Review Date: 4/1/17
Director: Russ Meyer
Cast: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard
"I never try anything. I just do it. Wanna try me?"
Russ Meyer's ultimate essay on sadistic sex and violence. Three go-go dancers named Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji), and Billie (Lori Williams) are racing their cars in the desert when they decide to kill another racer and kidnap his girlfriend (Susan Bernard). While searching for a place to dump the body, they come across a crippled old man who is rumored to have a load of cash hidden on his property. They agree to bump off the old man and grab his money, but he has some ideas of his own, and pretty soon everyone's lives are on the line.
The film starts off as a tawdry exploitation skin flick and then surprisingly evolves into a taut thriller. The old man and his sons are just as dangerous and deadly as the girls, and everyone's loyalties are challenged. Like many of the cheap exploitation films of the 1950's, "Faster, Pussycat" plays out as a cautionary morality tale, but instead of being overly preachy, it delivers the goods straight up.
The characters in Russ Meyer's world are all pretty twisted and messed up. The world-weary and bitter old man is confined to a wheelchair and craves revenge against a young woman he rescued from a train accident. He's a cruel and lecherous pervert who loves doing unspeakable things to women. His youngest son is a strong, but feebleminded giant who often underestimates his own strength. The elder son is a quiet and suspicious bookworm, but probably the sanest of the bunch.
And then there are the women that Russ Meyer is famous for. The film clearly revolves around the voluptuous Tura Satana, who is the bad-ass alpha female. She's a violent woman with a sharp tongue who takes her anger out on everyone she meets. She hangs out with the other girls for laughs and uses sex, violence, and intimidation to get what she wants. Haji plays a bitter and scornful woman who is helplessly attracted to Satana's Varla, despite how badly she's mistreated by her. The lesbian undertones are subtle, but highly effective. Blonde bombshell Lori Williams is the kooky wildcard, who is intent on living fast and loving hard. While Satana's character dominates the film with her fiery personality, Williams steals her thunder every chance she gets with her wicked sensuality. Billie's tongue is just as venomous as Varla's, but her contempt is tainted with longing and lust. She is pure sexual poison whose desires can't be contained and won't be denied. Much like an exotic dancer, her presentation is so forceful that it's often difficult to watch her. And the fact that she was only nineteen years old when she made the film is mind boggling. Finally, there's sixteen year old Susan Bernard, who plays the hapless victim. She's quite possibly the best actress of the group, but maybe that's because she was truly terrified by her overly aggressive co-stars.
The film was shot in black and white and looks absolutely fantastic. The racing scenes are great, but the overall impact is ruined by an overuse of fake looking stationary driving shots. Meyer's direction and camera work are spot-on, and his voyeuristic compositions are eerily unsettling. He tends to shoot women from low angles, giving them a dominating presence and highlighting their ample chests. The dialog is amusingly awkward and delivered so forcefully that it often feels outrageously campy, which is probably a big part of the film's lasting cult appeal. The acting tends to be a bit stiff and melodramatic, but Susan Bernard and the younger brother (Dennis Busch) give surprisingly poignant and dramatically effective performances.
Meyer's overall social commentary seems to be that all people are terrible, and that everyone has their own demons to contend with. His attitude towards women is a complex juxtaposition of fear and admiration. They are soft and beautiful creatures, but deadly and cruel. Is he celebrating their fierce and independent spirits, or condemning them as agents of evil? Or both? It's a fascinating, shocking, seductive, and surprisingly complex film that was years ahead of its time, and has somehow managed to improve with age.
Memorable quote: "Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive - even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!"