Good Morning . . . and Goodbye! (1967)




If Russ Meyer’s first venture in in-color soap operas, Common Law Cabin, was a moderately enjoyable sampling of what the director had to offer as a horndog auteur & a misanthrope, his follow up Good Morning . . . and Goodbye! cranked up the heat to an almost insufferable degree, making for a much more memorable picture in its sex-crazed emotional sadism. A lot of what made Common Law Cabin a decent watch was its hateful battle of the sexes vibe. The dialogue had the abrasive quality of a longterm couple breaking up at an impossibly late, drunken hour, unloading all of their aggression onto each other in one last attempt to elicit hurt feelings. Good Morning . . . and Goodbye! twists the knife even further, improbably featuring some of Meyer’s most sadistic, anti-romantic exchanges to date. Although screenwriter Jack Moran had penned the early Meyer classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, it’s tempting to claim that Good Morning was actually the height of his work with the tirelessly perverted, curmudgeony Meyer. Faster, Pussycat! survived largely on the backs of its over the top performances from the likes of Tura Satana & Haji. Good Morning . . . and Goodbye!, on the other hand, excels on the spiteful, misanthropic dialogue Moran brought to the screen. It’s terrifyingly bleak stuff. It’s also darkly hilarious.

Of course, Good Morning begins with some true-to-Meyer form, besides-the point narration. The narrator asks the audience,“How would you define nymphomania?” Unwilling to settle for that simple question, he goes on to ask for the definitions of a long list of terms that include “irregular union”, “deflower”, “voyeurism”, “strumpet”, “hedonism”, “promiscuity”, “ribaldry” and so on. Although the narrator goes on to promise the definitions of these terms in the film to follow, along with an exploration of the “deepest complexities of modern life as applied to love & marriage in these United States”, this is all, of course, gobbledygook, as should be made apparent by the image of a naked woman galloping through an open field that accompanies the rambling. It isn’t until the narrator begins introducing the film’s central characters that a clear picture of what’s to come takes shape. He promises the story of “eleven losers in a game all of us play” coming together “like a beef stew, a casserole” (I’m guessing sex is the “beef” in that metaphor), a bit of preemptive plot summarizing that feels more like a trailer than an actual beginning to a movie. The go-go dancing, screwing, fistfights, cars, and skinny dipping that make up this would-be trailer are where Russ Meyer’s America starts to feel familiar & grace the screen. This is solidified by the time the narrator introduces Angel, a woman who serves as a “monument to unholy carnality & a cesspool of marital polution prepared to humiliate, provoke, and tantalize.” He also describes her as a “lush cushion of evil perched on the throne of immorality.” Meyer may not have an entirely favorable view of women (to say the least), but he does make them feel extremely powerful in their supposed wickedness.

The best part about this introduction to Angel’s vicious femininity is that she somehow lives up to the hype. Played by Alaina Capri, who filled a very similar role of a sex-crazed sadist in Common Law Cabin, Angel is an adulteress housewife who hates her husband’s guts because of his erectile dysfunction. She expresses this hatred as soon as the film’s first proper scene, a callback to the sexual failings that started the tragic adultery tale Lorna. After her husband Burt fails to get it up, Angel practically spits this insult in his face:“You’re a turd, Burt.” She goes on to say, “You’re the worst in town. Thank God I know somebody in the country.” When Burt complains about her infidelity, she shoots back, “My life is such a blank. I gotta fill it with something.” To his credit, Burt has some nasty, hate-filled things of his own to say. When Angel twists the knife with the line, “I lead you to it, spread it all out, ready & waiting and suddenly you got no appetite,” Burt retorts, “Well I don’t enjoy a picnic that cockroaches have beaten me to.” Yikes. This conversation is Good Morning . . . and Goodbye! in a darkly bitter nutshell. It’s funny stuff, but goddamn is it ever ugly. Burt is played in the film by Stuart Lancaster, who filled the role of the maniacal, train-hating, crippled paterfamilias in Faster, Pussycat!. By combining Lancaster’s natural ease with bitterness & Capri’s knack for cold, cuckolding provocations, Meyer created a powder keg of seething hatred. It’s a sight to behold.

Besides the film’s acerbic dialogue, there’s plenty of other ridiculousness to enjoy. Most notably, Faster, Pussycat! star Haji returns to the Meyer fold here to play some sort of natural, feral witch that meows like a cat & ostensibly cures Burt’s medical condition through vaguely defined sex magic. It’s ridiculous. There’s also a continuation of the swanky Gidget music of Common Law Cabin that brings some ill-deserved levity to what’s mostly a morbid, hateful affair and the would-be passion of the film’s big love-making scene is interrupted by absurd circumstances – a farmer’s report on the radio & the intrusion of Burt’s drunken teenage daughter. The film also sees the return of a new visual trick Meyer started with Common Law Cabin, displaying the opening credits on physical objects (this time they’re painted on mailboxes), as well as the return of nudity in Meyer’s dramatic work for the first time since the black & white “roughies” Lorna & Mudhoney got him in a heap of not-worth-it legal trouble.

These points of interest aside, it really is Jack Moran’s dark, hateful, anti-romance dialogue that makes Good Morning . . . and Goodbye! such a memorable piece of work. It would be Moran’s fifth & unfortunately final script for Russ Meyer, including the films Erotica, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and, of course, Common Law Cabin. Besides Meyer’s eventual, unholy union with Roger Ebert, Moran proved to be the best writer the director ever partnered with, especially if you focus your attention on those last three credits. In appreciation of Moran’s contribution to the Meyer aesthetic and just because it’s hilariously inane, I’m going to close this review with his final words on a Russ Meyer project, the closing passage of Good Morning . . . and Goodbye!

“That’s keeping one’s family together the hard way. Yet while history has proven that might does not always make right and possession is 9/10ths of the law, more often than not what’s worth owning is worth fighting for, whether it be life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, Mom’s apple pie, or even something as basic as sex. And don’t go knocking it. That three letter word makes a mockery of the four letter ones that try to cheapen it. It’s a wonderful game for people of all ages. And even for losers it’s worth a try. That’s Good Morning . . . and Goodbye!.

-Brandon Ledet

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)




An offscreen narrator beckons us into a black & white underworld like a carnie ushering rubes into a mysterious tent, “Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word & the act.” Promises of a “salacious new breed” of women whose “very existence are synonymous with violence” are followed by typical Russ Meyer rapidfire images– gogo dancers filmed from empowering low angles, jukeboxes, spinning records, leering men shouting “Go, baby! Go!”, etc. As soon as half a minute into Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! you already get the distinct feeling that Russ Meyer has finally made his masterpiece, eleven films & six years into a bizarre career still with a long way to go, baby, go. It’s a jazzy, psychedelic vibe just as much as it is a feature film, a true work of art that somehow amounts to far more than the sum of its parts. It’s also a very simple example of the “roughie” picture Meyer had been more or less tooling with since he broke away from his Immoral Mr. Teas-imitating nudie cutie work & decided to get much, much darker in his cinematic hondoggery. With Lorna & Mudhoney, Meyer was on the verge of accomplishing something truly great within the roughie genre, but fell just short. Faster, Pussycat! is that greatness.

At the center of this greatness is three larger than life superwomen: Varla (a beyond real Tura Satana), Billie (newcomer Lori Williams), and Rosie (Haji, who was the sole highlight of Meyer’s misogynistic abomination Motorpsycho!). Varla, described here as being “like a velvet glove cast in iron” is the undisputed leader of this girl gang & the undisputed highlight of the film. She runs a tight ship, leading her two cohorts to recklessly drive roadsters across a desert hellscape (Meyer’s specialty, because the perilous locations fondly reminded him of his life-threatening time spent as a WWII combat photographer) & torment any little pissant insects that have the misfortune to fall into her web along the way. While playing chicken & generally causing havoc, they encounter such insects in Linda (Sue Bernard, who is a literal baby) & her dumb-as-bricks beau Tommy (Ray Barlow). When challenged to a time trial race by Tommy, Varla barks “I don’t beat clocks, just people.” She follows up that promise by more or less karate chopping the schmuck to death while his girlfriend is held in captive horror. A lot of the dialogue in Faster, Pussycat! is delivered this way; one-liners are shouted atonally in an adversarial tone Meyer first struck in his near-likeable Mudhoney. Varla & her girls are more female impersonators than actual women, striking the image of exaggerated cartoon versions of violent femininity. When a still-alive Tommy offers Varla a soft-drink she retorts “Honey, we don’t like nothing soft. Everything we like is hard!,” a line that wouldn’t feel at all out of place in a drag show. It’s no wonder that this film turned a young weirdo John Waters into a lifelong Meyer fan.

After Tommy’s early demise, the girls move on to their next male targets: a physically crippled, thoroughly vile curmudgeon (played by a pitch perfect Stuart Lancaster) and his two sons: good cop & dumb cop (Paul Trinka & Dennis Busch, respectively). Varla & the gang arrive on the curmudgeon’s farm practically dragging the traumatized Linda by her hair and immediately start scheming to rob the three men blind. The evil, crippled paterfamilias, of course, has his own schemes, mostly involving unsavory activities targeted at the much younger, much freaked-out Linda. His youngest, simplest son is first depicted as a stuttering mess gently nuzzling a kitten, but is quickly revealed to be quite a threatening tool when manipulated by his old man. Not that any threat they could possibly pose as a pair could match the brute strength of the superhuman Varla, who always seems to be poised to take control of any situation through pure, unadulterated violence. The result of this cosy set-up is a tense, divided household. Two rival, isolated gangs grit their teeth in each other’s presence, aching for someone to make the first move so they can start to draw blood, a true testament to a war of the sexes vibe Meyer introduced to his work as early as Europe in the Raw & Lorna, a contentious atmosphere that would follow him through the end of his bizarre career.

Although Faster, Pussycat! is a brisk 83 minutes of carnage, it’s near-impossible to touch on everything that makes it great in a short-form review. Rapidfire sex jokes, transgressive (for its time) representations of homosexuality, stark black & white cinematography, incredible shots framed by flanking beautiful denim-clad rumps, a classically tragic/climactic bodycount that would make Hamlet sweat, every precious frame of Tura Satana’s performance as Varla, the list goes on. Faster, Pussycat! is the moment when the self-propelling rhythms and seething anger of Meyer’s work really start to take hold. It’s no wonder that Roger Ebert says of the film in his memoir Life Itself, “That was when it first registered that there was a filmmaker named Russ Meyer, and he was the same man who made The Immoral Mr Teas.” Meyer had arrived as an artist & his first significant work was a real doozy. There was a palpable violence to the film, especially in the scenes were Stuart Lancaster’s curmudgeon angrily mumbles to himself about passing trains and where Tura Satana manhandles underage actress Sue Bernard in a too-believable violent manner. When Linda pleads, “All I want to do is go home! Please let me go home!”, it may as well be Bernard pleading directly to Russ. There is real terror in her eyes.

Still, despite all of its brutality, the film has a compulsively fun vibe to it that makes it perfect fodder for midnight movie screenings & is a decidedly sexy picture solely to the credit of its three leads, given that there is no nudity & no fornication typical to a Meyer film (although it stops just short on both counts). All of this greatness came from a very simple idea: after filming a bunch of male brutes beating on women in the vile picture Motorpsycho!, Meyer thought, “Why don’t I have the women beat up men for a change?” Screenwriter Jack Moran (who had been with Meyer since the nudie cutie days of Erotica & Wild Gals of the Naked West) built a wonderfully strange, violently tense world from there & the rest is trash cinema history. It would be another five years or six pictures before Meyer could even come close to topping this achievement with the beyond-reason Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and some (not me) would contend that even that picture can’t match the lightning-in-a-bottle magic he captured in Pussycat!. The film is that remarkable.

-Brandon Ledet