Saturday, 21 July 2007

Russ Meyer’s Vixen! (1968)

Russ Meyer’s Vixen! was one of the movie sensations of 1968. Although banned in many parts of the US it went on to make a truckload of money, and its massive commercial success led 20th Century Fox to sign the notorious sexploitation director to make big-budget mainstream movies for them. Or at least they thought they were going to get mainstream movies from him, which shows just how charmingly naïve movie studio executives could be. The eponymous heroine Vixen! is married to a pilot somewhere in the wilds of Canada. She loves her husband, but one man just isn’t enough for Vixen. Her sexual escapades lead to the sorts of bizarre adventures that only happen in Russ Meyer films. It might be superficially sexploitation, but it has those characteristic qualities that actually make it something else quite different and strange and unique. Firstly, it has Meyer’s wonderfully energetic and off-kilter visual style. Secondly it has something you just don’t get in a porno film – it’s funny. In fact it’s extremely funny, and the sex scenes are particularly funny. Thirdly, it has lots of weirdness. I don’t mean kinky sex weirdness, I mean Russ Meyer weirdness, which is a whole different thing. It also has a refreshing and delightful sense of both fun and innocence. Vixen might be insatiable, but her attitude towards the pleasures of the flesh is honest, open and healthy. No wonder it upset so many people. And it deals with sex and politics, just to make sure that it upsets even more people. Erica Gavin is Vixen, and she’s sensational. She has so much vitality, so much joie de vivre. Perhaps not a great actress in a conventional sense, but an odd, unique and exhilarating talent. If you hate Russ Meyer’s movies this one probably won’t change your opinion, but if you do enjoy the strange charms of the work of this most singular of American film-makers then you’ll find Vixen! a great deal of fun. And the scene with Vixen and the fish has to be seen to be believed.

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