Russ Meyer On Casablanca

The king of Bosomania discusses his favourite film on the BBC.

1995 was a very different time from today – a time when Russ Meyer could appear on a mainstream broadcaster in a mainstream film show talking about his favourite movie, Casablanca. No matter how much Meyer’s work had attracted screenings at the NFT/BFI and some critical praise, he was still very much an outsider – the maker of sexploitation (or, in the eyes of many on the establishment, pornographic) films and someone who would generally only ever be interviewed in that context. So for him to appear on Close Up, a series of short programmes in which a celebrity talked about their favourite film scene, was rather fascinating at the time – and frankly unthinkable now, especially as Meyer manages to (unfavourably) compare Ingrid Bergman’s charms to those of Melissa Mounds and Pandora Peaks.

The series also included Jonathan Ross talking about Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (something equally unimaginable these days) and the two episodes would later be joined together as a Meyer double-bill.

The clip below is not the best quality – the VHS tape that it was sourced from had not stood the test of time, I’m afraid, and we would usually disregard anything with this many drop-outs (as an aside – we have a lot of clips with similar issues, so let us know if this is a deal-breaker or of the wider importance of archive clips makes it bearable). But this is so historically fascinating, it seems too good not to share – just close your eyes and treat it like a radio broadcast if you like.

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  1. Yeah this is great stuff.
    Being used to watching nth generation VHS dupes in the past with colour/sound dropout and major tracking problems, the quality doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve seen much worse! Historical value is more important.
    I love these old brief film commentaries, where the opinions are just as illuminating about the commentator as they are the film under discussion. I suppose Film4 attempt it occasionally, and there’s Trailers From Hell, but they don’t feel like they really dig into the personality of the individual to glean any insights or revelations – particularly about how they watch films and how favourites help to define them.
    This same series also had JG Ballard on ‘Sunset Boulevard’ – in particular the scene of the narrator floating dead in the pool – which was typically insightful for Ballard (he also did a fabulous dissection of ‘Blue Velvet’ for BBC2’s ‘Moving Pictures’ show).
    Maybe it’s a sign of the times and maybe it isn’t, but to hear Meyer declare that he didn’t want the war to end (Jesus!) is the kind of honest opinion that is rarely shown by modern filmmakers.
    Great post, thanks for sharing it.

    1. Yeah, I love the fact that Meyer was entirely unfiltered in a way that just wouldn’t fly now. I’m working through several tapes worth of old clips and it is possible – though I think unlikely – that the Ballard episode is in there somewhere – this was right at the end of a tape so things may continue on another volume.

      I agree about historical importance over quality – it’s a bit annoying that the VCR set-up flicks to no picture rather than a bad picture, but it is what it is. For the sake of completism, I’m holding onto the tapes that feature damaged content to try on another machine at some point. But there is likely to be enough obscure and odd footage to keep us going for years anyway.

      1. I have the Ballard episode somewhere, along with numerous other bits and pieces that really need to be archived. Do you remember a series on Channel 4 called ‘Disinfo Nation’ that featured the likes of Genesis P. Orridge, Adam Parfrey, Robert Anton Wilson etc?
        I think one of my greatest losses was a long discussion between Friedman, Sonney and some of the other 40 thieves that by some miracle turned up on ITV in the middle of the night. Lost to the elements. Fuck my luck…

      2. I have a couple of clips from Disino Nation, but oddly – so far – nothing vital.
        Was the Friedman etc the film Sex and Buttered Popcorn by chance? I have the VHS release of that… somewhere. Or there is Mau Mau Sex Sex, which I have on DVD and which covered much the same thing.

  2. I wish I could remember. I suppose it could have been Sex and Buttered Popcorn but I don’t remember any film clips being shown. As I recall, it was a group of them sat down trading stories and reminiscing for maybe 40 minutes or so. But this was about 30 years ago so my mind could be tricking me….

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