September 25, 2004 by

Russ Meyer

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Categories: Hollywood, Military, Writers/Editors

rmeyer.jpgRussell Albion Meyer, a filmmaker who pioneered the sexploitation genre, died on Sept. 18 from complications of pneumonia. He was 82.
Known as ”Breastman Extraordinaire” and ”King Leer,” Meyer wrote, produced, edited and directed nearly two-dozen soft-core classics. These violent, X-rated skinflicks featured large-breasted women and very little sex, but were frequently censored for being pornographic or obscene. At the same time, his work was honored at film festivals around the world and discussed in university film classes. It also inspired a wide variety of filmmakers, from Quentin Tarantino and John Waters to John Landis and Jonathan Demme.
Over the course of his four-decade career, Meyer released movies with titles like “Heavenly Bodies,” “The Immoral Mr. Teas,” “Mudhoney,” “Supervixens” and “Wild Gals of the Naked West.” In 1970, he directed the mainstream film, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” which was co-written by Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert. But Meyer will be remembered most for “Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!” a 1965 picture one San Francisco Chronicle critic labeled “the worst film ever made.” Despite this review, and poor box office returns, “Faster Pussycat” became a cult classic on the art-house circuit, and the name of a 1980s metal band.
The California native started making 8mm films when he was a teenager. During World War II, Meyer served as a combat newsreel cameraman in France and Germany with the Army Signal Corps. He became a freelance photographer when he returned to the states, and shot six centerfolds for Playboy magazine before becoming an independent filmmaker in the 1950s.
Meyer married three times, and spent his remaining years living with a series of actresses, models and strippers. His life story was chronicled in the self-published, 1,210-page autobiography, “A Clean Breast.”
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