There aren't too many filmmakers who could be called a brilliant auteur and a smut peddler in the same sentence. But that's exactly what Russ Meyer was-a signature filmmaker with a unique style that was instantly recognizable, both for its incredible visual aesthetic and use of big-breasted women jiggling on the screen. Nobody made sexploitation films like Meyer, a maverick director who turned filming naked women into an art form.
Several books have been published about Meyer and his career, but none compares to Jimmy McDonough's
Recently released, McDonough's book is as big as the pendulous mammaries that came to define Meyer's work. In the book's introduction, Meyer's style is described as "a two-fisted, twin-missile attack, approaching filmmaking the way Buick once did cars: fatter curves, crazier fins, bigger headlights, more, more, more."
For die-hard Meyer fans, Big Bosoms and Square Jaws-the only two things Meyer claimed he needed to make an entertaining film-is required reading. But even those uninitiated in the fast-paced sexploitation world of Meyer should enjoy McDonough's exhaustive book, which paints a portrait of the filmmaker as a complicated man who catered to society's most basic desires.
And for those who've never seen one of Meyer's films, now is a great time to start-provided you're not offended by gratuitous nudity. Meyer started out with nudie movies like 1950's The French Peep Show , which are interesting, but not his best work. His work evolved into complex tales of sex and depravity in Small Town, U.S.A., with films like Supervixens (1975) and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979). But his best remembered works are his string of cult-classics from the mid-1960s to 1970, which include Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and 1970's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by film critic Roger Ebert). Far from the hardcore pornography it is often labeled as, Meyer's films are genius examples of cinematic style and technique, featuring a wonderful mix of photography, editing, sound effects and undulating buxom babes baring their boobs.
Jimmy McDonough will be reading at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St., 228-4651. 7:30 pm Friday, July 22. Free.
Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, King of the Sex Films
(Crown Publishers, 480 pages, $26.95).