"This is my happening and it freaks me out!"
Which movie do you know that line from? Think it's from the first "Austin Powers"? Nope, he cribbed it from a script by film critic Roger Ebert. And Ebert crafted his screenplay at the end of the 1960s collaborating with one of his most favorite filmmakers, Russ Meyer in a big-budget Fox spectacle that finally gets the DVD treatment it deserves.
"Beyond The Valley of the Dolls" hit stores this week, loaded with commentary from Ebert as well as the stars of this very influential cult classic and several new documentaries which make it a must own for true film buffs.
Austin uses the line when he enters the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club - it was a line from BVD which the actor hated saying. Also, the tune "Incense and Peppermints" by the Strawberry Alarm Clock is playing, and that same band was actually in the scene in BVD when the line is spoken.
And while Ebert's work is exceptionally funny as is the BVD movie, the real genius for the movie is Russ Meyer. Meyer had a rep in the early 60s as That Guy Who Made Nudie Movies, but Meyer truly was a master and BVD is the best place to start your adventure with him. Without Meyer (Russ, not the actor who played Austin and no, no relation) there would never have been a John Waters, a "Rocky Horror", or the rapid edit style of MTV or the tounge-in-cheek Tarantino. Yeah, baby, yeah!!!
The studio got this hilarious send-up of Hollywood from Meyers under budget and under schedule and had no idea how to market the satire of the wild and the groovy and ultra-hip. The preview they made is a mash-up madness with some of the strangest all-time rambling announcer lines I've ever heard. The audience got it though, and the movie made ten times what it cost to make on it's first release and became even more popular with time. As for that preview, check it out below.
It is tough to make an easy label for this movie - an all-girl rock band goes to L.A. in a smarmy soap opera satire, is immersed in the most bizarre cult of personality and fame and fortune (yeah, the one that's still there cranking out Weird at high volumes) and encounters all the horrors of the hedonist life.
The stars from the movie are touring together for midnight showings of the movie to promote the DVD and RetroCrush has great interviews with them all here.
In Ebert's DVD comments, he says that the actors were pretty confused too - was this a comedy or not. He spent meticulous time with the actors, telling them how to play the scenes with all the backstory and emotional hoo-ha and to do it with a straight face. He would add the comedy, he said, thru the music and the editing. He does. When a beheading occurs you hear the 20th-Century Fox theme, and he also was the first director to blend in Wagner's opera just as Looney Tunes used much classical music the make their cartoons hilarious.
Also out on DVD in the US finally is the first classic from Meyer, a 1965 movie so bad and hot and wild the title still provides names today for rock bands and rock songs: "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!". Gotta love that title. And the ad lines from the poster: "Filmed in Glorious Black and Blue!" "Belted, Booted and Buckled!!"
This comedy action crazy adventure is made most memorable by the star, Tura Satana - who as a young Japanese girl in America was held in an interment camp as a child with her parents, endured the horrors of rape at age 9 and then life in the girl gangs, dated Elvis, danced burlesque and found much fame from the movie. RetroCrush has a killer interview here.
I was lucky enough to catch the movie on the big screen at the Downtown West when it was re-released in 1995 and laughed myself silly. It's like Mystery Science Theatre and David Lynch made "Thelma and Louise" with the dialog of Ed Wood. Have to see it to believe it and you'll have to go to the late, great Russ Meyer page to order the DVD.
Ah, the 1960s - ultra groovy times indeed. This week I found another wild take on relationships, this time on the Moon with a crazy cast - Dick Shawn, Dennis Weaver, Connie Stevens, Anita Ekberg, Howard Morris (better known as Ernest T Bass ala Andy Griffith), plus cameos by James Brolin and Linda Harrison (soon to be Charlton Heston's girlfriend in "Planet of the Apes") and starring Jerry Lewis.
Yes, that Jerry Lewis. The movie is "Way ... Way, Out!"
A Cold War sci-fi sex comedy with Jerry Lewis ... sorta leaves any sane person speechless. Sadly no DVD on this one yet, look for it on the movie channels, and I'm one of maybe three people who like the oddity. The director was Gordon Douglas, who made the classic sci-fi "Them!" (and how come they don't put exclamation points in movie titles anymore?), and another classic groovy flick from the 60s, "In Like Flint" plus countless westerns and action films, including a trio of movies with Frank Sinatra as a private detective.
Finally this week a big thanks to GAC at Atomic Tumor for her post on Asian Cinema with some fine selections to consider and where I was allowed to ramble endlessly on the topic and probably killed the conversation.
I'll do that.