“Ladies and Gentlemen; Welcome to violence.”
In 1965, a film was tossed casually into the ether of America's cinemas and multiplexes. Its name was “Faster Pussycat! Kill Kill!” It was shot - mostly on location - in black and white on a budget of $45,000 (roughly $300,000 in todays money). It had a flimsy plotline, girl-on girl violence, desert sports car chases and relentless sexual exploitation. It is one of the best B-movies of all time.
The film was directed by Russ Meyer, a WW2 veteran who visited brothels with Ernest Hemingway, and a staple figure in the epoch of the exploitation flick. Meyer was infatuated with the female body, more often than not in hypersexualised and eroticised forms; so much so that he has a section solely dedicated to “Big breast fixation, or the Meyer physical archetype” on his Wikipedia page. He had little intention for the film to be anything more than a cheap piece of throwaway cinema - cashing in on bored men with restricted access to pornography. In actual fact, it lost $10,000 of its original budget, and soon became a cult classic.
Opening with three attractive, lithe, voluptuous girls driving sports cars across the Mojave desert to the soundtrack of booming jazz, it feels like the kind of film that Quentin Tarantino would rewind and take notes from a thousand times over in his video rental store. What follows is a series of alarmingly confrontational meetings between a young man and his ingénue girlfriend, then, some time after, a land owner and his muscular farmhand son. On both occasions, our three partners in crime manage to either kill/drug/kidnap/rob their new friends in a style so flamboyant and camp, it would seem a parody of the entire genre itself.
It is shot in such a way that an underlying current of the sinister runs throughout the film alongside its flamboyancy, obviously making the whole film's sex appeal fly through the roof. Some would argue that such was the power the women held over male characters in this film - from killing their first victim to robbing their second - that Russ Meyer has become, in retrospect, an inadvertent feminist film-maker.
The acting is akin to that of what you might find in a piece of pornography. Lots of flirting, even more innuendos and lashings of double entendres, with lines as cheesy as “Nice set of wheels, Baby”, and “Would you like to look under my hood?”. Even for its time, the whole atmosphere of the picture is intensely hostile, which is rare on such a low budget. For example, during the opening moments of the film, the three feisty, powerful women break out in a wild and raunchy catfight, after one suggests the other is jealous of the third for having a great body when she goes swimming. They then settle their argument with a drag race over a dry and barren landscape.
It is an exploitation film of the highest order. It's camp, it's trashy, with elements of sleaze and style dovetailing beautifully into an 1 hour and 22 minute sleek pleasure-fest. There is almost a sense of glamour mixed in with all the gratuitous sex and violence, from the skimpily stylish dresswear, to the auto-mobiles of choice. The cinematography is full of class, and the genuine fear provoked in you after that first killing puts you on the edge of your seat.
Thank you Russ, for your perverted, sexy twist on violence.
Thomas Parslew is not on Twitter