Gone Beyond The Valley of the Ultra-Vixens:
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.
In Memory of Hollywood legend Russ Meyer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!”