NEW YORK CITY MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN:
It's 9:00 PM, and I'm seated, not surprisingly, in a predominantly male audience to see a vintage 1965 Russ Meyer exploitation film--with respect to its influence on fashion. Hell has indeed frozen over:
Three go-go dancers (Tura Satana; Haji; Lori Williams) cut loose in the Mojave Desert, behind the wheels of some very cool cars. And, since they are dancers of the Californian persuasion, their clothes are stylish and just bordering on 1960s mod: crop tops; hip-hugger pants; what we now call skinny jeans; knee high boots and so much more. These go-go girls have got it going on, style-wise.
Alas, they, especially their leader (Tura), are a tad violent. This is nicely explained by the narrator in the first few moments of the clip below. This exploitation movie has a Mission Statement. It just gets better and better...
This film's sexuality is primarily verbal innuendo and dependent upon stilted and campy dialogue. Haji's character has a crush on Satana's but all we see are her disappointed, jealous glances. The most endearing of the three, Lori Williams, below, is the blonde cheerleader type, and the other two have little patience with her.
|Lori Williams in crop top, belted shorts and knee-high boots|
In this original film poster, (the late) Tura Satana demonstrates her killer instinct after the girls meet up with a young man and his girlfriend.
The violence is explicit and gratuitous. Satana's character is a cigarillo smoking, leather gloved, tough girl who literally, takes no prisoners--excepting the hapless girlfriend, because she is a witness to Tura's crime.
|Poster featuring Tura Satana and hyping female violence|
At a gas station in the desert, the girls hear of a nasty old man in a wheelchair, who reportedly has a lot of money hidden on his property. Satana's character sees this as a golden opportunity and off they go.
|The beautiful Tura Satana, who passed away earlier this year|
They discover that the man has two sons, one of whom is referred to as "Vegetable", seemingly the result of some trauma involving the nature of the departure of his mother. Vegetable has a buff, body builder physique but the mind of a child.
|From left to right: Russ Meyer's Porsche; Haji and Lori Williams|
The old man has his own agenda, lusting after the girls' hostage, (played by Susan Bernard) who is frequently sedated by Satana. Still, she eludes Lori Williams, her keeper, often enough for the prerequisite shots of her running through the Mojave in a two piece swimsuit.
|Artist Josh Agle's rendition of the film|
The other son catches the eye of Satana, and, there is an awkward sexual encounter between the two. Tura's far more interested in finding the hard, cold cash purportedly hidden on site.
|Smiles as bright as the Mojave sun, and draped across the boss's car|
Once the money is discovered, the film draws to a violent and unexpected, if somewhat justified, conclusion.
|Never too busy for a little cheerleading practice|
To say that this movie has a cult following is an understatement. As with "Rocky Horror..", people rhyme off dialogue, know the cars, own several prints, have been to midnight screenings and utterly worship the late Tura Satana.
The wardrobe was oddly fashion-forward for 1965, as was the hair and make-up. As exploitation and other Russ Meyer films go, it deserves its status. The location shots, the fast cars, and the campy humour make it an eminently watchable movie--even after all these years.
VANITY FAIR'S FASHION IN FILM
September 9 -11, 2011
Museum of Arts and Design
New York City
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