The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Film
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The unbridled Russ Meyer, who had only two things on his mind and built an original class of film work around them, is given a thorough, pulsing autopsy.

Meyer approached “filmmaking the way Buick once did cars: fatter curves, crazier fins, bigger headlights, more, more, more,” writes biographer McDonough (Shakey, 2003, etc.). Pneumatic women having it over stupid men, the great abyss between the sexes was bridged only at moments of depraved need. In guileless go-go-dancer documentaries, oversexed-housewife exposés and apocalyptic girl-group soap operas, Meyer gave sex a robust cheerfulness even when he was being mean-spirited and gothic, always without soul-searching. Meyer brought soft-core sex to the masses. Like most men on a mission, the Meyer painted by McDonough isn’t an easy customer, but, rather, bullying, manipulative, sneering, vindictive, with little loyalty to anyone but his beloved Army buddies and his mother. He was also the “jolly Mr. Blue-Collar Tit Lover” who knew enough to hire Roger Ebert as a screenwriter, though only after concocting the template of a new sex film: “ . . . it will be a morality play and we’ll borrow heavily from the Bible and I’ll find a girl with giant breasts.” McDonough is both expansive and sharp in describing Meyer’s work, its unapologetic celebration of the female figure, the vulgarity and unsubtlety, the passion and sadness of its world, both seductive and repulsive; he knows to pull out the stops when Meyer is exercising something akin to genius—in, for instance, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!—when to call him on his madness (Mondo Topless), when to suggest he’s on autopilot (Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers) and when to call it a day (Up!).

“I’m just some guy from Oakland living out my fantasies on film,” Meyer said, “foisting my personal tastes on the world.” Well, the world dug in and keeps on digging. (16 pp. b&w photo insert, not seen, unfortunately)

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-4000-5044-8
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2005