Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is a 1965 American exploitation film directed by Russ Meyer and co-written by Meyer and Jack Moran. It follows three go-go dancers who embark on a spree of kidnapping and murder in the California desert.
|Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!|
Original release poster
|Directed by||Russ Meyer|
|Narrated by||John Furlong|
|Edited by||Russ Meyer|
|Distributed by||RM Films International|
|Box office||$36,122 (1995 US re-release only)|
The film is known for its violence, provocative gender roles, and eminently quotable "dialogue to shame Raymond Chandler". It is also remembered for the performance of star Tura Satana, whose character Richard Corliss called "the most honest, maybe the one honest, portrayal in the Meyer canon". Faster, Pussycat! was a commercial and critical failure upon its initial release, but it has since become widely regarded as an important and influential film.
Three wild, uninhibited go-go dancers—Billie, Rosie, and Varla, dance at a club before racing their sports cars across the California desert. They play a high-speed game of chicken on the salt flats and encounter a young couple, Tommy and Linda, out to run a time trial. After breaking Tommy's neck in a fight, Varla kidnaps and drugs Linda.
In a small desert town, they stop at a gas station where they see a wheelchair-bound old man and his muscular, dim-witted son. The gas station attendant tells the women that the old man was crippled in a railway accident, “going nuts" as a result, and that he received a large settlement of money that is hidden somewhere around his decrepit house in the desert. Intrigued, Varla hatches a scheme to rob the old man, and the three women follow him back to the ranch, with their captive in tow.
At the ranch they encounter the old man, his younger son (who they learn is called "The Vegetable" due to his feeblemindedness) and his elder son, Kirk. The group all have lunch together, and Billie taunts Rosie when Varla leaves with Kirk, hoping to seduce him into revealing the location of the money. Linda subsequently escapes the drunken Billie and runs away into the desert. The old man and the younger son pursue in their truck. The younger son catches Linda and seems about to assault her, but he collapses in tears as Varla and Kirk arrive. Kirk finally acknowledges his father’s lecherous nature and the old man’s hold over his younger brother, and he vows to have his younger brother institutionalized. He tries to take the hysterical Linda into town in the truck, but the old man says that he has thrown away the keys, and Kirk and Linda set out across the desert on foot.
Varla drives back to the house and tells Billie and Rosie that they should kill the men and the girl to cover up Linda’s kidnapping and the murder of her boyfriend. Billie refuses, but as she walks away, Varla throws a knife into her back just as the old man and his younger son arrive. Rosie and Varla hit the old man with their car, killing him and knocking over his wheelchair to reveal the money hidden inside. Rosie is stabbed and killed by the younger son while trying to retrieve the knife from Billie's body. Varla tries to ram him into a wall with her car, injuring him. She drives off in the truck and overtakes Kirk and Linda, chasing them into a gully. Varla and Kirk fight hand-to-hand. She gets the better of him until Linda hits her with the truck, and she dies. Kirk and Linda drive off together in the truck.
The film was a follow up to an earlier Meyer movie. "'We had just done a film called Motorpsycho, which was about three bad boys, and it had gone through the roof. So I said, 'Well, let's do one with three bad girls'."
The screenplay is credited to Jack Moran from an original story by Russ Meyer. The first draft was titled The Leather Girls and was written over a brief four-day period by Moran, who also collaborated with Meyer on Common Law Cabin and Good Morning and... Goodbye! The screenplay went through a second working title—The Mankillers—and had already begun production when the sound editor, Richard S. Brummer, came up with the now-immortal final title. Although neither Moran nor Meyer overtly cited any prior works as inspiration, the plot has been called a "loose remake of The Desperate Hours, or possibly The Virgin Spring" by one prominent film critic and a "pop-art setting of Aeschylus's Eumenides" by one classical scholar.
Haji had worked with Meyer on Motorpsycho. She recommended Tura Satana to him.
Lori Williams later said "Russ didn't want to hire me because he didn't think I had a big enough bust! I said I could use pushups in my bra, which I did. He didn't know whether it would work, but then in rehearsals he finally said okay. I kind of did my part like a cartoon, like the rest of the film, bigger than life."
The film began shooting at the Pussycat Club, a strip club in Van Nuys, before moving on to the California desert later that night. The film's early racing scene was shot on the dry salt flats of Lake Cunniback, the gas station scene was filmed in the town of Randsburg, and the scenes at the Old Man's house at Ollie Peche's Musical Wells Ranch outside the town of Mojave. During principal photography, the cast and crew stayed at the Adobe Motel in Johannesburg.
Meyer, who got his start making movies while serving in the US Army's 166th Signal Photographic Company during World War II, had a reputation for running strictly regimented film shoots with a small crew composed largely of former Army buddies. Actor Charles Napier, who appeared in five of Meyer's films, said that "Working with Russ Meyer was like being in the first wave landing in Normandy during World War II." Meyer considered the Faster, Pussycat! shoot no different, saying "It was the usual thing with me. It's like being in the military. Everybody has to get up and do their jobs to get things together, and that's it." Meyer's directorial style and the rules he imposed upon cast and crew caused clashes with his equally strong-willed star, Tura Satana.
There was also friction between Susan Bernard and her director and co-stars, much of which they attributed to the presence of her mother on the set (necessitated by Bernard's being a sixteen-year-old minor at the time). Bernard has said in interviews that she was truly scared of Satana, and some have thought that this contributed to her performance as a frightened kidnapping victim.
According to Satana,
Everybody [on set] did everything from moving props to marking scenery and marking spots where we had to be in the next take. I had to stage the fight scenes because nobody else knew how to do them, and so literally when I did the fight scenes, I really had to pick up each and every one of those guys and carry them through in order for them to look realistic. Basically I had to lay one guy on the floor because he was afraid he was going to get hurt. A lot of it actually had to be done in reverse, so try to imagine doing a fight scene that way.
The film's title song, "Faster Pussycat!", was performed by California band, the Bostweeds. The lyrics were written by Rick Jarrard and the music was written and sung by Lynn Ready, who formed the Bostweeds and sang leads. The track was never released commercially, but it did appear in February 1966 as a promotional-only 45 single without a B-side.
Reception and influence
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! premiered in Los Angeles on August 6, 1965. Atypically for a Meyer film, it was a box office failure upon its initial release.
It was generally dismissed as an exploitative "skin flick" by the few critics who took any note of it at all. John L. Wasserman of the San Francisco Chronicle, for example, reviewed a double bill of Faster, Pussycat! and Mudhoney in April 1966, saying that "Pussycat has the worst script ever written, and Mudhoney is the worst movie ever made."
In the years since, the film has been regarded more favorably, gaining in both commercial and critical stature. As of April 2015 it holds a "fresh" rating on film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with 73% (nineteen of twenty-six) critic reviews positive. In his review of the film's 1995 re-release, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars. Noted feminist film critic B. Ruby Rich said that when she first saw Faster, Pussycat! in the 1970s she "was absolutely outraged that [she had] been forced to watch this misogynist film that objectified women and that was really just short of soft-core porn." Upon viewing it again in the early 1990s, however, she "just loved it" and wrote a piece in The Village Voice reappraising the film and discussing her change in opinion.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is currently number 674 on the tenth edition of the often-referenced "1,000 Greatest Films" list and 377th on the Sight & Sound "Greatest Films Poll". It is frequently mentioned on lists of the best B movies and cult movies of all time.
The film has also been influential on other filmmakers. Writer-director John Waters stated in his book Shock Value that "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is, beyond a doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future." He later said on its re-release that "it ages like fine wine." Music video director Keir McFarlane acknowledged that a scene in the video for the Janet Jackson song "You Want This" was a direct homage to Faster, Pussycat!, showing the Porsche-driving singer and her female companions driving circles around two men in the desert. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino referenced the movie and thanked Meyer in the credits of his film Death Proof, and it was reported in Variety in 2008 that Tarantino was interested in remaking Faster, Pussycat!
In popular culture
- American glam metal band Faster Pussycat took their name from the film.
- Audio samples from the film are featured in four songs by metal band White Zombie on their third album, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1. The dialogue "You're all shook up, aren't you, baby?" and "I never try anything, I just do it. Wanna try me?" are used in the song "Thunder Kiss '65". "You're all shook up, aren't you, baby?" is also used in the song "Cosmic Monsters, Inc." and the line "Now let's move, but let's take the back door" in the song "Welcome to Planet Motherfucker/Psychoholic Slag". Another line, "I work on this baby the same way, trying to get maximum performance", is used in "Black Sunshine".
- The title of Daniel Clowes's graphic novel Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron is taken from a line in the film describing Varla.
- The film's title song, "Faster Pussycat!", has been covered several times, most notably by American punk band The Cramps on their 1983 live mini-album Smell of Female.
- In Quentin Tarantino's 2007 film Death Proof, the character Shanna is wearing a T-shirt featuring Tura Satana's character Varla with the words "BADASS CINEMA" underneath it. Meyer is also one of the directors Tarantino thanks in the end credits.
- A poster of the film is referenced in Amy Vincent's 2008 teen novel (under the pen name Claudia Grey) Evernight (at page 134) on the dorm room door of one of the supporting characters.
- The three main antagonist characters in John Lee's 2016 movie Pee-wee's Big Holiday were inspired by the film.
- The film's over-the-top title has become iconic and is frequently referenced or played upon in other popular culture:
- The 2008 song "Funplex" by The B-52's features the lyrics "Faster pussycat, thrill thrill", an allusion to the film's title.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Passion", Xander Harris encourages Buffy and the others to go after the vampire Angelus, saying "If Giles wants to go after the, uh, fiend that murdered his girlfriend, I say, 'Faster, pussycat, kill, kill'."
- An Itchy & Scratchy short entitled "Foster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" is shown in the Simpsons episode "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily".
- The title of the hit 2006 single "Faster Kill Pussycat" by Paul Oakenfold featuring Brittany Murphy is a play on the title of the film.
- The film is referenced by protagonist Max Caulfield in the 2015 game Life Is Strange.
- The music video for the Janet Jackson song "You Want This" from her self-titled 1993 album JANET (aka janet.) pays homage to the film even down to the video filmed in black and white.
- In the game The House of the Dead: Overkill for the Nintendo Wii, there's a character called Varla Guns, probably inspired in this movie.
- In the game Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, there is a mission titled "Faster Pusher Man! Sell! Sell!" wherein the protagonist is tasked with peddling cocaine for motorcycle club "The Angels of Death".
- The sixth episode of the CW's 2017 series Riverdale, "Faster Pussycats Kill Kill", is titled after the film, the plural variation in reference to the series' characters and band, Josie and the Pussycats.
The film Bitch Slap was inspired by the films of Russ Meyer, especially Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Much like this film, it follows three female characters who travel to a desert location to find a treasure. The film's opening and closing credits even have clips from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in a montage of clips from other B movies.
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- McDonough, Jimmy (2005). Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film (1st ed.). New York: Crown. pp. 162–163. ISBN 1-4000-5044-8.
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