Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 30 August 2008
Source RM Films International DVD
Not that I subscribe to cliché, but to find a Russ Meyer film primarily starring men feels like a glaring anomaly—1965’s Motor Psycho, starring a trio of leather-clad hoods who taunt, assault, and murder a few locals during a desert road trip before wandering into war veteran philosophy, is an interesting footnote in Meyer’s filmography, especially in comparison to the cult classic, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, that it closely resembles in plot. The men simply aren’t as interesting (or eye-catching) as women in a Meyer flick, but Motor Psycho does convey a humorous take on male incompetence that, while found in other Meyer movies, is predominant in tone here.
Bare bones both in plot and budget, Motor Psycho delves into sleazy pulp almost immediately, as the motorcycle (or, “murder-cycle,” as cheekily referred to on the film’s poster) gang attacks a couple parked at a local lake for fishing and sunbathing. The woman assaulted is – expectedly – sporting a bikini, providing fetching eye candy prior to the gang’s arrival; while the other women starring in Motor Psycho will be outfitted in similarly skimpy outfits, Meyer avoids full-frontal nudity, and – for the most part – avoids eroticizing scenes involving violence. The contradiction present in a number of Meyer’s other films is present here, as the (presumably heterosexual male) viewer is teased into minor arousal by the Meyer actresses, but immediately doused with a shot of ice cold water as she becomes a victim of violence.
The sexual violence against women in Motor Psycho, feels provoked not only by the unchecked desires of the motorcycle gang (with the implication of some guilt on the victim’s part for arousing their interest), but the ineptness of the men who are actually involved in relationships with these female victims. It’s not exactly a forward-thinking concept, but the men in Motor Psycho who are supposed to “protect” their wives or girlfriends are terribly ineffectual in their manly duty. Even the sole male avenger, the Doctor, is something of a joke; as a veterinarian, one might think the man is used to dealing with animals, but his neglectful attitude – leaving his wife alone to flirt with an equally endowed, oversexed rancher – results in the motorcycle trio attacking and beating her while he strays from home.
Much like the three women terrorizing strangers in Pussycat, the gang of three in Motor Psycho is dominated by the whims of only one member (and I suspect if he met up with Varla from Pussycat, he’d be screaming for mercy within minutes). Much like the Doctor, the vigilante gang is incompetent, with one member a mere sheep, and the other continually distracted by his portable radio. Their clumsiness – and the ridiculous song that never stops on the radio – is actually very funny at times. Motor Psycho does play Meyer’s camp tendencies for laughs, the most memorable scene occurring between the Doctor and his partner in revenge, Ruby Bonner (portrayed by actress Haji, also seen in Pussycat as the more reluctant member of the three murderous women). When the Doctor suffers a snakebite in the middle of the desert and frantically orders Ruby to “suck it out,” you can almost hear the echoes of laughter that must have rang through the drive-in theaters.
Pairing Pussycat with Motor Psycho as a double feature seems the best way to enjoy the latter, which doesn’t add up to much by its final scenes. Each movie not only compliments the other, but also feels necessary in appreciating the gender switch in the latter film. Despite the unending one-liners that could be applied to the genre of Meyer, it does appear that the director really did have a way with the ladies.
The Immoral Mr. Teas / Eve and the Handyman1959 / 1961
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!1965
Good Morning and… Goodbye!1967
Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!1968
Cherry, Harry & Raquel!1970
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls1970
The Seven Minutes1971
Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens1979