Russ Meyer: Sexploitation's Godfather, Director Of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!

By | March 19, 2020

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Left: Russ Meyer in a publicity photo from the set of 'Cherry, Harry & Raquel (1970). Right: Poster art from 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' (1970). Source:

Director Russ Meyer, known for Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill! (1965), Mudhoney (1965), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, (1970) and a four Vixen movies, was a director who brought a high level of artistry to what were seen as cheap exploitation films at the time of their release, but his films were far from the low-grade "nudie" flicks that he was lumped in with. 

Jean-Luc Godard once said that all you need to make movie is a girl and a gun. Russ Meyer would agree, but his requirements for the girl in question involve actresses of mind boggling proportions.

He learned cinematography while serving in World War II and used sex as a way to make money and get distribution, not simply to titillate. Films like Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and Mudhoney are now viewed as expressions of a director working as his peak - four of his two dozen films reside in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Russ Meyer may have a been a dirty old man, but he knew what he liked.

Meyer grew up in the Depression with a domineering mother

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source: youtube

Oakland, California in 1922 was suffering in the depression of the early 1920s. That year saw the rate of business failures triple as workers from across North America traveled to California to find any kind of job. At the same time Meyer was born to a very intense woman who insisted on breast feeding him for three years. His father, a policeman, abandoned him and his mother before Russ was born so he clung to the woman he loved until she was institutionalized. When he was 14, his mother bought Meyer his first camera on her meager nurse’s wage. From that point on, all he cared about was making movies and making money.