Big tease Russ Meyer has passed on at the age of 82. An adult filmmaker whose flicks are probably better known for their influence on alt rock bands these days (Seattle grungers Mudhoney took their name from one of his flicks, while bands like the Cramps recorded the theme to Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) than on their own right, Meyer was a major factor in the opening up of adult exploitation cinema. This humble correspondent recalls seeing Vixen, one of Meyer's sixties era successes, while an undergrad at Illinois State U. It was not an experience easily forgotten.
Movies like 1965's Faster Pussycat! also proved an influence on undergrounders like John Waters (his Female Trouble, in particular, owes a lot to Meyer's brand of exploitation storytelling). Though relatively tame today, the man's best films still work largely because of the strong sense of humor holding 'em together - that and the unbelievable breasts on his heroines, of course. Meyer's biggest grossing success, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by Roger Ebert, who later regretted the way the director ladled on the blackly comic violence), looks even funnier today, in part because the swingin' 60's rock mores it's parodying have acquired a nostalgic sheen which the movie delights in smashing to bits. We can only hope that one of the more adventurous cable channels resurrects this gem in tribute to the late skinflick maven. (His only other major Hollywood studio film, The Seven Minutes, is reportedly unwatchable, though I've never experienced it.)
Meyer kept a pretty tight hold on his own films during the videotape and DVD era, a mixed blessing since their relative scarcity worked against a full-scale rediscovery of his work. Perhaps his death will change that situation: I know I've read about more Meyer films than I've seen. And I've been dying to re-view Faster Pussycat! for years. . .