Saturday, 5 September 2009

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979)

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, released in 1979, effectively marked the end of Russ Meyer’s career as a film-maker. This movie doesn’t have a great reputation even among Meyer aficionados but I was very pleasantly surprised by it.

The movie was a modest commercial success but changes in movie distribution, the emergence of hardcore sex movies, the introduction of home video and the rise of the multiplex cinema made it more and more difficult for movies such as Meyer’s to be financially viable.

It has much of the inspired insanity of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Supervixens but it’s by far the least violent of his later movies. In fact it’s a remarkably good-natured movie. It’s the most sexually graphic of Meyer’s movies but it’s all done in a spirit of fun. This was the third Meyer movie to be scripted by Roger Ebert, and it’s really very funny.

The setting is a small town in the USA called Small Town, USA. Meyer regular Stuart Lancaster acts as our guide and narrator and introduces us to the outrageous sex lives of the locals. Most outrageous of all is Lavonia (Kitten Natividad). Her problem is that her husband Lamar’s sexual tastes aren’t entirely to her liking. He’s a “rear window man” while Lavonia prefers the exclusive use of the front entrance so to speak. Lavonia seeks solace in the arms of the town’s refuse collector Mr Peterbuilt. Meanwhile Lamar valiantly but unsuccessfully fends off the advances of his boss, the spectacularly endowed Junk Yard Sal.

Lavonia tries to awaken Lamar’s interest in more conventional sexual practices by moonlighting as stripper Lola Langusta, where she slips the unsuspecting Lamar a Mickey Finn and then tries to get the unconscious Lamar to satisfy her needs. You might think that no woman could get any action out of a completely unconscious man, but Lavonia is no ordinary woman, and she succeeds. But can she persuade him to satisfy her properly when he’s awake? Marriage counselling with proves a mixed blessing, with the male marriage counsellor attempting to seduce Lamar while Nurse Flovilla Thatch very successfully seduces Lavonia. In desperation Lamar turns to radio evangelist Eufaula Roop (played by the more than spectacularly endowed Ann Marie). Ann Marie is anxious to offer succour to the unfortunate Lamar, and she succours him with considerable success and impressive energy.

Kitten Natividad is absolutely delightful, a powerhouse of manic and totally demented sexual excess, and with an innocent and infectious joy in her sexuality. Ann Marie is fabulously bizarre as the sexually obsessed evangelist of the airwaves. Stuart Lancaster’s narration is a joy. All the actors are perfect for the movie and for the roles they play and it all works together very nicely indeed. The very brief cameo by cult movie legend Uschi Digard is also worth a mention (and Ms Digard also acted as associate producer and general-purpose crew member on the movie).

The sexual heat generated onscreen was apparently matched by the sexual heat offscreen between Meyer and Kitten Natividad, and they spent so much time indulging in extra-curricular bedroom activities it’s a wonder they had time to make a movie. They clearly enjoyed themselves though, and perhaps that’s why the movie is so light-hearted and so much fun. There’s a truly stupendous amount of nudity and sex in this movie.

While it’s not quite in the same league as Meyer masterpieces like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls , Supervixens or Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! this one still offers classic Russ Meyer high camp madness.


Rev. Phantom said...

One of my favorite Meyer films. It's like an adult version of a Looney Tunes cartoon come to life.

Ivan said...

Thanks for the recap on this not-remembered-enough film.

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens is also one of my fave Meyer flicks, I think precisely because it's so good natured yet overloaded with nudity and sex. It's like Meyer finally banished the hellfire and brimstone preacher that lived inside of him. People in his movies could now fuck without worrying about any consequences.

In John Waters' book "Shock Value," Kitten Natividad says how before she came into Russ' life, he was kind of square in the bedroom, that she really loosened him up sexually. Maybe this new joy in his life spilled into his last film?


dfordoom said...

I've just read a biography of Meyer called Big Bosoms and Square Jaws and it says much the same thing, and that he and Kitten had lots of bedroom fun during the making of the movie - something Meyer had never done before. I've seen an interview with Kitten - she really is adorable. Wildly eccentric, but adorable.