When one discusses the greatest films of all time, it's a given that titles like Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone With the Wind and Double Indemnity will be mentioned, and rightly so, those films are masterpieces.
However, the other night, I happened across a movie that was so over-the-top, it nearly knocked my socks off! As part of Turner Classic Film's Underground series, Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was shown -- and boy howdy, I'm a believer.
Pussycat is the story of three go-go dancers (and part time drag race queens), who go out to the desert to blow off some steam and end up committing murder, kidnapping and a host of other unsavory deeds.
The lead kitten of these Pussycat Dolls is Varla (Tura Satana), a tough as nails she-demon with a penchant for karate chops and tight fitting pants. Varla looks like Ronnie Spector on steroids, and has a set of knockers on her that are downright intimidating (actually the three leading ladies of this film are very well endowed -- Russ Meyer loved his actresses to be at least D-cups).
Lori Williams plays Billie, the blond bimbo Pussycat who's purpose in life seems to be jumping up and down, dancing, and trying to get laid (all of which she achieves in the film). Lori also seems to be the dimmest bulb in this trio (think Rose from The Golden Girls--with the libido of Blanche).
Rounding out the trio of voluptuous maniacs is Haji (that's how she's billed, just plain old, "Haji") as Rose, the lesbian lover of Varla with a thick Chico Marx-like Italian accent. Rose's only real purpose in this film is to frown and complain about everything and leer at Varla endlessly.
From the very start this movie just reels the viewer in; a voice over states, "Welcome to violence" and we then cut to the three girls dancing in bikinis to a rock and roll song, with cuts of the leering men in the audience salivating and yelling out to them, "Faster, Pussycat!" Soon enough the gals have blown off the dust of the strip-joint and traded it in for the dust of the California desert where they race their hot rods. It's while in the desert that Varla (who clearly suffers from anger management issues) kills a teen aged boy by breaking his neck and then decides to kidnap his girlfriend. Later on the gals get wind of an old man living in a shack in the desert who is sitting on a fortune -- this is when Varla hatches her scheme to get the old man's money. It's priceless!
Besides the bodacious bosoms, and the wacky dialogue, Pussycat crackles in all it's grind house-black-and-white-glory; you see, Meyer actually was a very talented film maker, and this movie, from a technical point of view, is flawless! If just one third of the so called action films of today had the energy and style of Pussycat, it would be a much better cinematic world.
What's even more interesting about this exploitation film, is that it seems to have a mixed message. While the three leads were no doubt cast because of their physical attributes, none of them is beholden to the men in the film, as a matter of fact all of the men portrayed in Pussycat (with the exception of one) are all impotent in one form or the other -- the big beefcake guy (played by Dennis Busch), is built like a Greek God, but is apparently brain dead. He is referred to as "The Vegetable". The old man with the money is a lecherous pervert, but he's confined to a wheelchair. The gas station attendant (who spills the beans about the old man's money) is a goofy Hee Haw reject... In this world, it seems that the women, truly do, have the power.
The standout performance in Pussycat is Satana. You've got to see her to believe her, with her Bettie Page hair, and her dominatrix attitude, Varla was a Riot Grrrl way before Riot Grrrls were cool. It seems that Satana herself led a pretty wild life (happily, she is in her 70's and still going strong!).
So the next time the debate occurs over what is the greatest movie of all time; settle that debate by inviting your film-snob friends over and cue up Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and make them all believers! And if anyone does not like the film, let Tura know, I bet she can still kick ass!