Cult Filmmaker Russ Meyer, Of 'Faster Pussycat' Fame, Dies

His works influenced such bands as White Zombie, Mudhoney.

Russ Meyer, the blue-movie maverick whose lusty images inspired a host of filmmakers and musicians, died Saturday at his home of complications of pneumonia, according to The Associated Press. He was 82.

Meyer's racy legacy — more than 20 films thick with violence, nudity and impossibly busty heroines — made him a cult icon and earned him the nickname "the Fellini of the sex industry."

His career spanned five decades, but Meyer's most influential work may well be 1965's "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" Dialog from the film is sampled on White Zombie's "Thunderkiss '65," and the movie provided the look and feel for the track's video (as well as many others). Eighties hard rockers Faster Pussycat even took their name from the flick, while grunge forefathers Mudhoney borrowed the title of another Meyer movie.

Meyer began experimenting with film in his teens, and his first feature, "The Immoral Mr. Teas" (1959), was the first soft-core sex film to make more than $1 million. Despite the filmmaker's grindhouse beginnings, the cult of Meyer flirted with the mainstream throughout his career, most notably in the '70s when 20th Century Fox inked a deal for Meyer to bring his projects to the studio.

The first under the deal saw Meyer team with film critic Roger Ebert for Ebert's sole screenwriting credit, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Though Meyer's deal with the studio would soon fizzle, the 1970 release was a hit and its influence is still felt today. Mike Myers quotes it in "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," Sublime sampled it in their cover of "Smoke Two Joints," and the film continues to enjoy a strong midnight-movie following.

The Fox deal may have been short-lived, but "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" exposed throngs of new fans to Meyer's work. Punk legends and professional antagonists the Sex Pistols were among the newly converted, and in 1977 the group approached Meyer about bringing their planned film debut, "Who Killed Bambi," to the screen.

Meyer tapped Ebert for the screenplay, and work began on the film, but financial hang-ups halted the project a day and a half into shooting (Meyer, in a characteristically bold and ultimately prophetic display, had insisted he get paid up front, according to Ebert). The project was eventually brought to term by Julien Temple and delivered to theaters as "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle" in 1980.

Though considered over-the-top and jaw-droppingly shocking at the time, Meyer's work now seems almost quaint. While at the forefront of the sexploitation movement, Meyer never dabbled in hard-core sex footage. And as for the violence and ample nudity in his films, Meyer was fond of telling his critics, "It's all a joke."

The filmmaker was married three times but leaves no survivors.

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