Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Meyer Files #3: Wild Gals Of The Naked West (1962)

This is a weird one. More fantastical than his previous movies, and yet somehow more barebones, with even less of a story. You get the feeling that Meyer is running out of steam with this kind of thing. Semi-nude ladies were no longer enough to maintain interest, and something new was needed.

For now, that meant stylistic refinement -- especially with the editing. This is the first of Meyer's movies that feels like it was assembled in the edit bay. It's basically an hour long montage.

The opening montage, showing various elliptical references to important events from the Western history (Custer's last stand, the gunfight at the OK Corral) is great (especially the shot of the bloody sabre washed away by the tide), and oddly poetic.

The narration, which never lets up, is a rare clunker. Usually Meyer's narrations are comically monotonous and over-explanatory -- here it is just monotonous.

The majority of the running time is given over to tired, half-skits. Two cowboys engage in an unending fist fight; a topless woman is chased by a potential rapist carrying a ladder; a gorilla disguises himself as a cowboy to wonder through town; an Indian ties a a young lovely to a stake but then can't make the sparks to get a fire burning...

None of it is funny or clever, and it goes on forever.

Finally, about halfway in, a plot kicks in. A moral crusader  turns up in the nameless town and starts causing trouble. By trouble, that means cleaning up all the drinkin', whorin' and shooting' antics of the townsfolk.

There's no room for this rube, and local saloon owner Snake sets about getting rid of him.

This madness all ends in the Fallen Angel saloon. Clearly unable to afford sets, Meyer and his crew have come up with a fantastic solution -- the saloon interior is represented in a bare room with multicoloured walls and set dressings which are literally drawn on the walls. Even the keys on the organ are just painted.

It's insane, but it's an inspired bit of art direction and the only thing really worth mentioning as a positive for this film.

After seeing off Snake, the square sets about righting all the wrongs in the town, which basically involves him putting an end to all of the tiresome skits which have been carrying on. This means another run-through of all the BS we've already been subjected to.

And so the town dies from 'goodness', and we are left with the old narrator (screenwriter Jack Moran in a fake moustache) offering some monologue that tries to justify the preceding hour. Thankfully another big-breasted woman walks past which cuts his rambling and the movie finally ends.

Phew! What a slog. Back in my Mr. Teas  review I noted how the movie presented an embryonic form of Meyer's style. Wild Gals is somewhat similar. There are quite a few Meyer pictures where skits stand in for plots, only those manage to be either comedic or memorably surreal. Wild Gals does not work as either, but like all of Meyer's early movies, it is a testing ground for ideas Meyer will utilise down the line.

Bonus trivia: This is the first movie to feature Princess Livingston, who would continue to pop up in Meyer movies for the next several years.

Learn to love this face -- you will see more of it.

Russ Meyer will return with Europe in the Raw!

For previous entries...

The Meyer Files #1: The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959)

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