Monday, September 24, 2012

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer)

Tura Satana as the vicious Varla.

Call it dated, silly and extremely campy, but still, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" is classic exploitation fun that brings us back in a time where the deadly combination of femme fatales and some high-octane machinery equals to titillation. This, I think, is one of those films that have definitely made men salivate back then. Cars, violence and sexy women, what more can you ask for? Yet despite of its superficial display of violence, sexual innuendos and car chases, there's no doubt that this film, directed by Russ Meyer (who has also produced and co-written it), still has something much to say than meets the eye. 

Is it a film about women empowerment? Well, definitely a big no. In fact, this is the kind of film that will definitely make feminists shake their head in disgust and disappointment. This was never how they envision women to be. It portrays women as unpredictably murderous low-lives and nothing more. To make it even worse, the heroines of the film (if you can call them that) are a bunch of go-go dancers, which is not exactly the most ideal job for the female populace. So, if it's not a film that empowers women, then what is it all about? 

Personally, I think that it's merely a film about power. Director Russ Meyer, with an intention to exploit and entertain, was successful in putting into the screen the things (sexy women, cars and violence) that sway men into complete submission and reduce them into libidinous losers. In a way, it's not the female characters' sexual force that dominates the film but Russ Meyer's power as a director. In a way, he reflects, by way of this film, the ultimate male fetishes of the time while also relishing in it himself. Now, imagine what kind of film would be made of today's male fixations? What kind of 'pussycat' will we see at this point in time? Oh, well, enough of that before it gets all too... sleazy. 

Back to the subject at hand, this is a film that's undeniably sexy and spell-binding. It is a fun little film that has since been one of the genre's cornerstones. Yet at the end of the day, it's also considered as trash. Yes, the kind of trash that has inspired Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to create "Grindhouse". With that given, why then, despite of the fact that the film was made specifically for its own era (the 1960s) and nothing further, has it become timeless? Well, I think the answer lies in the very execution itself. Buried somewhere in the middle of the curvy presences of Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji) and Billie (Lori Williams) is a quick-witted script and a fast-paced plot. 

The story is simple enough: three go-go dancers, after a day's work, found themselves in a contagious mood for reckless fun. Enter a young, harmless couple who have obliviously joined the unpredictable triumvirate in a picnic of sorts. A little trouble occurs and the male half of the couple was killed by one of them crazy ladies. This is where the carnage starts. From here, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" picks up the steam like there's no tomorrow. With the female heroines increasingly becoming more and more dangerous, so do the male characters in the film, particularly the crippled whacko (Stuart Lancaster) and his 'all brawns no brain' son (Dennis Busch). There's also the other son named Kirk (Paul Trinka), who may or may not be your usual decent Southerner. 

In a way, I occasionally found the script, with all those wonderfully-placed puns and whatnot, to be even more fascinating than the narrative itself. I also found the performances to be even more engaging than the characters themselves. Although I can see where the logic of the characters are coming from and what motivates them to do what, I still can't help but be more smitten by how these actors and actresses have gotten themselves in the spirit of camp even though there's this brooding sense of futility in what they are doing. They are, after all, merely acting in a cheap exploitation film. Why should they give their all, right? Well, energy and passion indeed perform mysterious wonders to people. 

What the actors and actresses lack in talent, they make up for intensity. Acting more like cartoon characters than actual people, there's this comedic feeling that, inevitably, there will be an Acme box that will fall from the sky and hit one of them in the head, resulting in an explosion of unearthly proportions and a bump of mountainous heights. It's a laughable thought, really, but this is also the very reason why the film is so much fun. You just can't help but picture the surprise appearance of a carrot-eating, wise-cracking bunny in there somewhere, or perhaps an arrogant, constantly salivating duck suddenly coming out from one of them desert shrubs. 

Ultimately, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", unlike the curvaceous wholeness of the three lady characters in the film, proved to be less than the sum of its parts. But still, that does not take anything away from the film's wildly alternative vision of America; a vision where liberated women are given free reins to do whatever they want in the middle of the desert, with men ironically at their mercy and the revving of car engines as their symbol of authority. Ladies and gentlemen, what we've got here is a new wild west.


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