“Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to Violence.”
Thus states the opening line in Russ Meyer’s exploitation opus Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and it really couldn’t be said any better. There’s no screwing around here, no pretense for something greater than the sum of its parts. What you’re going to get are 3 bad-ass bitches raising hell and kicking ass, driving fast and talkin’ trash, and you couldn’t ask for anything more. There’s a reason Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is held in such high regard among cult film fans; it’s just that damn good.
Our wild ride begins when we meet the three Go-Go dancing Pussycats; Varla (Tura Satana) is unquestionably the leader of the pack, which really goes unsaid, but is quite apparent. She’s a tough-as-nails chick that will go to any extreme for thrills and to get what she wants. Rosie (Haji) is a bit more laid back, yet seems to be drawn to Varla and doesn’t put up much of a fight when it comes to doing her bidding. Finally we have Billie, the carefree and sexed-up member of the group, who seems to just tag along for the hell of it. She seems to follow the beat of her own drum, and doesn’t get along as well with Varla and Rosie as they do each other.
While out in the desert, racing around in their cars and drinking beers, the 3 girls run into a young couple who are racing their car to see if they can beat their best time. Varla see’s this as a complete waste of time, wondering why the young man only races against his best time, not other people. Varla persists on showing how tough she is, and ends up goading the young man to race. Varla isn’t above cheating to win, and this leads to an altercation between the two, with the man ending up dead at the hands of Varla. In fear of any consequences, Varla talks the other girls into drugging the man’s girlfriend and kidnapping her.
Where they’re headed is anyone’s guess, but when they stop at a gas station for a refill, the girls spy a crippled old man being carried by a muscle-bound hunk to a truck and pulling off. Intrigued by the son’s physique, they ask the gas station attendant who they are, and he tells them that they’re father and son, and along with another family member they live on a deserted farm a few miles up the road. He also spills the beans that they have a stash of money squirreled away up at the farm. This is all the information Varla needs to hear, and she makes a detour towards the farm to try and hatch a scheme to get to the money. This may not be the brightest idea however, with a kidnapped girl along for the ride. They’re also soon to find out that the family they’re about to try and rip-off may be just as twisted as they are.
While Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! certainly delivers the goods when it comes to giving guys something to ogle at (Tura Satana’s cleavage is one of God’s greatest gifts to man!), the film is really a love song to women and the power they can have. All of the men here are written in the most terrible of ways. The first man they kill avoids all confrontation, making him come off as a coward, and he’s single-handedly killed by a woman with her bare hands. Then there’s the crippled father, who is utterly lecherous and looking to fulfill some bizarre fantasy with young girls. Whether it’s to rape them or kill them (or both), we’re never quite sure, but whatever it is, it’s unflattering. The muscle-bound hunk of the film, the guy that would normally titillate, is a dummy, a man that is mentally-deficient, and is borderline retarded. Even the one “good” man in the film is painted as less of a man, choosing to walk away from situations rather than confront them, and in the end even he ends up being saved by a woman. Don’t let what anyone has told you in the past about this film being trashy and degrading to women fool you. This is probably one of the earliest films to fully focus on women, giving them the entire stage to show how empowered they are, and the three ladies can more than handle the job.
Tura Satana is without a doubt the star of the show, although an argument could definitely be made that her cleavage is the real star. Tura is in full control of every scene she’s in. You wouldn’t expect an exotic dancer to have such command of the screen, but she does. I suppose coming from an occupation where many times you have to act like you’re interested in leering, unattractive men in hopes of a couple bucks could very well be good training for acting. She goes from an evil, demanding bitch to an alluring, sex-talking seductress at the blink of an eye, and Tura is completely successful in pulling it off. Another plus for Tura is that she had trained in Karate and Aikido for years, making some of the fight scenes look a tad more realistic than they would have otherwise.
Making the performance all the more impressive is how convincingly she pulls off some of the most entertaining and kitsch dialogue I’ve ever heard. Some director that’s running around these days with the initials Q.T. could only hope to write dialogue as engaging as this. In fact, it’s really the dialogue alone that makes the film as risqué as it is. See, as much as director Russ Meyer was criticized for being a smut-peddler, there is no nudity to speak of in the film. It’s through the highly-stylized dialogue, which features many double entendres and hidden meanings, where the film cranks up the sexuality. There’s even a lesbian love affair in the film, which is at the most only implied. With the reputation Mr. Meyer has, you’d think we’d have full-on lesbian make-out sessions, but pretty much everything you see here is quite tame. It’s through the cleverly masked dialogue and a few script implications where the film steps into the sleazy territory that it's been so noted for over the years.
One other great choice taken with the film is the soundtrack. It’s of the “Swingin’ 60’s” variety, and sounds like it belongs more in a film like Beach Blanket Bingo than it does here. But it adds some serious flavor to the film, and firmly cements it as a product of its time. Many times, that’s not a good thing, but here it only adds to the already overwhelming charm of the film.
Russ Meyer really did create one of the seminal films of the exploitation genre, and his devotion to empowering women through film should be commended, whether everyone can truly understand it or not (and I think some ladies may just have some cleavage envy towards Varla). Sure, the film is much like a comic book, with everyone delivering over-the-top lines while the fierce super-heroines beat up the lame-duck villains, but I honestly can’t think of many other films, modern or otherwise, that focused so readily on how much a woman can kick ass. To quote one of Varla’s more excellent lines: “The point is of no return, and you’ve reached it!” Well, so has this review.
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