On this day in 1922, the great filmmaker Russ Meyer was born. As a first approximation, you wouldn’t think of me as a Russ Meyer fan. But as I said about David Cronenberg: his obsessions are not mine. But that doesn’t much matter. It seems to be far more important that artists have obsessions than that I share them. Meyers was very interested in sex with particular attention to beautiful women with very large breasts. But he is much more than that. Meyer was probably the first filmmaker who taught me that a great deal could be done with the simplest ingredients.
Nowhere is that more clear than in one of my two favorite Meyer films, Eve and the Handyman. There is basically nothing to the film. Eve, played by Meyer’s wife and collaborator Eve Meyer, is some kind of private eye — or just a stalker — who is tailing the handyman, played by Anthony-James Ryan. So the film is alternating between Eve being very sexy and her watching Ryan do janitorial and handyman work. It was also shot MOS with only voice-over from beginning to end. But it is filled with constantly interesting shots, genuinely funny bits, and nonstop sexiness — completely without showing any of the naughty bits. Here is a good example of everything that I just said in two minutes:
One thing I like about Meyer is that he is obsessed with women and not the kind of androgynous boy-girls that seem to be the ultimate expression of female beauty in much of America today. His obsession is so natural that him making twenty odd feature films about it doesn’t seem especially creepy. Regardless, I find most of the films rather sweet today. They are rarely more risqué than modern perfume commercials. And I never feel anything but that Meyer genuinely respected and admires women, and thought of them as powerful.
That leads us to the other Meyer film that I most admire, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! It tells the story of three go-go dancers who go on a killing spree. Most of the film takes place on a farm where they torture and kill — in theory looking for money. It’s the ultimate exploitation film. And it looks great. It is the one Russ Meyer film that everyone interested in film must watch. And here is the whole thing on YouTube below. I assure you, this will be taken down soon, so you really should spend an hour and a half with it now:
Happy birthday Russ Meyer!