11 June 2012

Wild Gals of the Naked West

United States - 1962
Director - Russ Meyer
RM Film International, VHS
Run Time -1 hour, 5 minutes

Perhaps I should make it perfectly clear and come clean just in case it hasn’t become obvious by now. No matter what I may say elsewhere, the fact is that I'm a heterosexual American male, so I can't help but like westerns. Most of the people that I know who are into horror and science-fiction films aren’t really big on the westerns. I’m not really sure why this is, and the reasons probably vary from person to person, but I’m guessing that it’s primarily due to the costumes. Well my friends, I have some good news to report. That problem has been solved (actually, quite some time ago.) Thanks to the unique and wonderful stylings of dedicated and intrepid writer/director/producer Russ Meyer, costumes are not a problem at all in Wild Gals of the Naked West.

Oh, I’d be lying to you if I said this was some kind of western with aliens or zombies, because it isn’t. It’s still a western, and there are still the usual boots, chaps and neckerchiefs. But you probably won’t even notice them, or at worst, you'll notice but won’t care. That’s because you’ll be taken in by the sheer volume of cutting edge filmmaking techniques displayed by this auteur director. First and foremost is the dramatic set design of Wild Gals. It's a sparse minimalistic look reminiscent of the finest groundbreaking German films of the silent era. I hesitate to say avant-garde (that’s French anyway), but it’s very different and experimental, sort of like meta-set-design if you know what I mean

Second is Wild Gals' pacing, a cacophony of repeated obnoxious Benny-Hillesque audio-blasts synched with a staccato of quick repetitive close-ups. It’s a collage effect very much ahead of its time, in fact it presages the fast-paced, short-attention-span editing style of films popular some 50 years later with today’s youth. It seems very nearly designed to induce a Pavlovian response to images rather than contributing in any way to the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, there is a story to Wild Gals, it just, how shall we say…. doesn't require much of an attention span at all.

Finally, and this is probably the most important innovation in the western genre since John Ford met John Wayne; the lack of costumes altogether. True, as I mentioned above there are still costumes, but here comes the kicker; not on everyone (or every body.) It is precisely the dearth of costumes, or more accurately their sparing use that makes Wild Gals such a watchable western. When half of the cast is barely wearing anything at all, the relative level of attention that the costumes get pretty much averages out if you ask me

All told Wild Gals of the Naked West is a deceptively simple film with an incredibly clever nucleus. Budgetarily it may not be a shining star, but what it does have it isn’t afraid to hang out in the open. Actually its willingness to bare itself in all sorts of ways is what makes this film such a special piece of cinema history. So I guess I'm not sorry that I like westerns. Ever since my first mindboggling exposure to Wild Gals so many years ago, I have held for them a very dear place in my bosoms.

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