‘Wild Gals of the Naked West’ is a 1962 Russ Meyer comedy. Now most people think Meyer was a director who made cheap movies starring busty women. I would like to correct that assumption. Russ Meyer made very well crafted movies that starred busty women with a very small budget. He wasn’t Ed Wood. Russ was a man who cut his teeth making films of military battles while being shot at. Back in the states he did work for technical films. Russ Meyer is actually quite talented. Russ Meyer made profitable movies with a small budget because his skills as a cinematographer didn’t need a fancy budget.
And Buddha bless him, Russ Meyer loved big tits.
Having said that, ‘Wild Gals’ is a strange movie. It’s a live action cartoon that was shot in a ghost town for outdoor shots, and for the indoor shots he used single color sets with hand drawn backgrounds. Bugs Bunny could walk in the saloon and fit right in. The action is over the top and the characters are nameless caricatures of western characters. When other directors do this, it comes across as amateurish. When Russ does it, it comes across as a serious art project to create a live actor version of a dirty cartoon.
You wouldn’t know this at the start of the movie. It opens with a narrator explaining how deadly serious the West was. It’s a perfect Meyer monologue, filled with imagery of guns, sweat and hardship. Here’s just a snippet.
“The West is an old land, but it created a new era. An image that still a century later, lives in legend and fact. Recreated constantly but never as gloriously or terribly as it was.”
Pretty heavy stuffy for a comedy movie about horny topless women.
After the first narrator sets the tone for a serious grimy west, Narrator #2 enters the scene. He starts the actual movie by telling you how awful their town with no name was. There was gunfighting, there was drinking and there was all sorts of hot women around. Get used to his face because you’ll be seeing it every five minutes.
The actual movie doesn’t have a plot till the 40 minute mark. We spend most of the time seeing how bad this town was. Through a series of dialogue free skits, we watch men have fist fights and women walking around half naked. Guys behaved badly but the women were even worse. The central thrust of the movie was that the women were so bad, that they were often having sex with men for fun. Wow, just imagine how crazy that was for 1962.
It may seem like I am putting this movie down, but this weird world that Russ created where women were horny and men were drinking is like some sort of Softcore Utopia. Indians kidnap beautiful blondes and everyone is smiling. Horny prostitutes lasso men from their balcony and drag them up. A single fist fight goes on forever like teenagers imagine battles do. There are moments when I think Russ created a perfect vision of the West as imagined by 15 year old males who love breasts, but isn’t too sure about the messy details of sex itself.
Which is why I was sad when the plot arrived. A little man with a big gun comes into town. He’s an unstoppable wet blanket who cleans the town up, the asshole. In a soul crushing sequence of events, he frees the blonde from the Indian, cuts the lasso of the prostitutes and runs out the guys who push over outhouses.
What the fuck? He just got rid of everything that was good about the movie.
Don’t worry, Narrator #2 gives us a moral in case we missed it.
“There you have it mister, the bad town that turned good. This town plum died of goodness. No fighting, no fun-ing, no drinking, huh. Just like spoiling a good dog or horse.”
You are so wise, Narrator #2.
The most jarring thing about the movie is the frequent fast shots. The camera will go to breasts, then cut to a gun firing and then fast cut to a bizarre mask. The masks fucked with me as a viewer. Was I supposed to feel like I was having a nightmare? Were the masks designed to kill my erection? Was it supposed to scar me? I don’t know. These fast cuts happen frequently, never letting you relax into the movie.
The upshot is that every so often is an image that is painfully beautiful. You want to stop the chaotic rapid shots of the movie and just linger on a character who is just beautiful. Or course Russ keeps going, forcing you to be satisfied with your glimpses of beauty.
Like the saloon painting of a reclining female that is actually a reclining female.
Or the strip poker game with cards almost as big as the breasts.
‘Wild Gals of the Naked West’ is less of a movie and more of a hallucination. Filled with images and visual jokes, it floods your brain with conflicting stimuli. There were times when I wanted to commission art pieces based on single frames and there were times when I wanted to edit it down to half it’s length. Some critics have called it his worse movie and it may be, but even Russ’s worse is so filled with craftsmanship that it transcends a normal nudie movie into something worth watching.
I give it Two out of Five Pam Griers.