Mudhoney_russmeyer movie-poster_01

Mudhoney (1965)

Mudhoney (1965)
Directed by Russ Meyer
Starring Hal Hopper, Antoinette Christiani, John Furlong

Recently I was lucky enough to acquire a box set of 14 Russ Meyer flicks on video. As any fan could tell you these films aren’t that easy to acquire and most of these have never been released on DVD or any other format in Australia.

Russ was a pioneer in low budget nudie and exploitation filmmaking. Many people would simply brand Meyer as a bad director and dump his work into the category of bad films. On the contrary, Meyer was an extremely talented filmmaker who made bold and controversial films that are still both entertaining and daring to this day. Meyer was more than just a dirty-old-man who liked making pictures about boobs as many people would lead to you to believe.

One of the best films Meyer made was Mudhoney, this movie is a good demonstration of his skill, technique and unique vision. Unlike many of Meyer’s other productions nudity and sex scenes are minimal, the goofy humour is toned down and violence is not glorified or sexualised. This movie is gritty, disturbing and rather shocking in it’s realistic portrayal of domestic violence and dysfunctional relationships.

Hal Hopper plays Sidney Brenshaw, a repulsive drunk who savagely beats and rapes his wife Hannah (played by Christiani). Sid and Hannah live on a farm owned by Hannah’s uncle Lute. Lute is a good man and a hard worker. He cannot understand why Hannah tolerates her husband’s violent behaviour. When Sid isn’t beating her he spends his time drinking at Maggie Marie’s brothel and screwing her two hillbilly-hooker daughters. Sid barely lifts a finger to help run the farm so Lute and Hannah decide to hire a farmhand. A stranger arrives in town looking for work. His name is Calif and he is hired almost immediately.

Despite learning that Calif is fresh out of prison Lute trusts him and sees him a more suitable partner for his niece Hannah. Problems with Sidney are escalating, he is becoming increasingly more violent, self-destructive and abusive to his wife. Calif has become more protective of Hannah and it seems a romance is beginning to bloom which only drives Sidney more insane with jealousy.

Lute is not healthy and fears he may die soon which excites Sidney who is already planning and scheming about what he will do with his half of the inheritance. About the time we learn of Sid’s scheme to leave Hannah with half the loot, he learns of Lute’s plan to leave his entire estate in Calif’s name. With the aid of a hypocritical preacher Sidney plans a diabolical plot to ruin the lives of Lute, Hannah and Calif once and for all.

It may not provide the titillation that most of Meyer’s films offer, but it certainly packs a punch with its powerful drama and cartoonish over-the-top characterization of evil. Lorna Maitland and Rena Horten play the scantily clad sisters who jiggle their wares at Mama’s little whorehouse and provide much of the humour in this black comedy. Horten’s character is a deaf and mute innocent who adores Sidney’s affections no matter how repulsively he treats her. She is Sidney’s polar opposite in this film. Mama Maggie Marie is played by Princess Livingston; a toothless, rubber-faced hag who appears in a few other Meyer flicks. Her hammy performance cannot be expressed in mere words. Hal Hopper oozes slime in a fantastically despicable performance as Sidney. Meyer’s black and white cinematography is aesthetically beautiful and adds a touch of class to the brutality and sleazy epic of rural melodrama. A must see.