Cult cinema became a self-conscious movement in the ‘70s when audiences hopped up on goofballs and near-lethal doses of irony started convening at urban cinemas to hoot along with midnight showings of Pink Flamingoes and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s amazing to consider that Russ Meyer made Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! a decade earlier when every aspect of it seems consciously contrived for the midnighters. Perhaps that’s because it was so influential among the makers of those ‘70s cult items. Pink Flamingoes-director John Waters has called Pussycat “the best movie ever made… possibly better than any film that will be made in the future.” Waters, a master ironist himself, may have been joshing a bit when he wrote this in his autobiography Shock Value, but was he at least a little right?
Legions of critics would catcall, “Not even close!” Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! has been derided for its obvious offenses for decades (certainly one reason Waters holds it so close to his mustachioed heart). Even its entry in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die tisks at its "troublesome sexual politics." Russ Meyer is perhaps history’s most famous breast-fetishist, and there is certainly no shortage of female objectification in his best-known picture. The man was no less enamored with violence, which is well present, too. So sex and violence, eh? That’s why Meyer is so much more horrible than every other filmmaker, none of whom would ever indulge in such things? Well, the naysayers say “nay” because Meyer so lingers on his actresses’ cleavage, he so revels in his character’s violence. His plot hangs on sex and violence as wispily as Tura Satana’s catsuit hangs on her bodacious frame.
In Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Varla (Satana), Billie (Lori Williams), and Rosie (Haji) are a trio of go-go dancers who dig nothing more than swinging with each other and tooling around the California desert in their hot rods. When they run into a square (Ray Barlow) and his bikini-clad girlfriend Linda (Susan Bernard), Varla challenges the dude to a drag race. As he starts gaining on her, she forces him off the track. When he gripes about her poor sportswomanship, Varla karate chops him to death (with a twist of back breaking). Linda gets all bent out of shape after watching her boyfriend bite the dust, so Varla commands her go-go underlings to drug and kidnap the girl until they can think of what to do with the potential squealer. While refueling at a gas station, Varla learns about a local wheelchair-bound man (Stuart Lancaster) who lives on a farm with his sons: sensible Kirk (Paul Trinka) and a muscleman known as The Vegetable (Dennis Busch). The Old Man also happens to be sitting on a big pile of cash. At the farm, he tries to get his paws on Linda, Billie tries to get hers on The Vegetable, and Varla tries to get hers on the scratch. Mayhem ensues, leaving all but our two dullest characters, Linda and Kirk, dead.
Meyer uses this goofy plot as an excuse to exploit the boobs and bashing for which he is infamous. While Meyer couldn’t have possibly conceived Faster, Pussycat! as a mainstream film, he still seems bound by the restrictions of mid-‘60s American cinema. Nudity and graphic bloodshed are taboo. So is the triumph of his villains, hence the plethora of deaths that end the film. For those criticizers who’ve actually seen the film, the opening monologue about the “rapacious new breed” of violent women and Varla’s death are the strongest arguments for Meyer as misogynist, but the time in which his film was made has to take some of the blame. If we can forgive the rote moral and our antihero getting her rote comeuppance, we have without a doubt the strongest woman to appear in an American film thus far.