Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens (1979)

Directed by Russ Meyer
Starring Kitten Natividad, Ann Marie, Sharon Hill, June Mack
Rated X

"I don't eat pussy. It's un-American."

Unless you count 2001's glorified tit-loop Pandora Peaks - and no one does, really - Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens is Russ Meyer's last official film. There are conflicting reports why. Some say Meyer felt that he'd already gone as far as he could go with his sex n' violence epics without tipping over into hardcore territory, something he vowed never to do. While it is true that Ultra Vixens is as close as he ever went to showing full-on penetration, sex scenes were hardly the biggest attraction to Meyer's films. This hitting-the-wall-of-X argument seems a little too convenient, especially since Russ himself announced his next proposed film - The Jaws of Vixen - at the end of this one. He'd also announced a fistful of other film projects around this period of time, as well, including Up the Valley of the Beyond, Blitzen, Vixen, and Harry, Mondo Topless II, and the Breast of Russ Meyer, an often threatened but never produced twelve hour videography/auto-biography. More likely, Meyer just couldn't raise the necessary funds to get any of these films off the ground. Certainly, the market had changed quite a bit at the dawn of the video age, and sexploitation films were being made on a sliver of the average Meyer budget by part-time pornographers like Chuck Vincent and Ed Hansen.

At any rate, this premature end to Russ's filmmaking resume did not do the old boy much harm. He made millions in the 80's and 90's selling his films to the home video market, and this more leisurely lifestyle afforded him the opportunity to spend more time doing what he loved best - banging big-breasted women. But as career finales go, Ultra Vixens is a bit of a letdown, especially in light of his two previous efforts, Supervixens (1975) and Up! (1976). Both of those films were drive-in classics, filled with epically beautiful women, two-fisted macho men, and an extraordinary amount of gratuitous nudity and violence. They also had intricate, metaphor-laden plots. Sure, neither one made much sense, but it was obvious that Meyer had some specific vision in mind when he made them. In contrast, Ultra Vixens seems trite and episodic. Written by frequent Meyer collaborator Roger Ebert, it's a thinly-veiled statement of Meyer's inherent homophobia stretched into 92 minutes of grinding monologues and pointless softcore sex scenes. On the plus side, it's absolutely the best place to see Kitten Nativadid strut her stuff, since she's in nearly every scene, usually naked, and on pneumatic sexual overdrive. It's also the best place to ogle the jaw-dropping Ann Marie (AKA Kathy Ayers), a truly gravity-defying freak of nature/science. Gorgeous and impossible all at once, Ann Marie is worth the price of admission all on her own. It is a pity that her filmic resume amounts to this, a cameo in Supervixens, and the little-seen '76 sexploiter Swinging Sorority Girls, because I could pretty much watch Ann Marie do her thing everyday. Just not in this movie.

Russ's cinematic arch nemesis, elusive ex-Nazi Martin Borman (Henry Rowland, RIP) is alive and well in Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. This time around, he's the owner of a funeral home. As our story opens, we get a glimpse into his particular sexual dysfunction - he likes to cover himself up with a sheet and fuck chicks in coffins. The chick in question is busty blonde radio evangelist Miss Eufala Roop (Ann Marie), who mounts Mr. Borman in his favorite casket after a vigorous game of Pong on her Odyssey console. Hardcore video game nerds will be confused as to what parts to freeze-frame when they furiously masturbate to this scene.

Cut to: The Man from Small Town, USA (long-standing Meyer troupe member Stuart Lancaster, RIP), who introduces all of the film's character's in one of Russ Meyer's most long-winded, tongue twisting monologues. As it is with most of Russ's "Small towns", the population hovers at around a dozen people, at least half of which are oversexed women with painfully inflated chests.

Lamar (Ken Kerr), is our tragic hero. He doesn't want any problems, really. It's late at night, and he's got to do the books. And that's exactly what he's doing, carefully crunching numbers at the kitchen table, using his new-fangled beeping calculator. His bosomy wife Lavonia (Kitten Natividad, acting exactly like an alley cat overdosing on catnip) waits for him in bed, but when he ignores her fully-nude come-ons, she gets positively aggressive, climbing under the table to slobber on his crotch while he works. Lamar can take it no longer. He bends Lavonia over the table and forcibly sodomizes her. That's his thing, you see. Lavonia is not happy about this rear-entry bullshit, so she throws on a mini-dress and takes off into the night, presumably to find a bag of ice to sit down on.

Well, first she stops by the junkyard, where Small Town's "Garbage Czar", Mr. Peterbuilt (Pat Wright, Bikini Car Wash Company) bones her in a more socially acceptable manner. In the front seat of his garbage truck.

The message of this scene, and indeed the whole film, is that Lamar's predilection for butt sex is the source of all his problems. If he could only learn to "fuck straight", as our narrator suggests, everything would be ok. So, let's see if he can be pummeled and girl-raped enough to suit Meyer's heterosexual ideal by the end of this story, shall we?

While lonely Lamar snoozes and Lavonia exercises her vagina, Eufala Roop is busy at the Rio Dio 100,000 Watts AM Christian radio station, practicing what she refers to as 'Radio Healing'. Just put your afflicted body part against the speaker, and she'll fix it right up for you. Seems valid.

The next morning, everything's back to normal. Lamar heads off to work at Junkyard Sal's, while Lavonia goes skinny-dipping and bangs Rhett (Steve Tracey, Class Reunion) a 14 year old kid who was swimming the backstroke in the creek. He was relatively easy to find, since his penis was sticking up above the water like a periscope. Lamar, once again, tries to stay out of trouble, but after a hard day of whatever it is you do at a junkyard, he is called into Sal's office/boudoir to work some overtime. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

A word, before we continue, about June Mack, AKA Junkyard Sal. Mack was not, by any stretch, one of Meyer's classic beauties. A 250 lb cosmetic surgery addict, Mack was a notorious and well-known figure on the seedier streets of Hollywood, both for her specialty modeling spreads - readily available in grubby mags catering to plus sized women - and for her lucrative phone sex service. Despite her rather braying performance in UltraVixens, Mack was known far and wide for her uncanny ability to bring men to trembling orgasms via the telephone. Her phone sex business was so lucrative that she zipped around town in a purple Rolls Royce, dressed in elaborate dresses and wigs, her 66 Double G bras stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash. Clearly, Miss Mack was a woman who knew how to party, which is probably what attracted Russ Meyer. That and her gigantic tits, I imagine. Sadly, this much larger than life LA fixture - an actual, living, breathing Ultra Vixen - was gunned down in the street in 1984, the victim of multiple murderer William Mentzer, an "occult superstar" tenuously linked to Charlie Manson, the Son of Sam, and the Zodiac Killer.

Umm, sorry to bring everybody down. June Mack, RIP. Now, back to the antics.

Lamar allows Sal to sit on his face - she pretty much swallows it whole - and in exchange, she lets him bang her in the ass. That seems fair to me. However, halfway through his backdoor romp, he is interrupted by his two idiot co-workers, Tyrone (Aram Katcher, RIP) and Badger (Don Scarborough), who were peeping through the window the entire time. Lamar kicks their asses all over the junkyard. Tyrone, being a coward by nature, bleeds yellow. Badger, a jealous and petty man, bleeds green. At least, that's they idea. They really just look like they're spitting up baby food.

Sal's had enough of everybody's hijinks, so she fires the lot of 'em. Good thing Lavonia - after an eventful visit with a traveling lingerie salesman and a "Spanish Made Simple" book - has taken up stripping at a Mexican gentleman's club. Of course, Lamar doesn't know this - yet. But take it from a man who's been fired from every job he's ever had: a strip club and a cold beer is a fine way to dull the sting of sudden dismissal. Lamar heads into bordertown nudie bar The Other Ball to drown his sorrows, only to find Lavonia shaking her ample maracas for the local riff raff. Here's the thing, though - Lamar doesn't recognize her. This is possibly because she's facing him, and he's generally an ass-first sort of guy. Seizing her chance to fix her fucked-up hubby, she slips the dope a Mickey. He immediately passes out, and she drags him into a squalid bedroom upstairs, where she proceeds to tie him to the bed and sleep-bang him, hoping that this will somehow cure him of his anal obsession.

After she's finished with him - and after he's dutifully flooded the old "black sock" - Lavonia shocks him awake with smelling salts. She jabbers away in excited Spanish, convincing the groggy and confused Lamar that he's with another woman, and her angry Mexican husband - and his death squad posse - are due back home any minute now. Miraculously, this bullshit seems to work. Lamar dives out the window and gets out of Dodge.

Unfortunately, by the time Lamar gets home, Lavonia is already fucking Peterbuilt again. Lamar catches them in the act but Lavonia thinks quickly, burning Peterbuilt's balls with a lightbulb and trying to convince Lamar he'd forced himself on her. Even a dimwit like Lamar can see through that, so he drags his wayward wife to see Dr Lavender (Robert Pearson), Small Town's resident marriage counselor/dentist. As his name would imply, the kindly Doc is a flouncing, Rip Taylor-esque caricature of a gay man, complete with a lisp and a cigarette holder.

Lamar explains his problem to the doc. Lavender is sure he can get to the bottom of things, but first he has to clean Lavonia's teeth. This affords his gorgeous assistant, Nurse Flovilla Thatch (Sharon Hill, perhaps best known as the nurse zombie in Dawn of the Dead), the opportunity to give Lamar a thorough check-up.

This turns out to be a bad idea for everybody. Dr Lavender, presumably because he doesn't like girls, intentionally hurts Lavonia when he's working on her teeth. Meanwhile, Lamar throws Flovilla on the desk and butt-rapes her. When she protests, he laments, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?"

Hearing this cry for help, Doc Lavender decides they should all change places. Flovilla busts out a double-dildo and gets to work on Lavonia, while Lavender rips off his trousers and attempts to bone Lamar. Lamar calls the doctor a 'fag' and runs for it. Naturally, he ends up hiding in the closet. Where else? While the girls pleasure one another in a spectacularly shot girl-girl scene (if only Russ could've lingered there, instead of cross-cutting with the Tom and Jerry bullshit, he might have been able to pass this whole mess off as erotica!), the Doc uses a series of cartoon weapons - crowbar, mallet, shotgun, chainsaw - to get Lamar out of the closet. When he finally rips the door off, Lamar hits him so hard his toupee falls off. He bleeds pink, natch. Then Lamar yanks his wife off of the nurse and splits.

Desperate, Lamar drives over to see Sister Eufala Roop,hoping that perhaps she can save him with her considerable healing powers. She throws him into a bathtub and baptizes/fucks him, her giant boobs clanging against his head like church bells. It seems to do the trick, and he literally runs home to his wife.

As you might expect, given her track record, she's busy having sex with Peterbuilt, although he's showing signs of boredom with this particular routine.

To make an extremely long story slightly shorter, Lamar comes home, punches out Peterbuilt, and satisfies his wife and her vagina.

Oh, and then there's a gratuitous Russ Meyer cameo.

And then there's a gratuitous Ushi Digard (Supervixens, CB Hustlers, The Car Hops) cameo, as our yappy narrator slips back into his Supervixens role as a chicken-fucking farmer with a hot Austrian mail-order bride.

If just about any other filmmaker created Ultra Vixens, it would be their high water mark, their mesmerizing, desert-bound, all-nude masterpiece. But some other fucker did not make it, Russ Meyer did, and for a giant like him, this is clearly one of his lower-tier films. To call a Russ Meyer film tedious feels like heresy, but unfortunately, it fits the bill here. While it is still worth a look - pants on or off, your choice - for the breathtaking charms of Ann Marie, the sunny 70's supergirl beauty of Sharon Hill, and the power-packed fuck n' roll energy of Kitten Natividad, all the bullshit in-between is a slog to get through, and the homophobic vibe threaded throughout the film just feels square. A rare miss for the King of Skin Cinema, and a badly timed one, as well. I guess the moral here is: Make every film as if it's your last. Because it may very well be.

- Ken McIntyre

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