even aged well for feminists.
Look, Russ Meyer likes big titties and he likes to see them on screen. He likes making movies with big titties and is more than happy to have them on the screen YOU are looking at. So, on the surface, you might think it misogynist. You might think it is all skin and tight clothes and women with loose morals. That’s the magic of Russ Meyer. At the time that noted feminist B. Ruby Rich first saw the film in 1970, she was enraged and felt the movie was a terrible objectification of women. When she saw it a second time in the 90s, she loved it.
I’d like to think that the reason for this sudden 180° change of heart was for two reasons. One, often, when you either live in a echo chamber that only has one point of view that drowns out the rest, or you are constantly looking for a thing to launch anger at, you’ll find it. You’ve already made up your mind that this film about these go-go dancers is trash, so you made sure that every little thing was judged as such. The second reason would be that Meyer knew what to write, how to write it, and how to get people to see it while letting a message come through.
Meyer was noted for being subservient to women in his life. Okay, sure, he would say he was selfish and not a good partner or whatever. However, most everyone who knew him knew him to be a great admirer of women and felt they were truly more powerful than men. I guess you could say that if you gave a woman a chance, they’d probably kick your ass and straighten up this place to make it better for everyone. The truth is, Meyer’s films often found women in charge or able to take charge once the shit hit the fan.
Alright… Enough about this. Let’s get into the flick!
You know what Russ Meyer films has no time for? Bullshit. The movie opens with a narrator telling you you will see some fuckin’ violence. That violence is wrapped up in the supple, soft skin of a woman. Then BOOM! Go-go dancers!
These girls are shakin’ their stuff to rock and roll and guys shouting at them to dance faster. These are our girls, Varla (Tura Satana in one of the most beloved cult performances ever), Rosie (Haji), and Billie (Lori Williams). They finish their dancing gig and decide to race their cars out across the California desert. Apparently Billie wants to go for a swim, and Rosie ain’t havin’ none of that shit. They break out in a fight, first in the lake, then on the shore. Varla just watches. Because she’s fuckin’ cool.
Finally, Varla breaks it up and says the only way to prove who the real broad is would be to play a game of chicken with their cars on the Salt Flats. Varla wins. These other two aren’t nearly as crazy as she is. Naturally, I think I love Varla.
I should mention that Varla and Rosie are lovers. For the most part, Billie is just kind of a bimbo. She likes having fun. She likes crankin’ the radio up and dancing to the tunes. As the girls hang out and Billie dance her tits off (ha… not a chance she’ll dance those things off), a car arrives. Tommy gets out and asks the girls if they can use the area for some time trials with his car. His girlfriend, Linda, is there in a bikini (because of course).
Varla is confused over what the point is of racing against a clock. She challenges Tommy to a race. At first, he refuses, but then decides to race all three girls. After several laps, Tommy loses to Varla. Oddly enough, his car simply just sits there near the finish line. Linda tries to go to him to see what’s wrong, but Varla and the others just hassle Linda. Why? Who cares. They are just bad girls.
I guess Tommy’s shame is enough to keep him away from the girls messing with Linda until she screams for him. Varla and Tommy have a knock down, drag out fight. She just kicks the crap out of him, but he still lands some decent punches. She eventually breaks his neck. The girls put Tommy in his car to, I guess, simulate a bad accident, and they kidnap Linda.
A little moment of comedy happens… You know, after the brutal murder of a guy all because Varla has a bad temper. They pull into a small town gas station and this goofball comes out to service their cars. First, he can’t find the gas cap on Varla’s car so she tells him where it is and calls him “Einstein”. She then notices the guy looking down at her tits when he’s talking about seeing America, so she quips, “You’re not gonna find it down there, Columbus!”
Every word from Varla drips with anger, frustration, and sarcasm. Tura Satana is fantastic in this in all the right campy ways. Remember when I talked about Doom Asylum a couple months back? I mentioned and showed clips of Ruth Collins just going for it as the leader of an all-girl punk band. There’s no way she didn’t either base her entire performance on Satana’s performance here or was directed to impersonate her. What I love most about her is how she looks like a cross between Vampira and Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle. It’s an inspired performance. Billie says it best – “You’re like a velvet glove cast in iron.”
Varla hatches a plan to take the girls to this farm house where an old crippled man played by Stuart Lancaster (he was Uncle Lute in Mudhoney) lives with his two sons. You have a mentally challenged son and a super smart one. Varla figures this ranch house probably has a bunch of loot in it (as well as Lute, heh). The old man makes mention that his dullard son maybe accidentally killed a girl that he brought back there for the family have their way with…?
The old man knows something is odd with the girls. He asks why Linda was tied up. Varla spills their cover story – her boyfriend died, she flipped, and tried to kill herself. She’s part of a rich family whose dad is in government. They are bringing her home. She figures the old man would buy any story she laid on him because he just wants some fine ladies to be around.
And, yeah, the old man is talking to the feebleminded one, “The Vegetable”, and says fate has thrown them a bone with the girls. The old man figures they have plenty of land to stash the bodies once they’ve had their fill and he particularly would like a shot at Linda.
So here’s the deal… Varla plans on trying to find whatever bread the old man has on hand. He’s getting rich from an accident with the railroads that causes him to be wheelchair bound. He also likes raping and killing girls. Rosie will basically do whatever Varla wants. Billie wants to fuck the dim-witted yokel son of the old man’s, and she’s not a very big fan of Varla and Rosie. Linda? Well, she is just hoping to stay alive.
Billie watches The Vegetable lift weights. She tells him she wants to be his manager, but he doesn’t seem to pay any attention to her. She then tries to be more forward with him but he still doesn’t get it. Suddenly, Linda screams and runs off after the old man tries attacking her. She runs off to the road and flags down a truck. The driver of the truck is Kirk, the smart son of the old man.
When Varla comes back, she screams at the old man asking him what happened to Linda and Billie and so forth. She even gives the old man the business about how he couldn’t have done anything wrong knowing that he’s a monster. Kirk is wise to these shenanigans too. He’s not sure what to believe, but whatever is going on, it ain’t good.
Speaking of nothing bein’ no good, Linda gets worked over by Varla for running away. A little further away, Billie and The Vegetable are making out, but he flips out when trains pass. He tells Billie that trains make the old man crazy when they go by.
Varla plans on cozying up to Kirk. She figures that he’s the only sharp one and must know where the loot is. At one of those classic awkward lunch/dinner scenes, you’ve got Kirk suspicious of the girls, Varla trying to flirt to him, Billie making a toast to trains that makes the old man confused, Linda going from being silent to screaming about Varla killing her boyfriend after she slapped Billie, and Rosie staring daggers at Kirk while she watches her girlfriend flirt with him. All the while, The Vegetable just eats chicken.
Varla is successful in seducing Kirk, but, thanks to Billie’s needling, Rosie goes to watch and is angered and heartbroken. Varla can’t finish the seduction as Linda escapes again. The old man and The Vegetable are going to rape her, but when Kirk and Varla catch up, The Vegetable breaks down and cries and begs for forgiveness. Coming to his senses after Varla kinda makes fun of everyone for apologizing and forgiving each other, Kirk takes Linda home. The old man and The Vegetable plan to go home fast to deal with the three go-go dancers before anything else gets worse for them.
Back at the house, Varla tells Rosie and Billie it is time to find the money, kill the old man, his sons, and Linda and split. Billie says she’s had enough of this shit and is walking out. On her way to her car, Varla gets a knife from Rosie and throws it into Billie’s back, killing her.
So yeah… Shit’s off the rails now.
When The Vegetable and the old man come home, Varla says she knows when they aren’t wanted and on the way to the car, she tells Rosie to drive fast and don’t miss. Meaning they are going to run down the old man. This is a great scene because he’s going to the house to call the police and they kind of stalk him with the car. He tries to get to the shotgun on the porch. He’s not able to get to it before he gets hit. They learn that he keeps his money in his wheelchair.
While Varla scoops up the bread, she tells Rosie to go get the knife from Billie’s back. So now Rosie has to negotiate with The Vegetable to get the knife out. He takes it out and says he will give her the knife. Guess what…
He gave her the knife.
Realizing The Vegetable gave Rosie the knife, Varla runs him down with her car and tries to kill him. He’s able to use his brute strength to keep her from crushing him between the car and a wooden fence. He’s able to stop the car enough that when she floors it, it causes her to get the back wheels dug into the dirt and she gets trapped. So she takes the family truck and tries to run down Kirk and Linda. At this point, she’s just all about murder. But it isn’t good enough for her to run them over with the truck. She stops, gets out, and tells Kirk that he’s next.
Now, Kirk puts up a pretty good fight. Better than Tommy at least. He gets a little overpowered, so Linda gets in the truck and hits her with it. She dies before she can land another blow on Kirk. Linda freaks out from the horror of it all. She feels a little better when she realizes she saved both Kirk’s and her own life. So they get into the truck and drive off.
This is a really good flick. As I mentioned, Satana is so damn good in this, but it is everyone. This is a movie that is a true collection of great things. You don’t have any nudity in this film. There is implied nudity, but there isn’t any straight on shots of breasts, but you still have gorgeous women. You have an over the top accent from Haji playing Rosie that doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense to have her do. It doesn’t matter if she’s Hispanic at all. I guess if she was going to look exotic, you have to talk exotic.
The other performance of note, though, besides Satana who I already mentioned now twice, is Lori Williams as Billie. There are three things she wants to do in this movie. First, she just wants to get fucked by the big, dumb oaf. She will literally throw herself at him. Second, she just wants to dance. She’s always finding an opportunity to do a little go-go dancing. Lastly, she just wants to hate on Varla and Rosie. They never got along. They are a trio and they are all loose and living dangerously, but she didn’t like them, and they didn’t like her. Her part is so much fun.
Hell, all of this movie is fun. Every line in the script could be contextually quotable – especially from the three girls. Despite this being about a depraved monster of a woman who is just flat out angry at everything, you have this guy who just hates women because he helped a girl get on a train, but he fell off and landed on the tracks that caused him to be a paraplegic. That’s weird, but it’s kind of fun to just spitball a reason why he’s a bad guy.
Linda, played by Susan Bernard, is interesting too. First, allow me to say, she was born on my birthday, February 11 (of 1948 – I only feel like I was born in the same year sometimes). She was only 17 in this movie. She plays tortured very well. She goes from being in shock to screaming uncontrollably rather well. When she was in her 20s, she was married to Jason Miller for nine years. They have a son together who writes with his life partner. Bernard passed away just last year.
This is a totally different, but somewhat similar film to Mudhoney. It makes sense to have these two films play together. Whereas Mudhoney has a horrible man making life hard for people who don’t have much recourse they can take to get rid of him, Pussycat has a crazy ass lady who maybe should be dealt with, but it was just too late for anyone to do anything. One causes chaos while the other revels in it.
Next week, we’re at it again, but this time, we’re going full X-rated Russ Meyer with his infamous film Vixen!