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  Up! Down
Year: 1976
Director: Russ Meyer
Stars: Edward Schaaf, Robert McLane, Elaine Collins, Candy Samples, Su Ling, Janet Wood, Linda Sue Ragsdale, Raven De La Croix, Monty Bane, Marianne Marks, Larry Dean, Bob Schott, Foxy Lae, Ray Reinhardt, Kitten Natividad
Genre: Comedy, Sex, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Here is our Greek Chorus (Kitten Natividad) to introduce us to what you may not be aware of at first is a murder mystery. It concerns a certain Adolf Schwartz (Edward Schaaf), who bore a striking resemblance to an infamous figure from history, but now spends his time indulging in sadomasochism in his torture dungeon in the American wilderness, where he has a castle. He has willing participants in his sexual humiliation, and one of those is Paul (Robert McLane), who Adolf pays to have gay sex with, but Paul is not too happy about this - though is he unhappy enough to resort to murder?

Definitely not to be confused with the Pixar cartoon, Russ Meyer's last but one movie for the cinema was this, and it went farther than he ever had before in depicting the sex that he had previously left as teasing nudity. Though he never went the hardcore route, Up! was still pretty strong stuff, with more unclothed women that ever before and not a minute going by without some sexual reference or even a simulation of the act, all edited with rapid fire style as if trying to work the audience up into a frenzy. Never mind the audience, the characters were on the verge of doing the same, and would often tip over that edge.

Although ostensibly a comedy, the humour was where Up! stumbled as if Meyer had become sidetracked with trying to outdo his rivals in the hardcore industry and was neglecting the lighthearted qualities that might have made this more palatable. He may have intended it all to be taken as a big joke, but you could tell he was perfectly serious about the carnal nature of the movie, and that left a brittle, cruel tone to what otherwise might have been a fun romp. For a start, it begins with a sequence detailed above, the point of which was to garner laughs from the view of Adolf Hitler's deviancy influencing his sex life as well, which really wasn't hugely hilarious and in this was more grim.

Once Adolf is murdered in the bath with a hungry piranha, we're meant to be pondering over who the culprit was who introduced the fish to the water, but Meyer is barely interested in that himself until he ties up all the loose threads for the finale. Mostly this was about the new arrival in the region, Margo Winchester (Raven De La Croix), who awakens all sorts of lusts in the locals, both male and female, although while out jogging one passing driver turns nasty when he tries to rape her, knocking her out in a river in the process. Margo comes to her senses just in time, and ends up killing him in self defence - but the sole lawman in the area, Homer (Monty Bane), witnesses the event.

This sounds like a premise for blackmail, but the story Homer offers in return for sexual favours is something Margo is happy to go along with, thanks to the screenwriters, who included famed critic Roger Ebert under a pseudonym, wanting more excuses for sex scenes. Also in the mix is Sweet L'il Alice (Janet Wood), a bisexual who is content to try out all sorts of activity, but is mainly the girlfriend of Paul, plus a bunch of minor characters present as punchlines or for the supply of nudity. If this was about frolics in the great outdoors (Meyer's camerwork is predictably impeccable) then it would have been easier to appreciate, but they insisted on adding the more dubious elements to give it a meaner tone that sabotages it. And it's not campy mean, it's woman getting raped over a table in a bar mean, which gives one pause about the motives of the filmmakers. The explanation is worth hanging around for, if no less risible, but it was clear Meyer was reaching the end of his cinematic tether. Music by William Loose and Paul Ruhland.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Russ Meyer  (1922 - 2004)

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.

Cherry, Harry & Raquel! and Vixen were more sexual and cartoonish, developing Meyer’s excellent visual sense and skilful editing techniques. Meyer made two films for 20th Century Fox – the bawdy satire Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by critic Roger Ebert) and the semi-serious The Seven Minutes, but their commercial failure led the director to return to his independent roots. Supervixens, Up! and 1979’s Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens were even more energetic, inventive and sex-filled than their predecessors, the latter proving to be the last film Meyer directed.

 
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