Russ Meyer – The Father of Sexploitation
Though he’s the father of the sexploitation film, Russ Meyer’s work is ensconced in an era of innocence. He was the pioneer of a time when sex was portrayed in a more fun, play- ful, and wholesome manner. Before his death in 2004, Meyer said, “I started photographing the female body so it was sexually alluring. I tried to capture the sensual eroticism of the female form, the sexual tone…their protuber- ant qualities.” At the cusp of the millennium he voiced his disinterest in photographs and films that employed cosmetically enhanced models, and ridiculed them for leaving too little to the imagination.
Meyer was an auteur who captured the shapely starlet in all her glory. He championed a female archetype in a way that garnered him a reputation as the king of soft-core. Subse- quently, his work was a cinematic incantation of women in control, cheerfully waving their sexual potency as a weapon. Cult classics like
“Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” “Beyond the Val- ley of the Dolls,” and “Supervixens” have in- spired countless knockoffs and remain iconic visions of coquettishness, American lampoon, and bubbly bosom beauty.
During World War II, at the age of 19, Meyer cut his teeth in the film industry as a combat cameraman. He spent most of his time em- bedded in France and Germany and, looking back, later described it as the greatest experi- ence of his life. “As a young soldier in France, I met Ernest Hemingway.” Meyer once said.
“He took me to my first whorehouse, where I lost my virginity.” From thenceforth, Meyer shined. After the war he moved to Oakland and started shooting nudie stills for Playboy.
Nearly half a decade later, when these works were unearthed for an exhibition in California, the photos exuded a sense of decorum that pervaded the 1950s and ’60s and seems to have been all but lost today.
However, in December, one of Meyer’s clas- sic staples of demure and busty cinema will be available to the public for the first time. Not since 1963 have audiences set eyes on this glorious B-side. Skyscrapers & Brasseries may only have a run time of 10 minutes, but it’s not to be missed. The film was originally billed in conjunction with another short film by Meyer called Heavenly Bodies! The tan- dem flicks played in sin bins and grindhouses across America and were heralded as “elec- trifying monuments to feminine pulchritude.” What’s pulchritude, you say? It’s an ever- so-elegant word for “loveliness, the physical kind.” And that’s how we know Meyer is spe- cial: because people use words like “pulchri- tude” to describe his pornos.