The Bizarre Erotic World of ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’

Before the 1970’s rolled along and hardcore pornography found a home in adult theaters legally, the 1960’s birthed the extraordinary phenomenon of sexploitation: B-movies with generous amounts of sexually-tense situations, soft nudity and eroticism, poorly covered up with weak plots, bad acting and incredibly low budgets, usually shown in grindhouse theaters under different names: cuties, nudie-cuties, roughies, skin flicks...this is perhaps the most famous of mid-century exploitation cinema, and in retrospect, its titles hold a fascinating quality: audiences don’t revisit these films nowadays for the cleavage and sexuality, but the way it was displayed, wacky, cheesy and often quite surreal. Russ Meyer’s 1965 film, ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Is perhaps the most iconic of the subgenre, and even though it performed very poorly upon release, which was atypical of a Russ Meyer picture, its status grew exponentially over the years, and its influence can be easily seen all over modern pop culture, from John Waters to Quentin Tarantino, Meyer’s low-budget skin flick is quite literally immortal.

The story, if the film even has one, revolves around three strippers dancing semi-naked in the desert and racing around in their sports cars, when they meet up with a racer and his girlfriend racing around the clock to beat his best time. Varla (played by Tura Satana) challenges him to a race, beats him, and then kills him with her bare hands. The three ladies kidnap his girlfriend and keep her gagged until they run into a perverse old man’s farm, where he lives with his two sons and a lot of hidden money that he got as a settlement after an accident that turned him sexually perverse. Between the old man’s depraved intentions and Varla’s lust for his money, a series of violent killings ensue.

Shot with a very low budget of 45.000 dollars only, and in black and white to save money, ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ is hypnotic right from the start. It is everything the low-budget, skin flick B-movie promises and delivers in its cornily-narrated trailers: it is sex, rock n’ roll and plenty of action. Its opening sequences floods the viewer with fast images of the girls dancing, narration of what feels like an evil-infused erotica, and the memorable theme song by The Bostweeds, the film has an instant hypnotizing spell: provocative image after another, shot in the most curious angles, with a side of rock n’ roll instantly transports you into Meyer’s erotic feverish trance.

Trying to find meaning in a film that is originally meant as senseless entertainment may seem...meaningless, but very few of these films survive the test of time, and something as immortal as ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! surely has got to have something more than sex to gain this immense cult status. The film was meant as a follow up to Meyer’s own Motorpsycho, a film about three bad boys, which he wanted to remake into a film about three bad girls, but what he ended up making is something that completely switches the gender roles of the time. While most sexploitation films were rather perverse and violent in their subject matter, often used as petty excuses for male fantasies of dominance, ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! stages its heroines, especially Varla, as towering forces of nature. Sure, most people who saw it upon release were there for the cleavage and the girl fight scenes, but look at it now, and you see a power fantasy with a refreshingly different subject.

Tura Satana, in her revealing outfit and her scary make-up, is more intimidating than inviting. Whenever she is on screen, and she is on screen a lot, she is shot with a low-angle shot, a technique usually utilized to portray a character as dominant and mighty, and here, it is incredibly effective. A ruthless leader, a cold-blooded murderer, and down-right evil, her character is more awesome than despicable. The film’s supporting characters wane in comparison; a muscular, feeble-minded man, a typical elder sweet brother, and a perverse crippled old man seem weak against this incredible cataclysm of a person.

Bizarre dialogue, an even more bizarre chain of events, and plenty of violence and eroticism, shot in Russ Meyer’s style of frantically fast images, intercut endlessly to create an absolute feverish spell of a film, ‘Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!’ remains one of the very few sexploitation films worth revisiting and a little neat piece of pop culture whose influence can be felt everywhere.


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