Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Boozed Meteor Shower of History

For over six minutes, the stage is set with footage of ghost towns, plains, mountains, and modern cities presented by a narrator with triumphant gusto concluding with "SAN! FRAN! CISCO!" This is a bemusing, perhaps frustrating setup for the audience who went in to see 1962's Wild Gals of the Naked West, an at times funny but mainly surreally hypnotic Russ Meyer "nudie" film.

An old fella follows the intro to give us a yarn about how this great country came to be. The imposing setup is followed by an apparently rambling visual reminiscence of naked breasts, large cartoonish mask faces, fake pianos, and, more than anything, short physical comedy gags repeated so many times they go past meaninglessness to become a dizzy, bewildering mantra.

There's the two gunfighters who run out of bullets and start slapping each other. There's the trio of prostitutes on a balcony who continually lasso passing men below. There's the couple guys who continually tip over an outhouse a guy continually tries to use. There's the cowboy and a woman in lingerie trying to drink some champagne but their drinking glasses are shot by a drunk firing his gun randomly some distance away. These gags repeat over and over with little variation.

There's a saloon party that apparently never ends and Meyer conveys it with minimalist interior sets--contrasting oddly with the location exteriors--and a series of repeated images with no particular relation with one another. We see beautiful, big naked breasts, then an enormous white mask with strange black sores, then the fake piano, then an old man drinking and I started to wonder if this was some kind of twisted Pavlovian conditioning experiment. Will breasts now always bring to mind distorted demonic faces? Will distorted demonic faces now always bring to mind breasts?

I can't say it's a bad movie. It was a kind of fascinating experience, like some kind of satirical trance. It seems somehow with its very existence to be mocking linear story telling, sexual mores, patriotism, pride, and even comedy.

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