Sad news to report: Haji, one of the “Faster Pussycat” stars, has died…
Here’s the writeup from PEOPLE online:
“Her Double-D Avenger costar Kitten Natividad shared the news of her passing on her Facebook page on Saturday. No cause of death was given.
The voluptuous raven-haired actress best known for her role as Rosie in the 1965 Russ Meyer film was born Barbarella Catton in Quebec City and was an exotic dancer at the age of 14 before moving to California and working as a performer in a topless bar, where she was discovered by the director (a former Playboy photographer).
“I was dancing at a nightclub and someone sent Russ to see me,” Haji recalled in a 2005 interview. [He] said he was a director with a small part in a film, and would I read for it … [I] ended up getting the lead. This terrified me. Before I had never even considered acting.”
In addition to playing one of his go-go dancing vixens, Haji also helped the director behind the scenes as a casting director and production assistant.
She went on to star in four more of his sexploitation films, including 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which was written by the movie critic Roger Ebert, who died this year. (Meyer died in 2004).
Her career tapered off in the 1970s, but she returned to acting in The Double-D Avenger in 2001, and followed it up two years later with a role in Killer Drag Queens on Dope, as a character named Moonji.
Let’s celebrate Haji with a look at the legendary Director who put her in one of exploitation’s most iconic films!
Russ Meyer Lives!
Let’s face it, you either know who Russ Meyer is – or you SHOULD know who Russ Meyer is –
Why? Because in the annals of exploitation movie making, you have missed out on the greatest filmmaker of sexploitation ever! He was a truly unique filmmaker with a singular vision, and a particular obsession!
If you are offended by good, old-fashioned sex and violence, then this post isn’t for you, If you are, then you should try out a couple of these sexploitation classics!
FYI: This is not meant to be a bio of the man – for that, go to his terrific website and dig in: http://www.rmfilms.com
This also isn’t an exhaustive look at his movies – I didn’t include “Cherry, Harry & Raquel” OR “The Immoral Mr. Teas”, for example – I have to leave SOMETHING for you to do on your own! I wanted to give you a few places to dip into the world of Russ Meyer…
The official Russ Meyer website is your chance to see all of his movies – and to own some of the wildest, funniest, and in many ways, MOST INNOCENT films of the exploitation era. For all that you can accuse Russ Meyer of, hating women wasn’t one of them!
Russ Meyer LOVED empowered women. His actresses are tough as nails, and ready to kick some serious butt! Russ Meyer celebrated a world consisting of idiotic men, tough women, large breasts, and wild antics!
Oh, and did I say large breasts? Don’t blame me – Russ Meyer’s Autobiography is called “A Clean Breast”!
A Clean Breast : The Life and Loves of Russ Meyer (3 Volume Set)
Russ Meyer’s long-awaited autobiography shipped in August 2000 -an immense, 18-pound, 3-volume set that is nearly as stupendous as the magnificently endowed actresses who have helped make Meyer’s films legendary.
Narrator: [opening narration] Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains… sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let’s examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don’t drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist… or a dancer in a go-go club!
LET’S FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS “RAPACIOUS NEW BREED!”
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – 1965. In 1965, Meyer unleashed one of the most iconic movie titles ever!
This was a movie that introduced the classic exploitation promise: action, women and sex sex sex! The plot line was simple: Three strippers seeking thrills encounter a young couple in the desert. After dispatching the boyfriend, they take the girl hostage and begin scheming on a crippled old man living with his two sons in the desert, reputedly hiding a tidy sum of cash.
MEET TURA SATANA!
It wasn’t just the title that was iconic – Meyer also introduced the world to one of the coolest, most iconic sexploitation stars of all time!
Satana’s most noted screen role was as Varla –a very aggressive and sexual female character – and a role in which she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes.
Renowned film critic Richard Corliss called her performance “…the most honest, maybe the one honest portrayal in the Meyer canon and certainly the scariest.”
And look at this image: so timelessly COOL…
You can actually buy “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! T-shirts – even lunch boxes! Russ Meyer named the movie like this because he claims that a movie has everything when it contains speed (faster), sex (pussycat) and violence (kill,kill). Who can argue with THAT?
RUSS MEYERS STRIKES GOLD WITH HIS “VIXENS!”
THE “VIXEN” TRILOGY! – Vixens / Super Vixens / Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens
It’s easy to see why “Vixen!” is one of the late Russ Meyer’s more popular movies, with one of those reasons being Erika Gavin. Gavin, as the libidinous title character, seems to be having a great time frolicking through this movie, mounting Canadian mounties, sexually teasing her biker brother or seducing the young couple who stay at the mountain lodge she and her pilot husband operate.
As you can see from the posters here, Meyer was a master at selling sex – even though these were never hardcore films…
Meyer never did hardcore, and the sex in this one isn’t as explicit as in some of his later ’70s films (“Up” and “Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens” – when pressure from the exploding XXX business was making it more difficult to compete for audiences, who had grown used to seeing EVERYTHING.
Russ Meyer once again airs his obsessions with huge breasts, violent revenge and escaped Nazi war criminal Martin Bormann in this highly perverse sex comedy/action thriller. Clint (Charles Pitts) is working at a gas station (run by none other than Martin Bormann, who was working as a bartender in Meyer’s “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” when his wife is brutally murdered by Harry Sledge (Charles Napier), a cop with a deeply sadistic streak.
“Supervixens” was another chapter in the crazy, anything goes world of movie making that was the Russ Meyer way. This film takes its time to find a storyline, but when it does, it involves dynamite, revenge, and a crazy psychotic cop…but it did introduce America to Shari Eubank…
Shari did a very good job in a movie that called for her to be naked, beaten, and screaming for most of the film’s running time…but it was, after all, a Russ Meyer film…
But even as “Supervixens” was making money, the industry was changing in a way that would spell the end for Meyer…
BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRAVIXENS! 1979
This was to be the last theatrical film release by Meyer. But he, as they say, “went out with a bang!”
Like most of cult director Russ Meyer’s later films, his final ode to the superhuman bosom largely dispenses with plot in favor of episodic sexual sight-gags. The ostensible storyline, narrated by Stuart Lancaster in hilarious deadpan style, deals with the bedroom hijinx of small-town America — in this case the fictitious community of Rio Dio, Texas. Junkyard worker Lamar Shedd (Ken Kerr) is in trouble with his sexually ravenous wife Lavonia (Francesca “Kitten” Natividad) because he can only achieve satisfaction through unconventional openings. While Lavonia proceeds to bed down the local garbageman (Pat Wright) and others with more standard tastes, Lamar is put through a series of increasingly silly “cures,” including a visit to a chainsaw-wielding gay dentist (Robert Pearson). Eventually, a radio faith-healer with enormous breasts (Anne Marie) gets him back on the right track.
This was a time when hardcore pornography made movies like this obsolete, as downtown grindhouses could show everything, making softcore films unnecessary. The rise of home video soon after killed this type of movie forever.
As this international poster shows, these were selling comedy, larger-than-life situations, and an innocent good time…let’s take a look at one of the early Meyer films – a movie that sold sordid good times in an era when such things weren’t shown onscreen…
Mudhoney. 1965. Here is one of Russ Meyer’s early films, at a time when films like this were shown in the seediest theaters in the worst neighborhoods..
Here is what IMDB had to say about the film: “It’s 1933, in the midst of the Depression and Prohibition. Calif, a stranger with a past walks into Spooner, Missouri on his way from Michigan to California. He hires on with Lute Wade to earn some traveling money, but gets entangled in a bad family situation: Lute’s daughter is married to Sidney, a good-for-nothing drunk that frequents the rural equivalent of a whorehouse and beats his wife and is just waiting for Lute to kick the bucket to get his money.”
Sidney Brenshaw: Hanna eh? Look’s like Maggie Marie was right. You taking a shine to my woman boy? [laughs]
Sidney Brenshaw: Well damned if you aren’t. So that’s way you come busting into her room the other night like some little old fanny roaster. You’re sniffing after her aren’t ya boy? Answer me! ANSWER ME! So you got a yearning after my woman eh? Well boy you go ahead and do what you can with her, you’re wasting you time. Anna gets riled with me and she hates a lot of things that I do but she’s MY woman boy, my woman, and do you know why? Because she needs a MAN, a REAL man not some gutless boy. [laughs]
This was very adult stuff for 1965…and yet, look at what Meyer was up to just a decade later…
Russ Meyer pushed the envelope once again, trying to stay current at a time when hardcore pornography was taking over the sexploitation business. He did so with a twisted sense of humor, and of course, his “Up! beauties…
Here is the writeup from IMDB: This kicks off with the murder of one Adolf Schwartz (who bears a striking resemblance to another famous Adolf) by placing a ravenous piranha fish in his bathtub. Who did it? No-one knows or cares, as they’re too busy being distracted by busty Margo Winchester, who hitch-hikes into# town and gets involved with all the local men.
It all ends with a series of complicated plot twists that reveal that just about everyone is really someone else. And if it gets too confusing, Russ Meyer helpfully arranges for a one- woman nude Greek chorus to pop up at intervals to explain what’s going on.
Of all the movies Russ Meyer made, this is perhaps the most unusual:
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls – 1970.
When three female rock’n’rollers travel to Hollywood to claim an inheritance, they meet up with a kinky music promoter who turns them on to a whole new scene. At first, all seems very exciting and the naïve trio becomes submerged in his dangerous tinseltown underworld-before they discover his true motives.
Yes, this is the legendary sequel to / and satire of “Valley Of The Dolls”, scripted by Roger Ebert! And X-rated when it was released! The DVD special edition calls it “A rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza of ample proportions!
What a classic idea – take a hit movie “Valley Of The Dolls”, and turn the sequel over to the legendary exploitation king! Look at what is offered on the deluxe DVD:
Commentary by screenwriter and film critic Roger Ebert
Commentary by cast members Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, John La Zar and Erica Gavin
“Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy” documentary
“Look on up at the Bottom: The Music of Dolls” featurette
“The Best of Beyond” featurette
“Sex, Drugs, Music and Murder: Signs of the Times, Baby!” featurette
“Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene” featurette
Actor screen tests
For me, this movie isn’t as satisfying as some of his others – perhaps it’s because he was trying to live up to an iconic title that wasn’t his own…and I’m sure many people will disagree with me on this…but either way, it’s a very unique accomplishment…
Here you go, a number of ways to experience Russ Meyer – enjoy!