Eve and the Handyman was Russ Meyer’s second feature film, and although it’s not without some charm to be brutally honest it’s probably only going to appeal to Meyer completists.
In 1959 Meyer had invented the nudie-cutie genre with his landmark The Immoral Mr Teas. By this time it had become more or less established that nudity on its own would most probably not get a film banned but the nudity had to be presented in as non-sexual a way as possible. The result was the explosion of nudist camp movies in the late 50s.
But one can only take so much volleyball, even naked volleyball, and it was obvious that nudie movies had to be made more entertaining. Meyer came up with the solution, by adding a plot (of sorts) and lots of gags. The Immoral Mr Teas made truckloads of money. His follow-up movie was Eve and the Handyman. It more or less utilises the same formula but with a surprising difference. Its a nudie-cutie with almost no nudity. As a consequence it has to rely on the plot and the gags. When Meyer returned to the nudie-cutie genre in 1966 with Mondo Topless his skill as a film-maker had developed to the point where he could dispense with plot entirely and still make an entertaining movie. But Eve and the Handyman doesn’t quite make it.
Meyer’s wife at the time, Eve, stars. She’s a private detective of sorts, and she’s shadowing a man. But he’s no big-time criminal, just a humble handyman. Eve Meyer takes numerous other roles as well, appearing as various women encountered by the
handyman. He just seems to keep running into these well-endowed and very desirable women. It’s all a gag of course; the handyman really is just a handyman.
Even this early in his career Meyer is starting to show signs of his prodigious talent for shot composition and editing. He hasn’t yet evolved the frantic editing pace that characterises his best films but it’s still a well-crafted little movie. Meyer wrote, directed, photograhed and edited the movie.
This almost plotless movie doesn’t really require any acting. Meyer was not yet using synchronised dialogue so all the actors really had to do was to look the part and not fall over the furniture. Anthony-James Ryan is suitably gormless as the handyman, and Eve Mayer is suitably glamorous as Eve. She does the voice-over narration as well.
Apart from the photography the main reason to watch this one is Eve Meyer who manages to be utterly charming, plus she has that ability to light up the screen.
There’s some amusement to be had but one can’t help wondering why Meyer chose to make a nudie-cutie with hardly any nudity. The comedy just doesn’t quite have enough going for it to carry the movie on its own.
The Arrow Films Region 0 PAL DVD also includes The Immoral Mr Teas which is somewhat more entertaining. The main interest in these very early Meyer films is that they’re so goofy and good-natured. All this was to change dramatically in 1964 when he made the first of his redneck melodramas, Lorna. With that film he finally found his feet as a film-maker.