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!.”