Sleaze Champion Russ Meyer Pleasures Himself With Vixen!


Pioneering American sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer was at his best when he was most casually crass. Vixen!, the last movie Meyer made before Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and his vain chase for bigger successes, looks comparatively effortless, and stands as a prime example of Meyer’s infantile and sometimes disarmingly protean perversity. The movie, playing as part of “The Glandscape Artist,” Anthology’s Meyer retrospective, has all of the director’s fetishistic quirks, particularly his unabashed love for Rubenesque, sex-hungry women, and naked antipathy for everyone else (draft dodgers, Commies, Irishmen). Dolls star Erica Gavin plays Vixen, the personification of Meyer’s femdom fantasies. Vixen inevitably beds everyone in the film, including jealous rival Janet (Vincene Wallace), brother Tom (Garth Pillsbury), and African-American hippie Niles (Harrison Page). But Vixen’s single-minded need to screw does not, as some of Meyer’s defenders have argued, make her empowered. While she is insatiably horny, she’s also nerve-shreddingly loud, because Meyer liked his women pushy. Likewise, while Meyer included a jive-talking black antagonist to draw a bigger crowd, his heart doesn’t seem to be in race-baiting, so Vixen’s unmotivated use of slurs like “Sambo” and “shine” grates today. Still, Meyer’s dirty mind otherwise wanders freely throughout Vixen!, as when the heroine entertains a male houseguest by lustily sucking a dead fish like a popsicle, or when Janet daydreams of masturbating while lying on a tree stump. Meyer’s self-professed ideal viewer may have been “some guy … with semen seeping out of his dick,” but in his best films, he was mainly trying to keep himself entertained.