Recently Al Ewing and Sarah Peploe came into possession of a box set containing “18 uplifting classics” (end quote) from the cinematic oeuvre of Russ Meyer. Heedless of the consequences, they have taken it upon themselves to watch and review each of these in turn on a roughly one-per-week basis. This is part three.
DISCLAIMER DEPT: This is almost certainly NOT SAFE FOR WORK.
It’s a good six minutes before we see a single human being, which is no small feat considering in that time we have a full-scale Indian vs. Cowboy battle and a recreation of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Here’s a taste of the battle:
All done with quick-cuts between close-ups of various objects and swirling paint, to represent Native Americans because something something DON’T QUESTION ME DAMMIT I’M RUSS MEYER. Actually, this is our first real taste of what Meyer can do just by cutting and cutting and cutting – the impression is one of furious movement and balls-to-the-wall eventuation, even though we’re just getting clips of paint, swords and trombones as pictured above. Helped along by the kind of half-coherent Meyeresque spiel we’re well used to by now, this time flowing from the pen of Jack Moran. “Waiting in the crevices and rocks! Disguised by the nature that they loved and used as no other human could — was the painted red man! Ambushing the glory and silencing the trumpet blown too soon — and too loud!”
It’s a wonder we’ve not quoted some of this stuff before. Meanwhile, the furious OK Corral shootout, set up with a Brookside-esque establishing shot…
…is presented first-person shooter style as two cameras take turns to cower behind fences, punctuated by the sound of gunfire and spurs. Curse him, the tricky Earp is too clever to be seen! And so is Clanton! And Holliday! And everyone else! The West was known for its furious ninja combat. Finally one camera topples over onto the ground, dead – a terrible indictment of the camera-on-camera violence that raged throughout the Naked West.
Six minutes in, we meet this guy:
Scriptwriter Jack Moran, here taking an on-camera role as one of the plastic robot cowboys from Westworld, who, when bribed by the camera’s modern-day cigarettes – ‘cornsilk city smokes’ – proceeds to tell us the sorry tale of a town so poor that it couldn’t even afford backdrops:
This kind of trompe-l’oeil, or trompe-merde or whatever, comes up a lot, and it’s impossible to begrudge it of Meyer – for one thing, he doesn’t use it again until his late period, and never with quite this much verve, and for another, it works for the type of story he’s telling here. In that he isn’t telling a story, he’s making a kind of live-action cartoon featuring a bunch of running hem-hem ‘jokes’ that don’t so much run as stagger tearfully downstairs mumbling that they’ve had an accident. This makes the previous two films look like Noel Coward took a shit made of gold on the set of Morecambe and Wise and then Moliere wrote a play about it featuring Stephen Fry, Dave Allen and Biglaughs McFunnybones in the role of W.G. Fields.
It’s not very good, is what we’re trying to say.
Just a few of the rib-tickling side-splitters on display. Eventually, a stranger rides into town:
This sap is a clean-living type, as we’re reminded constantly. The narrator expresses shock that he lives ten minutes upon entering the den of infamy. He’s right to be concerned, as toilet gags were evidently more of a fatal proposition back in the day:
(The gag there is that two bad types have swapped the signs of the men’s and ladies rooms around, leading to women going into the men’s while a man is in there having a shit. Which leads not to embarrassment but instead to such mind-blowing sexual hi-jinks that the man is later carried out dead. I understand that was the plot of El Topo.)
By minute forty, we finally get someone’s name:
With the aid of his enormous phallic symbol, the primary-coloured Stranger shoots Snake’s clothes off before cleaning up the town by providing a resolution to all the gags that are still managing to limp forwards. Some of this stuff actually touches on the borders of being funny:
But mostly it’s just relief on the part of the viewer that all of this is being put to bed. We end with the old narrator threatening to play the whole damn film again before leaving us with a bit of homily about how folk need a little bit of badness in them for the good to work against. Then a woman turns up and the narrator runs off with her and LE FIN.
DESIGNATED SAP: Sammy Gilbert as the Stranger. Even when he discovers his manhood by way of a giant pistol barrel, he still insists on forgoing boot-knocking in favour of enforcing morality on the Naked West. He does eventually get his end away, via…
BECAUSE YOU CAN DIE THERE: …the wilderness! There’s plenty of desert here, but the most notable use of wilderness – apart from that weird upside down horse in a tree at the beginning – is as a sex montage. Here’s a gusher and a floating leaf.
OF ITS TIME: Gorilla suits.
FAMILIAR FACES: Frank Bolger’s back again, along with Anthony-James Ryan, in a role that we failed to spot. Notably, however, it’s our first sight of:
Princess Livingston. She’ll be back.
ONE-HIT-WONDERS: Sammy Gilbert, most notably, which is a shame as his morally-outraged expression is excellent. Also: Nate Schwantze, Barbara Baral, Arlyn Solomon, Rusty Taylor, Pegge Thomas and God only knows who else. It’d be easier to make a list of people who didn’t immediately swan-dive onto the scrapheap of Hollywood like a rat desperately escaping a haunted galleon.
BREAST COUNT: We lost count. Roughly… fourteen? Why not.
NEXT WEEK (or possibly later THIS WEEK): We’re out of running-gag territory and into actual serious tales of Hal Hopper making a face as we enter Meyer’s Gothic Period with… Lorna.