Friday, 5 April 2013

Motor Psycho (1965)

Russ Meyer plays it straight.

A beautiful woman is sunbathing before going off to seek the attention of her husband who is fishing. He seems more interested in his fish and it's not long before she's attracting attention of her own from three young biker punks. Her husband comes to rescue her but loses the battle and the gang take what they want from the woman.

A veterinarian called Cory Maddox (Alex Rocco) and his wife Gail (Holle K. Winters) drive into town but she attracts attention from the same gang. Cory returns before anything happens to her and pushed the leader, Brahmin (Steve Oliver) off his bike. Later Cory gets called to a pregnant horse and while he's away the gang go into his house and wreak their revenge, When he returns an ambulance is already there. The helpful Sheriff (Russ Meyer) claims she'll be fine and they haven't done "nothin' a woman ain't built for".

We cut to Ruby (Haji) and Harry (Coleman Francis) in their truck. They are arguing when they get a flat tyre. Ruby goes for a walk to the sound of saxophones while Harry fixes the tyre but three bikers come along. They accidentally shoot Harry dead when he tries to grab the gun from them then shoot Ruby when she runs. The punks scupper their bikes and steal Harry's truck (having fixed the tyre I presume).

Cory turns up and we find Ruby is just grazed not dead, He puts a bandage on her and they set off together.
The bikers come truckers head down a road marked 'Caution' yet still find a gas station open. They hear a siren and leave the station, going back the way they came and passing Corey and Ruby who turn and give chase. The boys stop the truck and get out their weapons. They shoot out Cory's tyre and shoot at Ruby and Cory but leave them stranded and head to an abandoned mine.

Cory is bitten by a snake and forces Ruby to cut it open and suck out the poison in a sequence which is more graphic than the earlier rape scenes it mimics. There's almost a match on action edit (first Ruby spits out blood then we cut to the gang and see Brahmin spit out some water. Slick (Thomas Scott) decides to leave the group and Brahmin shoots him in the back as he walks away. Dante (Joseph Cellini) affirms his allegiance to Brahmin.

Brahmin and Dante run out of gas and abandon their truck and go to lie in wait for Cory. He and Ruby however, are sharing stories as he recovers from the snake bite. Dante manages to escape from Brahmin and attempts to steal Cory's truck. Ruby catches Dante so he pleads with her, then threatens her, then pleads again. Ruby seduces him and while Dante takes advantage Ruby stabs him. Cory remains feverish.

By morning Cory has recovered and Ruby explains what happened last night before they continue on. (Having fixed the tyre I assume). Brahmin shoots Ruby again and they hide in the entrance to the mine where there is plenty of dynamite. Brahmin displays symptoms of  post traumatic stress disorder after his turn in Vietnam. Cory throws some lit dynamite towards Brahmin who, in the midst of his psychosis, doesn't see it on his advance and gets caught in the blast. Cory takes Ruby away. To hospital I'm sure.

So what went right? It has violence and curvaceous women but it's gritty and not camp. There are very few women, and none that strong in character. This is about male violence and the male gaze. Almost all of the women have flesh on display but none gratuitously like normal Meyer movies. In this movie only the victims are objects of desire with flesh on display. Jessica keeps fully dressed and covered while trying to seduce Cory, even if the outfit does display her body. The male gang are horrible, making their way raping and killing. The scene where Dante forces Gail to dance with him before Brahmin rapes her while Slick telephones his mother is truly disturbing. While this film is one of the first to feature a disturbed Vietnam veteran it's Dante and Slick whose motivations you question. Only when Slick leaves is there a threat of violence against them. What kept them there before that?

There's not a lot of fun in this film. It's harsh but mercifully short. It still could have had a couple of scenes less but the overall juxtaposition of light and dark themes throughout keep it going. The happy couple fishing to the brutal assault, Jessica seducing Cory to Gail's rape, Harry offering Ruby to the gang before grabbing the gun to save her, the Sheriff to Cory, Cory forcing Ruby to suck out the snake venom to previous scenes of violence, spitting out venom to spitting out water, Ruby with Cory to Ruby with Dante etc. Lots of contrasts

A good film but not the Meyer I look forward to. Bring on something camp and fun.

Maru's Score 5/10

Motor Psycho (1965) on IMDb

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