Bright Lights Film Journal

“Not That I’m Horatio Alger”: Russ Meyer on <em>The Supervixens</em>

SuperRuss speaks!

I interviewed Russ Meyer in 1974 at his office in Los Angeles. He answered the door himself, dressed in red jockey shorts with a strip of film dangling over his arm. He was in the middle of editing what he said would be “the sum total of all my films” — The Supervixens. Exteriors were shot in Arizona, interiors in Hollywood, with Meyer producing, directing, writing, photographing, and editing, as he did most of his work. The official budget was $400,000, but Meyer confided that this was a considerably inflated figure intended to make audiences and critics take the film seriously in a way they wouldn’t if they knew how little it cost. Meyer is always a fun interview — literate, sardonic, every bit as jacked-up and larger-than-life as his films. Below are excerpts from that interview.

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MEYER: It’s Horatio Alger. He was the author of a lot of books written around, I suppose, 1900, with titles like Born to Win, Sink or Swim, and Paddle Your Own Canoe. They were always about a young man who was totally good, and he would always set out to gain his fortune and he would always come up against terrible people. They did everything they could to do him in, but he fought fair, you know, and he always survived and succeeded in the end. So, that’s just one facet of the thing.

And then I thought I would do a film that was a little bit autobiographical. Not that I’m Horatio Alger, but …

I borrowed liberally from a number of people I knew and it aided very well in the writing of the screenplay. And it’s the first screenplay I did all myself — entirely by myself. I went to Hawaii, to a very remote resort. I made an important decision on September 9, 1973 — an important day in my life — a decision about what I had to do. And so I clambered on an airplane and went to the Mauna Kea Hotel in Hawaii and situated myself there for some eight days and totally concentrated on doing an entire screenplay. I had nine rewrites — I did them all myself, together with the actors. The actors were all very involved. They’ll say, if I said this such and such a way, “This is what I would say under the circumstances, this is more me.” And that’s really what you find in a lot of screenplays that are particularly credited to the writer. I think actors contribute to the comfort of words because it’s one thing to sit in a little green room somewhere and write dialogue, but when you hear actors speaking it, it doesn’t necessarily flow as well as it might.

The main female character in the film plays two roles. Superangel and Supervixen. Superangel, she’s totally bad but beautiful. Supervixen, she’s totally good. They’re bookends. I like bookend constructions. She’s in the beginning and also at the end. That’s Shari Eubank.

What else is it? I set out to make a picture that I thought might compete favorably with today’s market in keeping with what I had done heretofore. And you know, crowded on one side by hardcore films and on the other side by major product that is very explicit. Heretofore, always, I had one super female in the film. This time, I said I was going to have seven. And we’d bring one in every reel, like a new linebacker. And I think it works, it really works. You don’t have time to grow tired of the looks or the actions of one girl, for example.

I felt I could make an odyssey of this. It’s an odyssey about a young man who works for Martin Bormann, who is now a kindly gas station attendant in the desert. It’s a film of exaggeration and great contrasts. Here’s a kid who makes 70 dollars a week, he lives in a five-room FHA house. It’s an attractive little house, but it’s nestled in the midst of rubble: corral, pipeyard, and so on, like a little jewel. And he’s living with a fantastic-looking chick who dresses in super-Frederick’s finery, you know? All the time. And she’s demanding as hell. She has nothing to do other than to sit home, or lay at home, in her big brass bed, thinking of ways to lure poor Clint home.

And all the girls in the film are on the make for Clint. Clint kind of stumbles through this whole movie managing to remain fairly intact, but through circumstantial evidence it would appear that he’s guilty or responsible for the demise of Superangel. So he must go on the lam. And as he goes on the lam he meets the various people — Supercherry and Cal McKinney. And all the people have names I’ve used in other films except the girls are all called “Super” and they play it straight. I used John LaZar, who was Superwoman in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. He plays Cal McKinney, and he and Supercherry are a couple of muggers and they mug Clint. Then I had O’Luke, who was in Mudhoney, Stu Lancaster, married to Uschi Digard, who was an Astrian wife and giant — well, they’re all giant-busted women in the picture, which I think makes the send-up. Every chick he meets is like — “Oh Christ, here we go again!” So she’s Supersoul and she speaks essentially in German, and she’s probably the most aggressive woman in the picture, of the seven. She’s just totally — she does two things: she’s either milking the cow with a giant udder, or she’s rapaciously taking her old man, out in the fields, wherever the case may be. And then there’s a sequence where she attacks, rapes, literally consumes a young man in a manger, screaming, shouting German, describing explicitly what she’s doing and how it feels. Then we have a black girl who’s built like the rest, and she’s dumb, she can’t speak, she uses sign language. But she has a white father, and we never explain that. She’s Supereula.

Supervixen is like The Postman Always Rings Twice. She wears a white dress, she’s good, pure. Shari Eubank. She plays both parts; it’s a reincarnation thing. But, you say, did Superangel really die in that bathtub? Was she really electrocuted? And she now is on top of the mountain, with the blood streaming down, but looking beautiful and elegant, guiding the destinies of three people: terrible, nasty, dirty, nogood Harry Sledge, policeman, former green beret, redneck, opinionated, a bum lay, sexually sick, very physical, very muscular; and Clint, clean, slim, obviously a stud but not in a pushy, forward kind of way, totally good; and Supervixen, voluptuous, pure, good, totally giving, self-sacrificing. And at the end she says, “Leapin’ Lizards!”