“I never try anything. I just do it. Wanna try me?”
Directed by: Russ Meyer
Starring: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, Dennis Busch
In a Nutshell:
Three bad girls go wild in the desert in Russ Meyer’s influential exploitation flick. It has everything you need for a late night movie – fierce women, karate, fast cars, catfights, go-go dancing, murder and mayhem – and that’s just the first ten minutes. John Waters is a huge fan, claiming “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.” – in part he has been emulating its kitschy outlaw attitude for most of his career. You can also see Meyer’s grubby fingerprints all over Death Proof, and Tarantino thanked the director in the credits.
Three go-go dancers are out in the desert looking for kicks, racing their sports cars and picking fights with one another. There is psychotic Varla (Satana), sultry Rosie (Haji), and blonde bombshell Billie (Williams). They encounter a square couple and, after a race, karate expert Varla snaps the guy’s neck and kidnaps the girl, Linda (Bernard).
Driving through the desert, they stop for gas where they spot a wheelchair-bound old man and his lunkheaded son. The station attendant tells them that the old boy was injured in an accident and received a large payout, although his disability has warped his mind. Varla quickly hatches a plan to rob the guy of his loot, which he apparently has stashed somewhere on his broken down ranch.
Our three antagonists make their way out to the ranch, with their captive along for the ride. They meet the family, which also includes a slightly more normal older brother. The lecherous old coot is more dangerous than he looks – he gets his kicks vicariously, encouraging his dimwitted son Vegetable to sexually assault young women. Next on his list is Linda…
Poor Linda is caught between her murderous captor Varla and the would-be rapists at the ranch. Will she escape, and will our tainted go-go dancing trio find the old man’s pile of cash?
Overall the performances in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! are pretty amateurish, but that doesn’t mean the actors don’t create some seriously memorable impressions. At the centre is the scary-looking Tura Satana as Varla. She’s such a great villain, spitting her lines with real venom and relishing murdering people. Satana reportedly learned martial arts in real-life after she was gang raped and used her new fighting skills to track down her attackers and reap revenge. She definitely seems to channel that fury into her character here, and she’s awesome. Varla is one of those bad guys who are so evil you can’t help but root for them.
Haji and Williams also create vivid characters as Rosie and Billie respectively. Rosie smoulders away and almost matches her lover Varla in the sadistic stakes, while Billie is more of a good-time girl who just wants to party. Bernard doesn’t have much to do as Linda other than snivel, cower and scream. For a notorious Tit Man, Meyer mostly chooses to shoot the three wild girls from low angles, making them look towering Goddesses on the screen.
As for the guys, Stuart Lancaster is appropriately loathsome as the lecherous, hateful old man and Paul Trinka is sympathetic as Kirk, the normal older brother who would like to leave the ranch but sticks around because he is worried about his little bro’s welfare. Most interesting is Dennis Busch as The Vegetable. He plays the hulking simpleton with such pathos, and Meyer fetishises his ripped physique almost as much as he does the girls’ voluptuous figures. He must have been an influence on Peter Hinwood’s performance as Rocky Horror because there are a couple of moments that look like they were lifted almost verbatim for The Rocky Horror Picture Show – the armpit shot while Vegetable is pumping iron, and the way he gracelessly munches his chicken at the dinner table.
The frenetic jazzy score adds an extra dimension of menace and seediness to the fantastically tawdry action. The theme song from The Bostweeds is priceless, later covered by The Cramps.
Blood, guts, and T&A:
A few catfights and then we get down to the murdering. Given its age, the violence is quite tame, but still has an impact. The way Varla snaps the square dude’s neck during the opening scenes is fucking cold. Later, she literally stabs her friend in the back and mows down a disabled guy in her car. She’s just so sadistic – it’s great! Those are just a few of the highlights…
Although it is often referred to as a sexploitation film, there are no breasts actually on display in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and only a little kissing and hugging here and there.There are plenty of outrageous cleavages and implied nudity and, of course, this being a Russ Meyer movie the girls are heavily sexualised. Varla is basically an evil dominatrix.
Russ Meyer was a tit man, and tits were basically the raison d’être for his movies. He was quite open about it, and harboured little ambition for his films other than to make money and satisfy his lusts. He unapologetically objectified women in his movies, yet Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! has become an accidental feminist classic. Varla, Rosie and Billie might be objectified, but they are the dominant force in the movie and they totally overpower or outsmart the guys. They also look like absolute badasses.
Even today, it is pretty rare to see a film where women are allowed to be so defiantly villainous and doing stuff that is mostly reserved for male characters – racing cars, fighting, killing for fun, stealing, being sexually aggressive, and so on. It must have really blown some people’s minds fifty-odd years ago…
This was my first Russ Meyer movie and thanks to his reputation, I went in kind of expecting a feature length Benny Hill sketch. What I got was a pulpy, vicious, titilating crime thriller full of hardboiled dialogue that would make Mickey Spillane blush, delivered with relish by these inexpert actors.
Meyer’s notoriety as the breast guy precedes him and from this evidence alone, to think of him as just that is a little reductive. He was a true auteur of soft smut, often writing, producing, directing, shooting and editing his own movies. For a cheapo exploitation flick that was shot quickly, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a really dynamic, striking-looking movie that barrels along with a sense of true devilry, full of great shots that look ripped straight out of a comic book. Essential trash.