Dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as the ‘King Leer of Hollywood’, Meyer’s series of low-budget, and often howlingly funny, erotic features have influenced countless filmmakers, fashionistas, comic book artists, rock banks and even feminist writers.
Filmmakers who have acknowledged their debt to Meyer include John Landis director of The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London, and John Waters, the director of such trashy masterpieces as Serial Mom, Desperate Living, Pink Flamingos and Hairspray. Waters has famously said that Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! “is beyond a doubt the best film ever made, it is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future”.
Quentin Tarantino’s two Kill Bill films have shades of Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! in addition to their title, with both Uma Thurman’s and Darryl Hannah’s characters looking very much as though they would be right at home in the Californian desert with Lori Williams, Tura Satana and Haji.
Even The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and Mike Myers’ much-loved film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery pays homage to our Russ Meyer’s camp trash masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Meyer’s films have also been pillaged by the rock fraternity, inspiring countless songs:
Everyone’s favourite representations of girl power—no, not Tura and Haji but the Spice Girls—mimicked the originals in the film-clip for their pop tune “Say You’ll Be There”, and then there are the band names—New York Dolls, Faster Pussycat, Motorpsycho and Mudhoney to name a few.
The Sex Pistols were so impressed by Meyer’s work that they commissioned him (with renowned film critic and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls scriptwriter Roger Ebert) to bring their planned film debut to the screen (the project was abandoned by the Sex Pistols in true anarchic style when - legend has it - band manager Malcolm McLaren could not afford to pay anyone).
Thirty years on, Meyer’s films continue to engender debate, screening regularly on art-house circuits. Attracting attention and/or ire from feminists in the past, more recent commentators are willing to argue that Meyer’s leading ladies may be the ultimate feminist heroines