A Russ Meyer Double Feature

SPOILER ALERT: This review is for eyes that have already viewed Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

I recently acquired a copy of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and decided to have a Russ Meyer double feature. So I cuddled with my stuffed animals in bed and had a night where I watched Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). Let me tell you, I had such an amazing Russ Meyer experience. The only thing that would have made it more perfect was if it were an actual party where I showed the films to a group.

In Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! three go-go dancers, Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji) and Billie (Lori Williams) are having a good time in the desert when they encounter a couple and decide to have a chicken race with Varla. Varla wins the race and when Tommy (Ray Barlow) objects, he and Varla come to blows with Varla ultimately coming out on top. The girls decide to kidnap the girlfriend Linda (Susan Bernard) and hold her for ransom. The girls head to a gas station and find out about an old wheelchair bound man who lives on a ranch with his two sons, and it’s believed that the old man is rich. The girls come up with the idea to try and get that money for themselves and they come to find that plans are a lot easier said than done.

Varla is a badass. She steals the show in Faster, Pussycat!…A tall, assertive woman with mega boobs and a mean karate chop. She has power over men and is sexy, and ultimately all the brains of the operation. I would bow down and hail Varla because I wouldn’t want any trouble, I mean it took a whole car to take her out for good.

Rosie is a cool character too, she’s so sultry and a great supporting character to Varla. However I was not surprised when Billie caught a knife to the back because she had a mouth on her. But then again, it all goes back to not getting on Varla’s bad side.

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! made me want to become a murderous go-go dancer that knew karate just like Varla. Varla, Rosie and Billie all look like they are having so much fun and even though it’s all illegal, I wanted to be a part of the party. I loved the action from the very beginning of the movie where they chicken race Tommy and Varla beats the shit out of and kills him with her bare hands. Russ really likes showing women in power in this movie. They’re always fighting; they can be sexy too, but let it be known that these girls throw punches as well, and it was only fair that Varla killed Tommy because he was willing to punch a woman straight in the face!

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is probably in my top ten of all time favorite movies. It chronicles three women in a rock and roll band named The Carrie Nations: Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella (aka Pet played by Marcia McBroom) along with Kelly’s boyfriend/manager Harris (David Gurian). They travel to claim an inheritance from Kelly’s aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis) and with dreams of making it as a band in California. Kelly meets up with her aunt and she is introduced to producer Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell (John Lazar) and his extravagant 60’s era drug-laced parties full of hippies and wild ones. Z-Man takes the Carrie Nations under his wing and gets them in the studio. As the girls experience the rise of celebrity in Hollywood, they also have to face the ugly shadow that lies beneath the city and succumb to a world of drugs, sex and murder.

Although I love Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! for its big bosomed women and great cleavage, I really love Beyond the Valley of the Dolls more because this movie actually has nudity. And Russ Meyer is the godfather of large breasted women, so it brought me pleasure to see him succeed with so much bare flesh..

Both movies give us great music, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has an entire amazing soundtrack. And now that I know that the Carrie Nations are based on an actual person, an activist who protested the consumption of alcohol known for attacking alcohol establishments with a hatchet and opposing tight clothes on women, it’s even funnier.

One thing I really love are the colors. I’d love to see a color palette for this film. The film is so bright and vivid, really reflective of the nature of the end of the 60s. The colors pop on the screen as if you were on a psychedelic trip. The word “crisp” comes to mind when I think of the cinematography. The wardrobe and the big 60’s hair is everything in this movie. Meyer really killed it with the visuals in this classic.

One of my favorite characters is adult film star Ashley St. Ives. She is a perfect storm of seductive trouble for Harris. She has one of my favorite lines in the entire movie, “You’re a groovy boy. I’d like to strap you on sometime”. I want to put that on a Valentines Day card.

For me, what makes Beyond the Valley of the Dolls so huge in my heart is how Meyer escalates the film’s climax, it just continues to get more over the top. One thing after another happens; Harris unknowingly rapes a drugged out Casey and gets her pregnant. Pet cheats on her boyfriend Emerson (Harrison Page) and he gets hit by a car. Harris tries to kill himself by jumping from the ceiling, all elements contributing to the over the top story in this movie. And just when you think the movie can’t get any more out there, it’s revealed that Z-Man is a transgender woman and goes on a murder spree where he delivers the best line of the movie, “Yes, I vow it. Ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”

When I first saw the scene where Z-Man decapitates Lance’s (Michael Blodgett) head with a sword to the tune of the Fox studios theme song, that solidified Beyond the Valley of the Dolls as a campy cult classic for me and instantly shot my love for this movie through the roof. I don’t think Russ Meyer or Roger Ebert had a clear understanding about LGBTQIA people in depth, but they at least tried to give us three characters on the screen: Casey and Roxanne (Erica Gavin) have a tender lesbian relationship and we have Z-Man. And although Z-Man is a villain in the movie, it’s interesting that Ebert and Meyer decided to display a trans character on the big screen.

I had such a blast sitting through these two movies. My copy of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a little older so it doesn’t have great special features, but my copy of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is the Criterion edition and the special features are amazing, it even includes a conversation with the legendary and my God, John Waters. So please, please, please I beg of you, do yourself a favor and have yourself a Russ Meyer double feature night where you watch Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. And be sure to let me know which one you loved more, or if you absolutely loved both!

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