Would you look at that title. Just look at that wonderful, wonderful title. What a helluva a title, and so appropriate for a biography about Russ Meyer, director of such films as Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Vixen and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The man was the king of sleaze, and I don’t mean that in a negative way.
I picked this book up the same time I picked up Bloody Sam: The Life and Films of Sam Peckinpah, and I damn near read both back-to-back. Good thing I took a break with Brian Keene’s Dead Sea because, honestly, that might just have been to much mysoginism. Even for me.
Like Bloody Sam, Big Bosoms covers the life of its subject with lurid on and off the set. Meyer was a mean sonovabitch, particularly to women, but he also dished it out to his friends. Its really amazing how much Peckinpah and Meyer were alike, yet so different, when it came to women. Both saw women as objects, but where Peckinpah showed them as weak in his films, the ladies in Meyer’s films were nothing but strong Amazonian types. Yet, off screen, it’s obvious that neither men held women in any high regard.
Big Bosoms is really a fantastic book. Sadly, not much is known about Meyer’s childhood, and the book starts from just about the time he joined the Army. I would really love to know what went on in his household. With Peckinpah, it was rather easy to see why he felt about women the way he did. But there is so much disinformation about Meyer’s relationship with his mother (from the book, Meyer seemed to really love his mother, or fear her, or maybe both). Since Meyer never had anything bad to say about moms, one can’t even really speculate on the true relationship. However, it was noted that mother always referred to Meyer’s girlfriends and wives as ‘cows’, so maybe there is something to be said for that.
One major problem I had with the book, though, is the voice of its author, Jimmy McDonough. For the most part, it’s a well written novel, but there are times where he jumps into a hardcase crime type of voice, and it really doesn’t work. I can completely understand the reasoning behind it. There’s a certain vibe you get when you think of Meyer and/or his films. He’s got a style, for sure. But McDonough’s flaw is he’s not consistent with his voice, and when he drops to the hardboiled type of writing, it completely breaks up the flow. I believe part of it is it just might not come natural to McDonough. Either that, or its so different from other parts of the book, and it hurts the novel some.
Yet, with that said, the wealth of information and interviews within the book make up for it. It can’t be overlooked, but the book is still very enjoyable. It just could have been better.
I think the biggest travesty of all, though, is I’ve never seen a Meyer film, but I’ve certainly heard of them. It’s just that a damn decent release of them is so hard to come by. The U.S. releases suck, and the U.K. box set costs over $100. But, after reading Big Bosoms, I certainly have my eye on it. The book makes it clear that after Meyer’s death, the people that took over his estate obviously don’t give a damn about Meyer’s legacy, and only care about the coin. And that’s a damn shame.