The Sex eZine - Biography
The Father of Softcore Erotica
In addition to coining the words "softcore" and "hardcore", Russ Meyer was a director, writer, sexual revolutionary, cameraman and movie producer of some of the greatest movies of the 20th Century. He invented softcore porn movies, and is considered to be the greatest movie director of all time. Why? Because his movies had plot, were hilariously funny, wildly influential (many other directors admired him and copied his style) and had one other thing... well, actually two other things:
Born: March 21st, 1922.
Died: September 18th, 2004.
Russell Albion Meyer was the son of a nurse and a deadbeat father who ditched his mother when he was quite young. His mother sold her wedding ring to buy him his first movie camera.
He won several amateur film awards before the age of 15.
He was a combat cameraman during WWII, met Ernest Hemingway while he was in Paris, lost his virginity to a French prostitute (Hemingway is rumoured to have paid for the prostitute) and became very adept at quickly photographing the scenes that would later be used in war propaganda movies, and eventually war documentaries.
He is the one who shot the famous Normandy landing.
Returning to the United States, he joined up with Hugh Hefner and was a photographer for Playboy magazine during the early years of the magazine. Eventually he decided to spread his wings and make movies instead.
He worked on the productions of "The French Peep Show" (1950), "Guys and Dolls" 1955) and "Giant" (1956).
Before Russ Meyer, the only "nude" films were boring nudist films of people playing volleyball all the time. No plot at all.
His first movie was "The Immoral Mr Teas" (1959), the very first professional softcore porn movie. The plot? A man who develops the ability to see through women's clothes. With a very small budget ($24,000), the movie grossed almost $1 million in the movie theatres.
During the early 1960s, he directed his "gothic" movies shot in black-and-white. "Mudhoney" (1965), "Motor Psycho" (1965) and "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" (1965) are considered to be some of his best work.
"Vixen!" (1968) grossed so much money that 20th Century Fox hired Russ Meyer to direct a bigger budget movie. The resulting movies were "Beyong the Valley of the Dolls" (1970), which had a very popular soundtrack.
He directed a more serious movie "The Seven Minutes" in 1971. His other movies include "Cherry, Harry and Raquel" (1969), "Supervixens" (1974), and "Up!" (1976).
In 1977, Malcolm McLaren hired Meyer to direct a film starring The Sex Pistols. Meyer handed the scriptwriting duties over to Roger Ebert, who, in collaboration with McLaren, produced a screenplay entitled "Who Killed Bambi?" According to Ebert, filming ended after a day and a half when the electricians walked off the set after McLaren proved unable to pay them. (McLaren has claimed that the project actually died at the behest of main financier 20th Century-Fox, under the pretext that "We are in the business of making family entertainment.")
His final softcore film was "Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens" (1979).
During the 1980s he worked on a variety of autobiographical works, was incredibly rich, and his house was directly below the Hollywood sign (and considered to be the most valuable land in Hollywood).
He appeared as himself in a spoofy sequence of "Amazon Women on the Moon" (1987).
His films are mandatory learning for film students and anyone studying to become a movie director.
His films are considered pornographic because of the censors at the time he created the movies, but these days would be Rated "R".
Quentin Tarantino based the "Kill Bill" movies upon "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", and cites Russ Meyer as a driving influence behind his directorial work. John Waters and John Landis also cite him as a very important influence.
His nicknames include: The Father of Softcore Porn, The King of Softcore, The Fellini of the Sex-Industry, and King Leer.
Hugh Hefner and Roger Ebert were longtime friends of his, along with lasting friendships with his actors and actresses (Charles Napier, Tura Satana, Haji, Lorna Maitland, Stuart Lancaster, Hal Hopper). He discovered actresses Kitten Natividad and Uschi Digard.
His movies always had very good soundtracks, and one very important characteristic: They are HILARIOUSLY funny.
No one else since Russ Meyer has ever made "funny porn". And they certainly didn't have soundtracks that were anywhere near the quality that he had.
While often regarded as a sexist pig, Meyer is actually a huge fan of women's rights. The men in his movies were often depicted as sick, violent, demented psychos whereas the women were strong-willed, aggressive and in control.
And while Russ Meyer's vision of "amazon" women is not popular with religious people and conservative types, it did provide an alternative view of feminist power.
And sexual freedom. Meyer is part of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. He ranks up beside Professor Kinsey (the first scientist to study human sexuality) and other sexual revolutionaries of the 1950s and 1960s. He was the first movie director to touch on topics of homosexuality and controversial sexual topics such as rape, spousal murder, adultery, interracial sex, anal sex and sexual perversion/fetishes.
A very important fact is that if these movies were made today, they wouldn't even be porn. They would be rated "R" and thats it. The same as a Quentin Tarantino movie. What does the future hold? More directors like Russ Meyer and Quentin Tarantino, bringing "sex and violence" to the big screen and to DVDs. With the popularity of television going down, and the popularity of movies and the internet growing, television will someday become a thing of the past. Violent/sexy/funny movies are what people want.
Russ Meyer knew this, and gave the public what they wanted to see.