Saturday, 1 September 2007

Russ Meyer’s Lorna (1964)

Russ Meyer’s Lorna, made in 1964, lacks the extreme campness of later Meyer films. It’s actually rather dark in tone, a tale of lust, jealousy and sexual frustration in the boondocks. Lorna has been married for a year. Her husband Jim is a decent sort of guy, and he’s studying at night to try to better himself. Unfortunately his studies only leave him enough energy to satisfy his own sexual needs, and not Lorna’s, and young Jim doesn’t seem to realise that women actually have sexual needs. So when a good-looking bad boy comes along it’s not surprising that Lorna is tempted to stray from the path of marital fidelity. Although darker than his later films it has most of the Meyer trademarks. The men are either sexually inadequate or they’re violent morons, or both. The women want more out of life than their men are offering them, and they take steps to get it. The women have, of course, the physical attributes you expect from the women in a Russ Meyer film, and those physical attributes are freely displayed. There’s nudity, there’s sex, there’s violence, and there’s also humour (much of this coming from the fire-and-brimstone preacher man who introduces the story and provides the postscript to it). As with all of Meyer’s movies it’s difficult to take offence at any of the content – Meyer’s sympathies are so clearly with his female characters, and the violence is so clearly shown as being the result of male inadequacies and fears and lack of understanding of women. Meyer had the gift of being able to make highly successful softcore sex movies that gleefully subvert and mock the whole concept of that type of movie. And as usual the camerawork and editing are amazingly energetic and imaginative – Meyer could make low-budget movies that just looked so terrific, and still look terrific even today. If you’ve only seen his later movies then Lorna is worth seeking out – it’s a wonderfully overheated saga of backwoods sleaze and passions running amok. Very entertaining.

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