A dizzy array of Dutch angles smack at the screen: flailing women, jukeboxes, slack-jawed, lust-drunk men shouting, “Go!” The movie’s just begun and already we’re whipped into a frenzy of disoriented erotic agitation. And then, just as suddenly, we’re somewhere in the Mojave Desert with our trio of Amazonian strippers, each piloting their own car, experience-hungry cowboys crossing a danger-tinged arid terrain in a convoy of convertibles instead of atop horses, feisty women, exotic-featured, some peculiarly accented, all of them shouty as hell, sexually aggressive, ass-kicking and greeting the world with mighty, mighty bosoms thrust forward.
Indeed, one could argue that Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), Russ Meyer’s memorably titled cult classic, is above all a devout study in tits. But there are in fact numerous, indiscriminate cheap thrills to be had—wrestling! racing! kidnapping! murder! voyeurism!—in this handsomely photographed exploitation flick, at once a work of absolutely shameless objectification and female empowerment, a heterosexual male fantasy of domination. Meyer’s world is populated with powerful (if morally aberrant) women and ineffectual men, such as the would-be speedster dork in the plaid shorts, inexplicably married to a hysterical girl in a bikini who looks about 14, the gas jockey who can’t find the hole, or the pervy old man in a wheelchair and his intellectually impaired rhinoceros of a son. None of these men survive their run-in with the strippers. The movie’s ruthless, high on its own depravity. The final scenes only go through the motions of instilling some sense of moral order. What’s the point? “The point is of no return,” declares Varla (Tura Satana), “and you just reached it!”
The Japanese-born Satana, whose own life could have supplied Meyer with a typically lurid scenario, clearly dominates Faster Pussycat! Partly because she’s simply the biggest and the scariest and the loudest thing in it, with her Himalayas of cleavage and her default approach to line readings, bulldozing her costars with great conviction and arms akimbo. She’s described by her girlfriend as “a velvet glove cast in iron” and by the movie’s least pathetic man, whom she seduces by teasing a corncob with her tongue, as “a beautiful animal.” On screen Satana, who died last year at the age of 72, was certainly both: a beauty and a beast, and Faster Pussycat! shows her at the peak of her singular powers.