For years before it was re-released on DVD, and therefore widely available in high street shops, the Russ Meyer exploitation flick Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! had some pretty good word of mouth. Not only did it inspire the name of one of my sister’s favourite sleaze-rock bands, but it was often dropped into conversation by the more discerning Riot Grrrls. The poster, at least, was legend… with Tura Satana assuredly laying the smack down. Sadly, as I discovered shortly after purchase, the film itself does not entirely live up to the hype… at least, not to my jaded contemporary eyes. In its time, no doubt it was shocking and electrifying… the “sandbox jousting” scene, boasted about in the trailer, must have been a gripping feisty feminist finale… but post-Buffy, the dialogue is kind of a drag, and the pace is snail-shamingly slow. How can one ever hope to understand the thrill of watching Meyer’s masterpiece the way its initial audiences experienced it? Well… what you can do, and most assuredly should do, is rent Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof
Much like From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, this is a film of two distinct halves. The first half sets up the major villain of the piece, Kurt Russell’s mean-ass mother-trucker, ‘Stuntman Mike’, as he lays waste to an unfortunate foursome of girls. The second half sees him return, to try and repeat his sick tricks on a trio of far hardier femmes. But these kitties have claws! Either half could stand on its own merits, of course… the first as a cautionary horror story about accepting lifts from strange men, and the second as a cautionary tale about pissing off Zoë Bell… but putting them together, you get the full satisfaction out of one of the most jaw-dropping final shots I’ve ever seen. The End, indeed! There’s no denying that there’s still some dead-weight in there, as far as yackety-yak goes, but Tarantino’s verbiage is always entertaining, even when it’s extraneous… and it’s more than made up for by the adrenaline rush of the final chase scene, which left me breathless and agape, as the fantastic “Chick Habit” (sung by April March) plays out over the end credits.
The “Grindhouse” aesthetic has already begun creeping into other films, adverts and computer games (specifically House of the Dead: Overkill, which I blasted my way through a few days ago, and rather enjoyed), but this film’s major legacy will most likely be the launching of Bell’s career as a leading lady. It was a bit of risk on Tarantino’s part, since at the time she was a stuntwoman by trade, with no major talkie parts on her resume… but there’s something so infectious and irrepressible about her personality, and that comes across loud and clear on the big screen, encouraging almost immediate affection. Add to that the fact that she could kick your arse all the way to Auckland and back… and her casting must have been a no-brainer. In a recent interview with the AV Club, she admitted that acting scares her more than hanging from the hood of a speeding car… which makes sense, but I suppose it depends which you’re more willing to bruise… your body, or your feelings. Still, it doesn’t seem to have stopped her, as she’s currently starring in a web-only series written by Ed Brubaker, called Angel of Death. Sadly not available for viewing in this country, but the trailer makes it look pretty groovy.