Thursday, July 23, 2015

Supervixens

Spoilers Within!

Say what you will about Russ Meyer, the man responsible for some of the cheekiest, most bitingly satiric, and most blush and groan inducing softcore of the 50s-70s, but you have to admit the man knew how to direct a movie.  Really had a handle on pacing, shot composition, transitions, and narrative drive.  His screenplays, which featured some unusually sharp dialogue for this disreputable genre, have musings on social and political issues with a bit more erudition than you'd typically find.   This was often due to film critic Roger Ebert's frequent collaboration (sometimes under a pseudonym, and who could blame him?).  The main draw for a Meyer movie were those impossibly buxom women and scene after scene of lascivious liasions, of course, but ol' Russ usually had it both ways - a merry plunge into carnality while meanwhile offering winking commentary on it.

1975's SUPERVIXENS is sometimes considered the CITIZEN KANE of sleazy drive-in sex romps.  Not entirely overstated.  It's a lengthy (for this genre), caustic, delirious adventure through the desert as hapless Clint Ramsey (Charles Pitt) tries to clear his name after a dirty cop named Harry Sledge (Meyer favorite Charles Napier) kills Clint's crazily oversexed, patently evil wife SuperAngel (Shari Eubank) and pins the murder on him.  Clint's journey involves several detours, each with a lusty female who also has the word "Super" in her name.

One cannot accuse Meyer of homogeneity with his women as several ethnicities are represented. One is even deaf!  All insatiably horny, true, but none (other than SuperAngel, but she's evil so it's O.K.) are mere victims.   In fact, female empowerment is a running motif here.  Or are they just manipulative?  What would Gloria Steinem have thought of this movie? Or even Erica Jong?  Were they familiar with the similar girrrl power on display in Meyer's FASTER PUSSYCAT KILL! KILL!??

That said, Meyer's films sometimes also include some potent violence.  BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, probably Meyer's best known work, had some such moments. SUPERVIXENS features a surprisingly gruesome death scene for SuperAngel in a bathroom at the hands of Harry, who was insulted due to his lack of potency.  The scene goes a bit far, too far, and further than such a mostly lighthearted film would be expected to.  But while many drive-in comedies that package sex and violence keep both fairly light, Meyer's violent scenes are relentless.  Is there more commentary here?  A sobering slap to the audience who are there to be simply be titillated? Is there some maturity in the director's strategy? Was Ebert an influence? Maybe, but there are many viewers who also crave this sort of red meat, and don't care if the tone of the picture is uneven.  And would miss/not care about any serious undercurrent.

But the silly Benny Hill type moments predominate in SUPERVIXENS, and Meyer always shows sex scenes for what they are - completely absurd.  Some of the outdoor unions are especially uproarious.  Ebert once said, "There's nothing as ridiculous as someone else's sexual fantasies and nothing as intriguing as your own." 

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