If Bosoms Could Kill

Max Sparber

Here it is, the greatest film ever made. Even the title is a masterpiece – Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! It is the sort of title exploitation filmmakers dream of. The title alone guarantees ticket sales, which, as any schlockmeister worth his salt will tell you, is the whole point of having a title. But there are many great titles in the world of exploitation filmmaking, particularly circa 1965, when Pussycat debuted. That year saw Herschel Gordon Lewis’s Color Me Blood Red (which featured this memorable snippet of dialogue: “Holy bananas! It’s a girl’s leg!”) and Edward D. Wood Jr.’s Orgy of the Dead, featuring television psychic Criswell as the Devil. Great titles, yes; Great films, oh, good Lord, no sir.

Pussycat, however, is great, from the moment the film opens on bug-eyed, sweating men in a go-go bar, howling at leggy dancers, crying out hoarsely as the narrator intones his mock-serious introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence.”

Of course, it is not violence we are about to see. Despite the film’s X-rating, despite its lurid sensationalism – which includes a handful of onscreen murders – an episode of The Jerry Springer Show features bloodier fisticuffs and shows more flesh than all of Pussycat. Writer/director Russ Meyer would tinker with vivid scenes of sex and violence in his later films – always cartoonishly, it should be mentioned; he favored women with wide hips and enormous, balloon-like bosoms, and, when showing male genitalia, had an odd habit of replacing the actual organs with two-foot-long prosthetics. But this is a tamer film from a simpler time.

Sure, the oversized women are here – and what a trio, consisting of the black-leather clad Tura Satana, the perpetually furious Haji, and the drunken, perpetually randy Lori Williams. They jiggle across the screen, pausing just long enough to break a man’s spine, kidnap a bimbette out of a car, and attempt to steal a fortune from an infirm old man and his enormous vegetable of a son – voila: the plot in entirety!

This trio of vixens – or ultravixens, as Meyer would have it – might be the naughtiest things ever to hit the screen, but they remain firmly encased in their peekaboo costumes. They reveal enough cleavage to cause an old man onscreen to ask “You girls a bunch of nudists or are you just short of clothes?”, but there is nary a nipple in sight. This isn’t pornography, at least as we know it today. This is tease. The film is brash and tough talking (“Oh, you’re cute,” one character declares, “like a velvet glove cast in iron!”), but strangely chaste. Anything that might raise a censor’s ire is kept discreetly offscreen, left to our own imagination, which might be the most dangerous place to leave it

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Rated X. Directed by Russ Meyer. Starring Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams. Showing Oct. 19 at the Oak Street Cinema, (612) 331-3134.