*. It’s hard to take some movies out of their place in our memories of them. I first saw Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! at a repertory cinema when I was at university. Today it’s hard work even finding repertory cinemas, and the ones there are don’t often show movies like this. But this is what a cult movie was, back in the day.
*. I remember being mightily impressed by it thirty years ago, and while I still think it’s a lot of fun it hasn’t grown on me the way a favourite movie does, and doesn’t reveal any new levels of meaning on repeated viewings. It’s interesting in a lot of different ways, but not complicated.
*. As with all such movies there has been so much written about it now and so many different interpretations of its meaning that I’m pretty sure I can’t add anything original. For what it’s worth, on this latest viewing it put me in mind of two other movies.
*. First, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This came out only a year later and I find a number of correspondences. Not because I think Faster, Pussycat is a Western, spaghetti or otherwise, but because of the archetypal force its central characters have, the conflict they endure, and the mythic structure of their quest.
*. Like Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes, Varla, Rosie, and Billie are after a fortune in gold (or, as it turns out, some really fake-looking “long green”), but the main thing I’m getting at here is how the central figures in the drama are so much larger than life, representing heroic or anti-heroic essences just as the Good, Bad, and Ugly do. It’s no mistake that there are few other players on screen: the audience at the go-go bar, the gas station attendant, and that hapless loser Tommy. They don’t belong with our triumvirate of Amazons, the Old Man, and the mighty Vegetable. The main players are forces of nature that will in the end cancel one another out, leaving only the all-too-human Linda and Kirk as inheritors of the blasted landscape.
*. It’s hard to speak of Blondie or Angel Eyes, or Varla and her gang, as characters. They are types. Varla is sex-as-death, someone who would just as soon kill you as fuck you. And indeed I’m not sure she’s all that interested in the latter. She is also wedded to her sports car as a cowboy to his horse, a mechanical satyr whose confrontation with the beefcake Veg has an orgasmic intensity. John Henry taking on the steam drill had nothing on this, and it’s just the sort of showdown such figures deserve. I think you could watch it with Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold playing and enjoy it even more.
*. The other movie I was reminded of was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). The Old Man, the Hitchhiker, and Leatherface have their analogs in the three men living alone on the ranch: the Old Man, Kirk (the only one who can pass for normal), and the Vegetable.
*. I don’t know how much has been said about Faster, Pussycat as an early example of this kind of horror film, but the classic set-up is already here: a group of young people wind up off the beaten track (the farmhouse doesn’t even have a phone!) where they meet a family of weirdos who seem to have designs on them. Nothing explicit is said, but it seems as though part of the Old Man’s revenge on women is to at least rape and perhaps kill any strays he can collect. The flies have fallen into the spider’s web, with the twist being that the tables have been turned.
*. That strained family dinner is another element found in a lot of the generation of horror that Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced. A good meal is so often used as foreshadowing. For sex, or death. And in this movie you get both.
*. If you want to make big claims for Faster, Pussycat it may be in the way it preceded these films, each a landmark in its own way. Just as its presentation of buxom, dominating women preceded the fetish artwork of Eric Stanton, who was obviously a soulmate of Meyer. When drawing connections like these a lot of credit goes to the person who did it first, and in this case that palm goes to Meyer.
*. Does that mean we have to take Russ Meyer seriously? I’m not so sure. This is really the only movie of his I’ve seen that I can return to. And to be honest, most of the other movies of his I’ve seen I’ve been bored by. But for whatever reason everything came together for Faster, Pussycat! The title, tossed off almost as a joke, has stuck in the collective consciousness. The dialogue is campy and quotable, the action works, and the whole thing moves along so quickly you don’t have time to mind all the really dull bits. Bestriding all of this like a colossus is Tura Satana, whose performance is lightning in a bottle. In short, I think this was a one-off for everyone involved. But that’s the way it sometimes works.