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Now in our fifth calendar year
PCR #236  (Vol. 5, No. 40)  This edition is for the week of September 27--October 3, 2004.

 by William Moriaty
No column this week due to power outages in Plant City
"The Forgotten"
 by Mike Smith
Reviews of the latest CD releases from: Green Day, The Libertines, The Black Keys, The Concretes, The Faint
  by Terence Nuzum
Fanzine Memoirs, Part 4....Not your file-stealing teen’s Napster....Michael Moore’s Slacker tour
  by Vinnie Blesi
Guest Oddservations: Filmmaker Andrew Allan on the passing of Russ Meyer
 by Andy Lalino
Things I Didn’t Know but Probably Should Have – The Star Wars version....More Things, NON-Star Wars Related....Gruden has led us to the end....One Last Question
 by Brandon Jones
Debate? Not Really....He's King! He's Kong!
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Finally!....Love You Live....TagliaBOO....Meet The Beatles, Part 36
 by Mike Smith
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Andy Lalino
Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Guest Oddservations: Filmmaker Andrew Allan on the passing of Russ Meyer

Many a Crazed Fanboy the world over was dealt the news that famed exploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer had passed. I was shattered, however I could not even contemplate how good friend and Florida folk hero filmmaker Andrew Allan had felt, as Russ Meyer was a personal favorite. I could have written an ode to Mr. Meyer, but I thought who better to express the emotions of a die-hard fan than someone who has such supercharged devotion to this groundbreaking filmmaker? Besides, the only Russ Meyer film I've ever seen (don't hate me) was "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", which Andrew Allan had lent to me. Therefore, I introduce to you a tribute by Andrew Allan, lifelong Russ Meyer fan and devotee in a special guest edition of Oddservations. ---Andy Lalino

Oddservations on Russ Meyer
It's a horrible feeling when one of your creative inspirations dies. The fact that you'll never again get to experience a new work - that you've seen all they'll ever do - brings about a depressing, gut-wrenching blow that is the finality of death. That's how I felt last week when I read the news that maverick filmmaker - and undeniable legend - Russ Meyer had died. It's a terrible loss for anyone who loves films and filmmaking.

Russ was 82, so of course it wasn't unexpected. But, the news of his death was still shocking. For anyone who's seen his films or knows anything about him, you know that RM was someone who lived an amazing life. It was difficult to imagine him ever slowing down. But, now that we can expect no more of his movies, one-liners, or remarkable euphemisms for extraordinarily large breasts, it's time to give his film legacy the consideration it deserves.

When mulling over Andy's offer to write a Russ Meyer column in Oddservations (and I'm very honored to have the chance to speak to all of you), I realized I wanted to use this opportunity to introduce Russ Meyer to the uninitiated. For those of you who haven't seen any of his films, you're missing out. For those of you who have seen one or two of his more popular titles, dig deeper and experience the rest of his work. It's fantastic.

There have been many articles, and even some books, written on the films of Russ Meyer. You'll find a lot of them on the internet, so I'm not going to go into a detailed breakdown of what each is all about. (Besides, I'm not writing this as a film critic, I'm writing this as a huge fan.) Just know that they're wonderfully insane, completely engaging, and more entertaining than most movies you will ever see. Each film grabs you at frame one and doesn't let go until long after the end credits have rolled.

RM was so much more than just the "adult filmmaker" he was often labeled as. A term so associated with pornography shouldn't be applied to a man whose films played mainstream theatres, was hired by 20th Century Fox to direct two films, directed several primarily action films, and never resorted to hardcore pornography. Yes, all of his films feature intensely sexual and/or violent situations - often with enormously endowed women steamrolling dimwitted, iron-jawed palookas. But, they are a far cry from being pornography. Pornography could never be this beautiful or captivating.

But, it's a funny thing being a Russ Meyer fan. You say you enjoy his movies, and immediately people think you're a pervert. That it's not the movies you enjoy, but rather the hoards of naked women filling them. Well, they're wrong - Not that the women make the films any harder to watch. But, Russ's films have a captivating energy to them. One that pulls you in and never lets go. It's that same energy - an absolute zest for telling each story - that allowed Russ to make his films look great on shoestring budgets and allowed questionable acting talent to pull off every role convincingly - whether they acted well or not, you still bought the character and the story (note: Russ never let acting ability get in the way of casting the perfect figure.) These movies are raw with emotion, lust, passion, hate, rage, ecstasy, horror, romance. And, they're flat out hilarious. They were totally unique, with mind-busting plots and eye-popping imagery - the man could montage like few since Eisenstein.

In his career, Russ created the nudie-cutie, which was the first time nudity really appeared in film outside of stag reels and underground porn. (What fanboy can't appreciate that?) As with everything successful in Hollywood, it created a landslide of imitators. Then, four years later, given the pressure being put on by local community censors, he created "Lorna", a gritty morality tale of a film set in rural, depression-era America. Many credit "Lorna" as being the first "roughie", which were violent films that came about almost in answer to the rising feminist movement - films that punished women for their sexual misdeeds. The "roughie" spawned the "kinkie" (sadomasochistic and bondage themed films) and, later, the "ghoulie" (the godfather of the modern day horror film). Russ then went on to create "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" (a critically acclaimed modern day feminist triumph), "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", (Another masterpiece, which lampoons just about everything and saved 20th Century Fox from going out of business), and the legendary Vixen series. This guy had almost as many artistic periods as Picasso.

What's more amazing is that Russ was as deft a businessman as he was a filmmaker. The simple fact is, he made millions of dollars. It's been reported that he made his blockbuster film "Vixen" (the film that prompted 20th Century Fox to sign him to a multi-picture deal) for $47,000. The film earned a reported $25,000,000. And, Russ was independent! Serving as his own distributor, he got to keep almost all the money.

Every filmmaker that dreams of being truly independent should look at the career of Russ Meyer - As a filmmaker, as a businessman, as a man who lead a zestful life that gave him endless material for his films. He was an inspiration to me on all those levels. Russ showed you can stick to your guns - as bizarre as they may be - create with passion (about your passion), and still be monstrously successful. He didn't go to the major studios. They came to him. He took them up on their offer, saved the studio from sinking, made a ton of money, got out, and started doing his own thing again. He'd reached the top of the mountain, tasted success, but didn't bother going back. Because he knew, a singular vision such as his needed to be delivered as only he could. I'm sure there are thousands of independent filmmakers out there, possibly reading this, who feel the same way about their work. Russ is proof it can happen. And, it will happen again.

If you really want to see what his films are about, rent or buy them. If you want some insight into RM's art, I recommend you read Doyle Green's fantastic film-by-film critical breakdown "Lips Hips Tits Power - The Films of Russ Meyer". Mr. Green is able to weave arguments regarding the symbolism of RM's films that make him look like film's greatest genius. In contrast, Russ has been quoted as saying he did the films the way he did to make a buck. I believe the truth lies in the middle: There's no doubt Russ' films are artistically inspired and financially motivated. Either way, the final results are still awesome.

Russ Meyer was a master filmmaker, the likes of which should be mentioned in the same breath as Fellini, Bergman, Spielberg, Scorsese, Kurosawa, and others we generally consider to be masters of the craft. It is my firm belief that, as time passes his work will continue to be held in higher and higher regard. At the end of the day, films are meant to entertain. And, Russ Meyer is one of cinema's greatest entertainers.Lord knows, there's nothing boring about a Russ Meyer film.

Andrew Allan is a Russ Meyer film enthusiast based in Clearwater, Florida, where he writes, produces and directs independent films for his company Sunshinola Brand Motion Pictures.

Goodbye, Johnny
A chronicle of the week's events would not be complete without remembering the death of Johnny Ramone, guitarist of the legendary Punk/New Wave band The Ramones. Johnny Ramone died after a long, 5-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 55.

In contemplation of the work of The Ramones, I can't think of another band who appealed in such a pure way to the tastes of the Crazed Fanboy. The Ramones were Punk, New Wave, post-modern, alternative, pioneers, art-house idols, Goth, music video stars, '70s icons, retro, east coast, west coast, and had an intrinsic relationship with horror and B-movies, evidenced by "Rock & Roll High School" and "Pet Semetary".

Almost like the hurricanes Floridians have been experiencing, losing members of The Ramones (Joey, Dee Dee, and now Johnny) have been devastating blows in a short amount of time to fans, who credit them with being Punk pioneers, which led to other heralded musical genres such as New Wave and Goth. Tommy Ramone, The Ramones drummer, is the last original surviving member of the band. If there is a silver lining to the loss of The Ramones, it's that they have rightly taken their place as one of the greatest rock & roll bands in its history.

"Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.