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Gone Beyond The Valley of the Ultra-Vixens:
In Memory of Hollywood legend Russ Meyer
The world of cinema lost one of its most visible, and at times reviled, filmmakers when the legendary director Russ Meyer passed away on Saturday at the age of 82. Meyer had been suffering from dementia and died of complications from pneumonia.

Russell Albion Meyer was born in Oakland and by the age of 15 had already been recognized for his film work. During World War II, Meyer served in Europe as a cameraman and there is a long-standing belief that he shot some of the footage for John Huston’s legendary The Battle of San Pietro. He also supposedly visited his first whorehouse in France, brought there by Ernest Hemmingway. Meyer came back to the US and worked as a photographer, shooting many of the early centerfolds for Playboy. He also did some editing and made a couple of shorts.

He first came to the world’s attention for his first feature, The Immoral Mr. Teas, a softcore film that made more than a million dollars. In the days before Cinemax, it was almost impossible to get soft core films shown before Meyer came along and pushed the genre. He made several other shorts, almost all of which featured superbusty women and extreme moments of violent conflict. His ‘Gothic’ period, roughly 1963 to 1966, saw him make the films 'Lorna', 'Mudhoney', 'Motor Psycho', 'Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' . The latter of the four being Meyer’s best known work, featuring the amazing Tura Satana. He then made films such as Mondo Topless, which were basically yank flicks that paid the bills.

My favorite of Meyer’s periods was his work with two-time, two-time Miss Nude Universe Kitten Natividad. From UP! to her fine work in Meyer’s last regular feature Beneath the Valley of the UltraVixens, the Natividad and Meyer combo always worked for me.

Even though he was best known for his softcore work, he did get a fair amount of mainstream work, including directing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Twentieth Century Fox, actually lensing from Roger Ebert's only produced screenplay for that one. He did a couple of other films for Fox, though neither of them were nearly as Meyer as his first Fox feature.

The last twenty-five years had seen Meyer settle into a near reclusive retirement, though he still occasionally frequented the Playboy Mansion, hosted a series of Playboy videos called Voluptuous Vixens, and wrote and directed a couple of autobiographies.

One of my favorite stories is how Russ had been contacted by neo-fop and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren to write and direct a film starring the Pistols. Meyer gave the writing duties over to Ebert, who worked with McLaren to produce the script Who Killed Bambi?. Ebert claims that the project died when McLaren was unable to pay the electricians after a day and a half. McLaren says that the financier, Twentieth Century Fox, pulled their funding since they were in the ‘family entertainment’ business.

When I saw Meyer in one of his rare convention appearances in the mid-1990s, he was asked about why the production failed and answered “I don’t care, I still got paid!”

Chris Garcia

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