Wallflower Press’ Cultographies are to cult flicks what the 33 1/3 series is to classic albums: focused studies teeny enough to shove in your breast pocket. So perhaps it is appropriate that the series’ first new title to slink into print in a year and a half is devoted to Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! You know, because Russ Meyer liked breasts. Hardy-har.
Actually, as open-minded cineastes have realized for quite some time, Meyer’s masterpiece is more than an ogle-fest, packing themes that have alternately been labeled feminist, patriarchal, parodic, pro and anti-erotic. For the most part, writer Dean J. DeFino wisely steps back to allow these themes to make their cases and exit stage left instead of forcing theories down our throats, because to do so when dealing with the work of a filmmaker as apolitical and instinctive as Russ Meyer would be kind of silly. Not that DeFino never allows his academia to get out of hand. An extended comparison with satyr plays brings the momentum to a labored halt for a chapter comprising a quarter of this 100-page book. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the casting of Varla and her gang of pussycats as Dionysian figures and the men they conquer as weak and wanton satyrs. It’s just that the rest of Cultographies: Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! revs out so much good stuff about the film’s genesis, production, position in sixties culture, reception, impact, and cult qualifications that I wanted to bust out of the college classroom and back out on the road, Daddy-O!
I was also greatly appreciative of/frustrated by DeFino’s detailing of how poorly served this film has been on home video. Faster, Pussycat! is the KA-BOOM! at the impact point between exploitation and art house cinema. It’s too bad this boldly and beautifully shot picture is not readily available in quality much better than a YouTube stream. Is it too much to hope that DeFino’s book might raise some interest in correcting that wrong?
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