September 22, 2004

HOW ABOUT A RETROSPECTIVE, HONEY?:

King of the funny skin flicks (ROGER EBERT, September 22, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times)

Russ Meyer is dead. The legendary independent director, who made exploitation films but was honored as an auteur, died Saturday at his home in the Hollywood Hills. He was 82, and had been suffering from dementia. The immediate cause of death was pneumonia, said Janice Cowart, a friend who supervised his care during his last years. She announced his death Tuesday.

Such bare facts hardly capture the zest of a colorful man who became a Hollywood icon. Meyer's "The Immoral Mr. Teas" (1959), hailed by the highbrow critic Leslie Fiedler as the funniest comedy of the year, created the skin flick genre, and after the box office success of his "Vixen" (1968) he was crowned "King of the Nudies" in a front-page profile in the Wall Street Journal. His "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (1970), for which I wrote the screenplay, represented the first foray into sexploitation by a major studio (20th Century Fox).

His films were X-rated but not pornographic. Meyer told me he had two reasons for avoiding hard-core: (1) "I want to play in regular theaters and keep the profits, instead of playing in porn theaters and doing business with the mob." (2) "Frankly, what goes on below the waist is visually not that entertaining." For Meyer, what went on above the waist was a lifelong fascination; he cheerfully affirmed his obsession with big breasts.

Meyer was the ultimate auteur. He not only directed his films, but could and often did write, photograph, edit and distribute them, and carried his own camera. In a genre known for sleazy sets and murky photography, Meyer's films were often shot outdoors in scenic desert and mountain locations, and his images were bright and crisp. He said his inspiration was Al Capp's "L'il Abner" comic strip, and his films were not erotic so much as funny, combining slapstick and parody. He once told me there was no such thing as a sex scene that couldn't be improved by cutaways to Demolition Derby or rocket launches.


More clinical isn't sexier.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 22, 2004 10:20 AM
Comments

I had the pleasure of meeting Meyer when he was promoting 'Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Vixens.'

He was real

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 22, 2004 9:46 PM
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