Monday, 5 October 2015

Mondo Topless (4 Stars)

"It's my thing, I like aggressive women" (Russ Meyer, 1982).

This is the eighth film in the Russ Meyer Collection, made in 1966.

Evelyn Turner married Russ Meyer in 1952, after which she became better known as Eve Meyer. Their marriage lasted 14 years, but their business relationship lasted up until her death in a plane crash in 1977. Eve was the perfect partner for Russ, as far as business was concerned. Russ Meyer was an artist, a dreamer, someone who lived to create things of beauty. Eve's interest was in making money.

Russ Meyer's first few films were moderately successful. They allowed him a comfortable lifestyle. After that he turned his thoughts to serious film making. He made his Gothic Quartet, culminating in "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill". Despite their notoriety and popularity today, they were financial flops at the time they were released. Russ would have continued making films like them, but Eve saw things clearly. She told Russ, who was at that time living with the German actress Renate Hütte, that he had to do something to make money before he landed on the streets. That was the kick that Russ needed. He knew what to do. He said that if his good films didn't make money he'd make a piece of crud.

This piece of crud was "Mondo Topless". First he went into clubs in San Francisco to find topless dancers. He picked six dancers, then drove them into the desert to film them dancing. He interviewed them on their careers and their lives. Then he went back to the studio, mixed together the desert dances with the interviews, added a narrative spoken by his friend John Furlong, and the film was finished on a budget of $12,000. It was the right film at the right time. The piece of crud made millions, and Russ never had to worry about money again for the rest of his life. He could make the rest of the films in his career in comfort.

Russ hated "Mondo Topless". He never took it seriously. He made it because he thought audiences were stupid, and when they flocked into the cinemas to see it he knew he was right, the audiences really were stupid. I like it, so I must be stupid as well. I'm thankful to Russ for making this piece of crud, I'm thankful to his wife Eve for convincing him to make it, and I'm thankful to Russ for including it in the official Russ Meyer Collection.

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