The very first words you hear in Faster Pussycat! Kill!... Kill! are: " Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence." Then the narrator clarifies that he is not welcoming you to just any form of violence, he is specifically welcoming you to sexy violence. "Let's examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care." This is writer / director Russ Meyer's way of warning the audience that he is about to pour a hot cup of fetishistic sex directly into your hungry eyeballs and if you don't want to get your face melted off then you'd better hit the road, jack.
That narration writes a big check and unfortunately, Faster Pussycat!'s ass can't quite cash it. Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of asses in this movie, because there are. Meyer was well known for his fetishes - there is a reason why his biography is called "Big Bosoms and Square Jaws" - and his camera loves to linger on the ample curves of the film's three central outlaws. And that isn't to say that there isn't a lot of violence in this movie - one man gets karate chopped to death, and another gets run over, and there are a few stabbings to boot. But Faster Pussycat! is a black and white film that is completely free of nudity and almost completely free of blood, so it can't help but feel a bit tame now.
I was honestly shocked by how quaint Faster Pussycat was. I knew that it was provocative when it came out, and it does have all the obvious hallmarks of pornography: the actors (men and women alike) were clearly chosen for their looks over their acting ability; most of the action is shot from low angles in an attempt to emphasize the actress' cleavage; and most importantly, the plot is a total afterthought. (Faster Pussycat! is theoretically about three women who are trying to steal an old man's secret stash of cash, but they get distracted every time they see a whiskey bottle or a shirtless stud; there is a lot more rolling in the hay than there is heistin'.) But despite all those titillating elements the movie never manages to feel erotic - all of its PG-rated strip-teases are campier than they are carnal.
Faster Pussycat! was made in 1965, around the time when a pop song about public hand-holding was still considered controversial, and it just can't compete with modern lowbrow entertainments. For example, the other day I stumbled across a clip from a show called "Sex Sent Me to the ER" where a woman who is wearing nothing but helium balloons is told by a doctor that she is pregnant. Now, I personally found that clip to be upsetting, but that was more due to its surreality than its sexuality; it has been so long since I've watched television on any sort of regular basis that my intellectual immune system can no longer effectively defend itself against the lowest common denominator inanity of reality television.
However, the average American probably wouldn't have even blinked at that clip - I suspect that they've been inundated with such sights so many times that they've began to seem normal. The fact is that a basic cable program that presents a nearly naked woman in an openly sexual context is neither notable nor questionable in our culture anymore; how could it be, when every show, regardless of how sexual or asexual it is, gets regularly interrupted by provocative commercials? So a film like Faster Pussycat! which suggests titillation more than it actually indulges in it - well, it doesn't stand a chance. It is a Playboy in a Hustler world - and actually even less than that, because Playboy at least gives you nipples.
Which is not to say that Faster Pussycat! is completely charmless. Some of its dialogue is still funny - (Tommy: " Look, I don't know what the hell your point is, but..." Varla: "The point is of no return and you've reached it!") - and attractive women are still attractive even when they are fully clothed. But I don't want to lay too much blame at this movies feet for the disconnect between its intentions and its actuality; obviously Russ Meyer could not have predicted just how perverted our culture at large eventually become.
So, instead of kicking Faster Pussycat! while it was down I thought I would instead take a minute to celebrate it's spirit. So without further ado, here are a few haikus that try marry classic craftsmanship with lowbrow content:
Infamous sex film
Wall to wall with boobies but
Sadly... Nippleess :(
Fast cars and fast chicks
Both have curves, raw power and
Bad gas mileage
She grabs the whiskey
A true outlaw for two drinks
Then oddly sleep comes?
Fun till they melt your face off
Be safe; wear goggles
Listen up cheetah:
Yeah you run real fast but your
Slay time? Still too slow