Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!- 1965
Starring-Tura Satana, Haji
Top 100 Films-#85
Reviewed May 28, 2016
Shamefully, this cult masterpiece from 1965 has somehow alluded me for many years- largely due to its unavailability on Netflix- head shaking for sure. Finally, I decided to simply buy the newly released Blu-Ray edition, and I have immediately become a huge fan of this Russ Meyer work of art. Influential and intriguing, it is no surprise it is a camp classic. Several famous directors, most notably Quentin Tarantino, have paid homage to this film in their own later works- most notably, Death Proof. Fast cars, sexy women, and murder represent this unique film.
In comparison to other famous Meyer works, specifically the gregarious yet brilliant Supervixens (1975), Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is almost understated and quiet. He also directed the well known Beyond The Valley of the Dolls from 1970. Shot in black and white, several notable comparisons to Supervixens must be pointed out: a hot California desert, large breasted women, and gas stations are prevalent throughout. Unlike Supervixens, though, there is little or no nudity.
Three go-go dancers race through the desert in their sports cars. They have murder and kidnapping on their minds. The ring-leader, Varla (Tura Satana) is a vicious, sexy, Asian woman. Her two side-kicks are Billie (Lori Williams), and Rosie (Haji). While Billie and Rosie squabble and fight in a juvenile fashion, Varla is the serious one. The trio enjoy racing their cars and engaging in the game “chicken”. When they meet all-American couple, Tommy and Linda, out for a romantic drive, they have a dispute, and end up killing Tommy- drugging and kidnapping Linda. After stopping for gas, Varla hatches a plot to steal money from a crazy old man, his muscular-yet dimwitted son (known as the Vegetable), and the old man’s seemingly normal son, Kirk.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a groundbreaking film as it is gender bending. The women are hardly written as sex objects like most in films of that day were-far from it. They are ferocious, specifically Varla, as they do typically masculine things- race cars, fight, kill, yet do not sacrifice any of their femininity. All three women are sexy, busty, and wear stylish make-up. They are not trying to be like men, but are tough girls. This is part of what makes the film so wonderful to watch. Usually in Hollywood, these characters would be molls to even rougher men, or supporting the men in some way. These female characters are the film.
My favorite character is Varla. Sexy, fierce, and a minority, how often is a female villain this charismatic? Perhaps in Bond films, but then she would be a conquest of Bond and not her own person. Varla makes up her own rules. The fact that she is Asian is superb and breaks many barriers in the way Asians are portrayed in film. Varla is more devious than the others characters- willing to kill anyone who stands in her way- even her own friends. She is a character written very well by Russ Meyer, and pure femme fatale.
The male supporting characters are interesting. The old man, actor Stuart Lancaster, would later appear in Supervixens. He is a cripple, wacky, and as diabolical as the women. He has designs on innocent Linda and makes no bones about it. The Vegetable is hunky and fresh faced- an innocent victim of his father’s evil ways, so he is a character we root for. I enjoyed the brief romance between he and Billie. Lastly, Kirk is the “normal” son, also a victim of his father. When he and Linda run across the desert while being chased by Varla, we root for them to survive.
The black and white style, chosen in order to save money, actually adds to the unique cinematography, with sharp edits, and gives the film mystique. The 1960’s jazzy score adds to the film as well. In color, I wonder if the film would have had a more cartoonish quality. The black and white moves Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! into art film territory.
The debate over the film is, “Is the film exploiting women or empowering them”? To me, the film is answering the question of whether women can be tough, sexy, and complicated with a resounding yes. All three principal characters are layered- each develops feelings for other characters, and at one point Rosie’s sexuality is questioned by Billie. Still, the female characters are not monsters nor are they caricatures. They are complex with real emotions.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is an influential art film/exploitation film that empowers female characters, questions gender categorizations, and takes hold of the viewer, never letting go. A miraculous representation of the changing times in cinema during the 1960’s. It is brilliant.