Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Review

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Three strippers seek new challenges in life, so they turn to murder and kidnapping, killing a man and holding his girlfriend hostage at a remote location in the desert.


From the first, Meyer's movies attracted a smattering of hip-cynical-cool college types along with the hordes of raincoats who just came to see huge tits. If you watch the entire back catalogue in one go, it becomes mind-numbing; but if you sample selectively the films are astonishing. His films celebrate and caricature a still-young country's adolescent male obsessions – babes in boots, fast cars, ultra-violence, jazzy music, really large breasts, the need for speed, small-town scandal, cheap thrills and fast sex.

Meyer was a rare sexploiter who suggested that naked girls might be... well... fun! Meyer made a few more nudies but the market was soon swamped by imitators with lookalike films about X-ray specs or girls' schools, so he moved on to intense, steamy, kinetic, bizarro melodramas – and in among this run of potent drive-in titles (Lorna, MudHoney, Vixen!) was his probable masterpiece, the immortal Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.

After karate-chopping an all-American drag racer to death and kidnapping his sweet teenage girlriend (Sue Bernard), psychotic go-go dancer Varla (Tura Satana) leads two equally busty, equally crazy sidekicks, Rosie (Haji) and Billie (Lori Williams), into the desert where they find the homestead of a crippled miser (Stuart Lancaster) and his hulking, mentally challenged son 'Vegetable' (Dennis Busch). The thrill-kill kittens kick up dust as they double-cross each other, try to seduce every man in sight, search for a hidden fortune and explode with a hyperactivity that suggests they're on course for early graves and don't much care about it. 'What's your point?' asks one overawed man, only for Varla to snap, 'It's of no return and you've just reached it.'

A cross-breed of girl-gang movies with the brand of rural gothic that would lead to Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is arguably as much an outrageous parody of the trash-exploitation film as it is a drive-in barnstormer. Though the Russ Meyer imprimatur and the outrageous title suggest steaming, explicit sex, it is surprisingly restrained in the nudity department (leather tops are cut low but never come off), though every scene seethes with overheated, sleazy eroticism. Satana, a half-Apache, half-Japanese dancer with a pennyweight of eye make-up and sausage-skin-tight jeans, also has a way with sneery threats that makes her one of the most offbeat villains in cinema history. Her snarling, pouting, wriggling style is caught by the rest of the cast and even the driving jazz score (The Bostweeds' theme song, later covered by The Cramps, is a hoot).

The overdrive melodramatics extend to hilarious narration ('Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence!'), and performances are pitched so broad they make the Marx Brothers seem restrained (and strangely, Haji sounds a lot like Chico). Big breasts, fast cars, tight jeans, sudden death – what more do you want?

Va va voom!Varla and the girls may be villains, but their uncompromising grrrl-power attitudes ('I never try anything – I just do it. Wanna try me?') fuelled a whole grindhouse tradition, from those Roger Corman prison break-outs of the 1970s to Quentin Tarantino's hard-hitting heroines. If you only see one Russ Meyer, as the saying goes, this is the pick of the litter.

With its driving jazz score, hilarious dialogue and overdrive melodramatics, this is the ultimate expression of the American cinema's greatest fetishes: big breasts, fast cars, tight jeans, and sudden death. This is, in its own way, one of the great films of the 60's.