Returning home in a drunken state one night, Sidney Brenshaw (Hal Hopper) demands his frightened wife Hannah (Antoinette Christiani) open up the door after crashing his car into the wall of the farmhouse they share; when she reluctantly lets him in, he rapes her. The next day, a stranger walks into the small town of Spooner, meeting Maggie Marie (Princess Livingston) and her two attractive daughters, Clarabelle (Lorna Maitland) and deaf mute Eula (Rena Horton). The stranger introduces himself as Calif (John Furlong), and as his name suggests he's headed towards California, but he's been dropped off here after hitchhiking and is looking for work. He finds it at Sidney's place, and that's not all as a bond develops between him and Hannah...
While director Russ Meyer isn't perhaps the first film maker you'd go to for a morality tale, nevertheless his work has an interesting take on the struggle between good and evil, often within the same character. Co-written by William E. Sprague and Raymond Friday Locke, Mudhoney presents one of his most intriguing ethical dilemmas, where a woman who desperately needs to leave her abusive husband prevents herself from doing so because she is married to him, and feels duty bound to stick with him, even though she has fallen in love with someone else. Meyer pushes that loyalty to the limit so that Sidney, one of his most vile characters and played to the hilt by Hopper, can't hope to redeem himself in our eyes - in fact you wonder what Hannah ever saw in him.
The theme is how one man's evil can bring a whole community (or as many extras as Meyer could afford, at any rate) down to his level. Sidney is lecherous (see the way he licks his lips at every nubile young woman), a violent drunkard, and always trying to wind the other characters up into lashing out in some way. However, he has a plan; working on the farm is Hannah's uncle Lute (Stuart Lancaster), a hardy, kindly man afflicted with a worsening heart condition, and when he dies, as he surely will soon, he will leave a large sum of money to Hannah, money which Sidney will also be entitled to as her husband. All he need do is bide his time until Lute has a fatal heart attack, but he's getting impatient.
Not content with having one buxom blonde in his film, Meyer added the two sexually available sisters who wear low cut dresses open to the navel. Their purpose is pure titillation, as they don't advance the story any, and simply provide temptation for the male members of the cast, including Calif, who nearly sleeps with the innocent but horny Eula. Fortunately an interruption by Sidney makes him see how he will be little better than his love rival if he goes through with it, and he remains loyal to Hannah. Not afraid to rely on the grotesque to increase the general atmosphere of mounting hysteria, Meyer does have too many scenes which feature people standing around roaring with laughter like imbeciles.
However, it's this mixture of broad comedy (which isn't all that funny to be frank) and sweaty melodrama that provides Mudhoney (what a title!) with its trademark appearance. Ever the hypocrite, Sidney employs the local preacher, Brother Hanson (Frank Bolger) to make Hannah and Calif seriously unpopular around town with a reputation of being adulterers, which I suppose they are, but you can't deny Hannah was driven to it. Sidney sows the seeds of his own destruction and as Lute's condition gets the better of him, his greed and the drink sends him into a frenzy. A tragic end for everyone is what is in store, but as always with Meyer, you're not sure whether the ethical problems thrown up by the conclusion are basically an excuse to host the sex and violence we've witnessed. At least at this stage, Meyer had a claim to being serious. Music by Henri Price.
American director and one of the most notable cult filmmakers of the 60s and 70s. Meyer worked as a newsreel cameraman during World War II, before becoming a photographer. In 1959, his work for Playboy led to his first film – the hugely successful ‘nudie’ feature The Immoral Mr Teas. Other soft-core features followed before Meyer moved to a series of trashy, thrilling B-movies – Mudhoney, Motor Psycho and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – that combined the two elements – incredibly voluptuous women and graphic violence – that would become Meyer’s trademark.