Mar 062009
 


‘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.

Jan 302009
 

‘The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak’ might be the best looking movie you have ever snubbed. Released in 1984 and starring the adorable-even-when-she’s-whiney, Tawny Kitaen, this sexploitation pulp movie should be awful but yet it keeps offering visual delights and strange plot twists that keeps your finger away from the fast forward button.

The plot is a classic pulp-peril frame that continuously jeopardizes Gwendoline and her really cute maid/sidekick, Beth. Gwen and Beth frequently get captured, stripped a little and then rescued so that they can be captured again. Gwen is looking for her missing father who went into the most dangerous parts of well, it may be China but they never really say. He’s searching for a rare butterfly and if you pay attention, you’ll spot a lot of hidden butterfly imagery. The two girls are completely out of their league and get captured in the first five minutes of the movie. This is why Gwen recruits a scoundrel boat captain who goes by the unflattering name of Willard.

Let me take a moment to talk about Willard. Liar, gambler and complete asshole, Willard is the romantic lead in this movie. He bitches about the dangerous journey, taunts Gwen at every opportunity and proves his worthiness by the occasional ass kicking of bad guys. His delivery has less to do with being cool as much as he just seeks to belittle everyone. When he smacktalks the villain near the end of the movie, you almost sympathize with the villain’s incredulous response to the fearless idiot. He’s not a dashing rogue, he’s your annoying kid brother living out his action hero fantasy. He’s almost a parody of an action hero and maybe that’s why he ultimately grew on me. When you watch a movie with hard to beleive scenes, sometimes it helps to have a character who is just as annoyed as you are.

What saves this movie is the scenery. Every so often a set piece comes on the screen that looks like a painting from a pulp magazine. The gambling hall where Willard is feeling up prostitutes with the chief of police is gorgeous. The crappy boat Willard drives is scuzzy and float worthy in the way that only pulp boats can be. Fran├žois Schuiten was the graphic designer for the movie and his background as a comic artist really shines through. There’s a superior quality to everything that elevates this movie beyond it’s sexploitation roots.

The later half of the movie is when things really accelerate. While looking for the butterfly, Gwen and her friends stumble upon an underground female dominated civilization with super science, bondage and freaky leather costumes. Willard is captured and a tournament is arranged to determine which warrior woman will earn the right to mate with him, while fiendish tortures and deaths are planned for Gwen and Beth. Stripping, bondage and scary sex games ensue.

Hey, someone mixed a BDSM Dystopia with my Pulp Peril movie! How will these two tastes taste together?

Pretty awesome I have to say.

There’s an evil queen and a sniveling male scientist and a shit load of leather clad warrior women but the important thing is that the fun never stops. Just when you get used to the idea of a crossbow aimed at a woman who holds the trigger rope in her mouth, then you have to deal with a chase scene where everyone is driving chariots pulled by women slaves. The plot goes over the top and then stays there; shouting abuse at your poor sensibilities on what a sexploitation film should be like.

Is there a happy ending to this movie?

Yes.

‘The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak’ is not a great movie but it is a unique movie. The mix of nudity, bondage, adventure, domination and science fiction is pretty damn rare to find in movies. The production values dwarf anything you’ll see on SciFi Channel.

I give it 5 out of 5 Pam Griers.