I first heard about the opus Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! when I bought a book that still remains like a cine-bible to me, Re:Search’s Incredibly Strange Films. There was a chapter on Russ Meyer (as there should be in any self-respecting book on cult cinema) and I was instantly taken with the huge picture of goddess Tura Satana using her martial arts expertise to throw a man to the ground whilst wearing a black catsuit and matching black gloves. ‘I need to see this film!’ I vowed.
The film centres around three go-go dancers Varla, Rosie and Billie. When they aren’t at work dancing erotically for their male patrons, they enjoy nothing more than driving their cars FAST in the desert. We see them play a game of chicken until a jock couple show up. A fight breaks out, resulting in Mr Jock (actual name Tommy) having his back broken by Varla. His girlfriend Linda is drugged and taken along for the ride. The three women next encounter a gas station and the people who run it including the owner who has been injured in a railway accident. Varla is told that apparently the compensation he received, as a result, is stashed somewhere on the premises. She decides to find out where so that she can steal the loot.
If this film plotline doesn’t sound like the most awesome you’ve ever read, you’re probably on the wrong website. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a film in which the women call the shots, the outsiders are shown to win (the scene in which Mr Jock is killed epitomises this) and all whilst the lead characters are kitted out in the best fashions EVER. It’s a world of karate chops, knock-out drops, flick knives and pure sleaze.
But there’s so much more to the film than just cult film goodness. It showed that marginal cinema could also constitute what the readers of Cashier Du Cinema would call *gulp* art. The film looks beautiful, as the home media releases have shown more and more over the years. Just like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with each new release and restoration, the film gleams more and more. Will we see Faster on Criterion someday? Let’s hope so.
The film also made a star of Tura Satana who would go on to epitomise cult cinema badass cool and clad in black rebellion. Satana’s back story is as larger than life as her role in Faster Pussycat, especially what prompted her to learn the martial arts she so effectively displays to great effect in the film. Satana would later become a major draw when she attended cult movie conventions later on in life.
Add to the mix one of the best theme songs ever (sung by the Bostweeds) which had the perfect endorsement- it was covered by The Cramps.
It’s also a film in which almost every line of dialogue is dynamite. Again, this reminds me of the best of John Waters with the example of his meisterwerk Female Trouble instantly springing to mind. Bloodsucking Freaks is another film that exemplifies this level of perfection when it comes to a genius screenplay. The script is so primed to perfection that the film hits every bullseye it aims for head-on.
It’s also one of the most influential cult films ever. If this movie was a stick of rock, it would have the film ‘CULT’ running through it. It’s as pivotal as Pink Flamingos (Faster Pussycat is one of John Waters’ favourite movies), Eraserhead and El Topo.
When I arrived to study Film at University in London, I saw that there was a retrospective of Meyer’s work showing at an art cinema in Piccadilly Circus. ‘Wow! Art cinemas are showing the bodies of work of my favourite cult directors here! Isn’t life great?!’ There were multiple screenings of all of his oeuvre but most screenings were devoted to Faster. It was during the first screening that I realised that it wasn’t an art cinema, however. Single guys would move from seat to seat after the lights would go down. It was only after a while that I fully grasped what was going on. This wasn’t an art cinema at all but a porno movie house. A guy even sat down next to me and tried to feel me up (‘Erm, excuse me, you’re making me miss one of the greatest films ever made!!!’)
Whilst on my Film course, I was undertaking (and it was an undertaking) a module called Images of American Women (!) There would be a presentation/seminar given by each of us at the end of each lecture on any film that we wanted to talk about that depicted, y’know, American Women. My classmates gave their presentations on such fare as Terminator 2 and Thelma and Louise. So far, so bland. I decided to give mine on Faster Pussycat and was all prepared with a handout consisting of photocopies of the pages from Shock Value by John Waters regarding what he thought of the film and clips to show including the opening of the film and then the clip in which Varla kills the jock. To show how Faster Pussycat was influential in wider popular culture, I showed some of the video for Say You’ll Be There by The Spice Girls in which they depict futuristic vixens in the desert. Faster Pussycat but with a sci-fi twist (and with music nowhere near as brilliant as The Bostweeds).
My classmates loved it. All except one (there’s always one). The new voice of dissent came from the girl who looked like she had a poker shoved halfway up her backside. The girl who played the cornet (!) in the Uni orchestra. The girl who I saw perusing the Alanis Morrissette official website in the computer room. ‘That film isn’t real life, though is it?!’ she scoffed. ‘No film is real life’, I replied. ‘But what I mean is that film isn’t real to life!’ she continued. ‘Can you let me know the name of a film that is just like your life?!’ I replied. There was then a very awkward silence that was shattered by Jane, an American lesbian and classmate who suddenly said to Lil Miss Cornet Player, ‘You chose Thelma and Louise for your presentation. Is going over a cliff in a Cadillac real life for you? Is that like your life?!’ And with the snorts and titters of laughter from others in the room, I closed my presentation.
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! will always be in my Top 10 films of all-time. If there was ever a more perfect film, I haven’t seen it yet.