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During the 1970's Russ Meyer established a reputation for producing low budget movies exploiting violence and nudity which were very successful as midnight features in conventional cinemas, or at drive in cinemas. They established a recognisable genre which usually followed a similar template and made a Russ Meyer film very easy to recognise. Now that these films have reappeared on DVD's for home viewing, and are being featured on some TV channels, interest in them may be reviving. Their most characteristic feature is one or more very violent sequences in which characters who have received what should clearly be fatal wounds, pull themselves together and continue to cut themselves to pieces until even the director has been satisfied. Another almost universal feature is a cast that includes several very generously endowed young women who are not adverse to displaying their natural assets unwrapped. Other common features in Russ Meyer films are (1) great photography of a variety of exceptionally scenic locations (to my mind this is often the most attractive feature of his work), (2) a naked siren or spirit who watches over the proceedings, and periodically comments on them in a moralistic way, (3) a corrupt law enforcement officer with a voracious sexual appetite who eventually meets a "just" death, (4) a script which ultimately delivers violent death to all those characters that Meyer regards as completely antisocial (these include all homosexuals, anyone associated with the drug trade, and any Nazi supporters who have survived World War II), and (5) some sort of postscript that summarises the lessons which we are expected to have learned from the film that we have been viewing. "Up" was released in 1976 and is I believe the best, (or the worst - according to ones point of view), of the films of this genre he produced.
Such a film could not be easily imitated today, it dates from a time when the augmentation of mammaries was not usually practiced, so the fairly vigorous movements Russ required from his cast always led to very pronounced "bouncing boobs". Today most of the starlets who compete to participate in movies that feature their bare breasts, have had silicone implants which lead to a very different physical response. Whilst most of Russ's films feature such starlets in the cast, "Up!" may be the first where Russ recognised that these unusually well developed mammaries are often associated with an unusually generous pubic thatch, and also made a great effort to pay his photographic respects to this characteristic. Clearly the primary focus in the selection of the cast for this film was not acting ability, and too much should not be expected in this area. Nevertheless Raven de la Croix has an extremely expressive face which, when compared with some other Russ Meyer films, minimises any deficiencies in this respect.
This film also features all the other characteristics of his work listed above. The naked spirit who provides a periodic commentary is playfully portrayed by Kitten Natividad, who has a role listed as the Greek chorus and whose comments are frequently delightfully pretentious. Gory violence is perpetrated with an axe and a chainsaw, both of which appear to have been chosen by the characters concerned in preference to the firearm that they could also have used. This scene would be completely intolerable to view were it not filmed with such extreme hyperbole that it is reduced to the level of black comedy. "Up!" also features the ultimate in surviving Nazi supporters - Adolph Hitler himself, together with his daughter by Eva Braun, who in some way appear to have escaped from the bunker in Berlin and taken up residence in California. The story, such as it is, starts with the murder of Adolph and follows the search for his assassin. Continued flashbacks make it difficult to follow, but this film is comedy rather than drama, and anyone viewing it today will be watching it for the visual effects (including both the types of spectacular natural scenery so generously featured), rather than the story line.
A good review should help its reader to decide whether they would regard the film as worth watching. With "Up!" this is simple, if you are a fan of Russ Meyer but do not know this film, you should certainly, in my opinion, accept any opportunity to see it because it is a more mature production than many of those which preceded it. If you have not seen any of his films but are anxious to sample one of them in order to assess why they have become cult favourites, I would recommend "Up!" because it is very characteristic of, but less extravagantly presented than, many of his earlier works. If you are one of those to whom Meyer's somewhat incoherent films will not appeal, the information above should be sufficient to save you from investing valuable time watching it.
The film begins quite mysteriously in a dungeon where a young man is
torturing an Adolf Hitler look-alike
We then quickly cut to a stunning
nude, played by Kitten Natividad, who teasingly introduces the audience
to the setting
We are in Northern California, in a small, rural community Just outside of town, a very beautiful, buxom young lady is hitchhiking along a lonely country road She is picked up by a young man, who happens to be the infant terrible of the local rich set... He tries to take advantage of the girl's abundant sexuality but after a short sequence involving a brutal rape, she turns the tables and ends up killing him...
Russ Meyer has never been one to linger too long on a single shot He likes to cut, especially to ladies running naked as jaybirds around the lush countryside In this case, however, he has added more than just a tease with Kitten Natividad, who narrates the events of the story with a husky, British accent while displaying her terrific figure The true star of the show, however, is Raven de la Croix, whose piercing dark eyes and fully rounded, voluptuous figure combine with some firmly loyal acting for an explosive performance
Never before has a porn movie made sex seem so ridiculous. Up!'s
over-the-top irony cuts so deep that it does not merely satirize itself
nor does it stop at its genre: Up! makes sex itself seem so absurd
that, after seeing this movie, one wonders why anyone's interested in
it at all. The many positive sex scenes in the movie are not shot as
porn so much as parodies of the notion of sex as bliss (note the quick
cut aways and the scene changes (mostly in beautiful natural spots),
creating a sense of hours of lapsed time while preventing any build-up
of erotic aura). The many negative sex scenes in the movie never grant
any empathy to the rapists, never provide any glimpse of pleasure in
the rapists, and always include the victimized avenging themselves,
thereby rejecting pornographic rape fantasies and demanding that the
viewer do so as well (if s/he hasn't done that already) (note: this
actually makes the rape scenes easier viewing than, say, the one in
Boy's Don't Cry, which - ironically - is probably more exploitative).
Obviously, the movie is not easy to take. Watching it, I was full of wonder but can't say that it was enjoyable or even consistently funny. Compared to Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, this is much more sex-centered and much less of a movie. Once again, though sex-centered, the movie is not really porn in that it makes no attempt to be sexy, instead portraying sex and the culture surrounding it (porn, sexual politics, and Moral Majority-style opposition) as possibly the greatest farce of contemporary Western culture. Highly recommended for people with extremely open minds who are interested in seeing a destruction of auratic sex. For people interested in a good laugh or a good movie, you probably would want to check out something else. For people with any no-go areas, you should probably forget about this movie altogether.
This is something like the odd film out in Russ Meyer's later film
career. In no way is it as well crafted as "Vixen", "The Supervixens"
or "Beneath the Valley of the UltraVixens." Of course it's far superior
to "Blacksnake," "The Seven Minuets," or "Beyond the Valley of the
Dolls." As far as its "plot" is concerned, well, in order to have ANY
appreciation of Russ Meyer films in general, you really can't be too
concerned with the "plot" to begin with.
What makes this movie worth watching (especially if you're a hetero male) is Raven De La Croix in the role of Margo Winchester. This Beautiful-Busty-Lovely-Dynamo Brunette Chick is IT--the bottom (and TOP) line.
Actually, she's a little over-the-top, but that's part of her charm!
This is Raven's one and only movie for Meyer, and it's a shame that he didn't use her as much as he did Uschi Digart or Kitten Natividad. It is truly a shame that Raven didn't get as many featuring roles as she should have in the 70s and 80s.
As I said in another review, this movie makes for a fine half of a double feature with one of Raven's other movies, "The Lost Empire." You can watch them back to back believing that "Margo Winchester" is just an alias of "Whitestar."
It has been joked about that a remake of this film should be done. Well, only if we can get Salma Hayek to play the part of Margo.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, here's what happens in the first few minutes:
Adolf "Schwartz", a wrinkled, perverted old resident of the American Midwest, still wearing his trademark moustache & cowlick, is pleasured in the dungeon of his Germanic castle by his servants, finally submitting to sodomy from his favourite, 'The Pilgrim', who steals all the money out of his wallet. Adolf then takes a nice, relaxing bath, reads the paper, & gets eaten alive by a piranha called The Nimrod.
Summarising the story would be an idiotic exercise - it involves a young couple, Paul & Sweet Li'l Alice (Paul is the previously mentioned Pilgrim, & Sweet Li'l Alice is a nymphomaniac, surprise surprise), a stranger in town called Margo (also, presumably, a nymphomaniac), a corrupt cop called Homer (I guess you could call him a nymphomaniac, except he's a guy), & loads of drooling, sex-starved hillbillies. Get the picture?
Plus, the plot (ho, ho, ho) is helped along by the Greek chorus of a romping, naked wood-nymph who keeps reminding the audience of the ongoing investigation into Adolf Schwartz's murder. Apparently this film is a murder mystery.
What separates Russ Meyer's films from normal smut or porn is the sheer deranged energy that fuels them, a warped sense of humour & a genuine cinematic skill. 'Up' is no exception, but unfortunately, it's one of his later films, which tend to display a much nastier, truly misogynistic bent, & contains two of the most offensive scenes I've seen in a Meyer film.
The first involves Margo being beaten almost to death & then raped while unconscious. An extremely violent, graphic & gratuitous scene which seems totally at odds with the comic atmosphere that the film is really trying to achieve.
The second is even worse in its own way - Margo is gang-raped in a bar, with Russ Meyer himself in the crowd, egging it all on. What makes this scene particularly nasty is that it's shot in a strangely comic fashion. Not aiming for high laughs, but making it out to be somehow absurd, as opposed to horrifying. Things go really crazy when the giant lumberjack raping Margo grabs Sweet Li'l Alice & tries to rape them both at the same time. Doesn't make much sense on any level, but little does in this film.
Meanwhile, the murder investigation continues, & the resolution involves the offspring of Adolf Hitler & Eva Braun...
Meyer fans will find a few laughs in 'Up!', as he seems to be going for insanity over titillation, but anyone else will be baffled, offended, or both.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Boy, did I ever have trouble writing a review for UP. This is my third attempt and hopefully my last one. Having seen every Russ Meyer film now, I can say without a doubt that UP is Meyer's most erratic film (and that's saying a lot!). So much so that I really believe everyone involved in the making of UP were either on drugs or drunk, because the film simply doesn't make any sense whatsoever. They were obviously winging it as they went along. The dialogue, though at times brilliantly funny (screenplay was co-written by film critic Roger Ebert!), is totally nonsensical. The characters and their motives don't make any sense and the use of a one-woman Greek chorus (played by Kitten Natividad) is repetitive and quickly becomes annoying. How many times did have to be remimded of who killed Adolph Schwartz? According to an article, Russ had to shoot the one-woman Greek chorus bits because nothing made any sense and she was included to tie-up all the characters and actions. Oddly enough, even with the one-woman Greek chorus, UP still doesn't make any sense: Paul dressed as a Pilgrim; the time at the bottom of the screen (why?!?!); Margo who starts talking like Mae West; the one-woman Greek chorus naming suspects of people who obviously have nothing to do with the killing of the Adolph Hitler look-alike Adolph Schwartz; after the chainsaw scene, Margo and Alice become "friends" but the next scene, Alice wants to kill Margo; the whole conversation between Margo and Alice when they run around in the forest at the end contradicts everything that we just saw in the film, like when Alice says Paul is into young boys and yet we saw Paul making out with her and Margo and a couple of other women throughout the entire movie; Margo's real "official" identity at the end, etc. It's all so disjointed, it's nearly impossible to follow. It looks like Russ and company forgot to shoot many scenes that would have given the film a more cohesive feel to the entire loony proceeding but as it is now, it's a near total mess. And it also looks like they ran out of money when they were shooting the last scene, when Margo, Alice and Paul confront each other, as it suddenly stops right then and there.
And to make things more hard to take, UP, like so many late Russ Meyer films, is an overindulgent and way too boisterous movie. Questionable moments in UP, like the rape scene at the bar, where Rafe, the big silent lumberjack rapes not one but two women at the same time, come to mind. At one point, as Rafe rapes Margo, men at the bar gather around him and cheer him on. One of the men in the crowd is Russ Meyer himself, eagerly slapping the big lumberjack's butt in agreement. This scene is oddly disturbing AND comical. Disturbing because it is rape. Comical because that scene, like the entire movie itself and like all Russ Meyer films made after BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, was made to look like a cartoon. Russ Meyer is to adult films what Tex Avery was to cartoons. All the women have big breasts. And all the men sport huge prosthetic phalluses. The whole thing is so animated and exuberant and over-the-top, with the loud ponderous music playing endlessly, that any semblance of reality is nonexistent. The rape scene is really filmed like a cartoon, with tons of screaming and men with axes in their stomachs that spew blood all over the place and yet they walk away like nothing had happened. So even if some scenes are sorta questionable, Russ makes them so unbelievable that they're not as shocking as they could have been (or should have been). Besides, after the opening scene, where we see Paul (with a fake wad) humping the Adolph Hitler look-alike (Hitler in a sex scene? Ick! And two men having sex. A first in a Russ Meyer flick!), everything that follows sorta looks quaint. But those overindulgent moments still leave a bitter after-taste.
But even with all the negative things going against UP, there are some moment of brilliance here and there, and the film is goofy, spirited and so contented in being a bad movie that it almost seems pointless to put it down. Russ has corraled a great cast of unknowns actors that are totally game. I particularly like Janet Wood, as Alice. She had great comic timing and is beautiful. She and Robert McLane, who plays her husband Paul, make a cute couple. Margo, played by Raven De La Croix, was okay and seems to have a lot of fun but she's not much of an actress.
Sex scenes are numerous in UP. More than any other Russ Meyer films, except for ULTRA-VIXENS. And there isn't a single impotent men in the entire picture (another Russ Meyer first), so everyone is having a good time. Some scenes are beautiful and sensual but they are hardly hot enough to be a turn-on. It's hard for me to believe anyone got turned on by any of the mostly cartoonish sex scenes.
So, to recap: half of UP is truly terrible, trashy and sloppy. But the other half is actually fun, spirited and at times quite original. Like I said, it's not easy to review this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
when people talk Meyer films, I never hear Up! mentioned at all and I
don't know why. I am constantly perplexed that Supervixens gets much
acclaim yet nobody mentions Up!
Maybe it's just me.
This is the 11th Meyer film I saw and I really enjoyed it. A lot. Again, maybe it's just the fact that Raven is so ravishing that draws me in. She is indeed one of the top Meyer girls, and tis a shame she wasn't cast in any others. She's gorgeous, has such a cool face, and of course, her bustline is amazing.
I guess this one was made so much later in his career that it went under the radar. It came out in '76 and by then people were already experiencing more intense cinema like Star Wars and Jaw, the 'blockbuster' as it were....perhaps Russ was past his prime by then. Maybe it was too self-referential, too cartoon-ish, too zany, too sleazy, maybe it was bar rape scene, who knows.....whatever the reason, it's a shame.
Love the rednecks and hillbillies in Meyer films- they don't seen Hollywood. And since I suffer from the same malady as Meyer did- Bosomania- I'll never argue with his casting, especially with Raven, who stands up there with Tura, Erica Gavin, Ann Marie, and others as top Meyer gals.
Hope to attend a Meyer film fest someday to see this on the big screen.
Russ Meyer does it again! Up! has something to offend anyone with any sensibilities. I have fond memories of wading through picket lines of feminists in Berkeley to see this in the theater. Meyer's perverse mix of humor, sex, and violence is at its best in this film. Not to be missed by people who....well, we know who we are, don't we?
Outrageously gratuitous and excessive in every sense of the word, Russ
Meyer's Up! cleverly mixes busty babes, bloody violence, blouse-busting
femme fatales, and well-endowed vixens into an erotic comedy of epic
proportions. The fact that the plot is a murder-mystery that no one
cares to solve, a narration by Kitten Natividad is bursting with
Shakespearean poetry explaining characters no one cares to profile, and
unimportant timeframe titles keep popping up as each scene starts
hardly matters; anyone watching Up! is clearly in it for the
over-the-top exploitation and generous doses of female nudity.
Kitten Natividad is the Greek Chorus, a naked narrator who excitedly details the wide assortment of characters who frequent the various story lines. Frequently she'll recap events with slightly different clips of footage and plenty of elaborate, riddle-filled, lyrical observations. Adolf Schwartz (Edward Schaaf), a depraved Nazi warlock and S&M fetishist, is brutally murdered in his bubblebath with the deadly fish Harry the Nimrod. There are many suspects, courteously announced by Kitten, but little motive and fewer complaints. It's a baffling puzzle with only the clue of a black-leather-gloved culprit.
Meanwhile, Margo Winchester (Raven De La Croix) is viciously attacked during a morning jog, and winds up accidentally killing her rapist. When the entire event is witnessed by local policeman Homer Johnson (Monty Bane), he coerces her into a few sexual favors to overlook the killing. Later, she gets work selling hotdogs at Sweet Li'l Alice's (Janet Wood) Cafe; in short order she's also "romantically" involved with Alice's husband Paul (Robert McLane).
As with most of Russ Meyer's X-rated voluptuous hellcat extravaganzas, the extreme sexual violence, overflowing testosterone and copious mounts of salacious nudity is done in such a jaunty manner that it's undeniably humorous. It's campy, pornographic, and wallowing in a sea of carnality, but effective in its mission of unrefined eroticism and gung ho extravagance. When Alice and Margot discover their bridled, steamy bisexuality when consoling each other with a sensual hug seconds after barely escaping a traumatizing sexual incursion, it's obvious that the whole ordeal is a well-planned setup for a spicy, fleshly girls-only encounter.
The film opens with ludicrously happy music, changing over to dramatic, orchestral, country, classic rock, patriotic, swashbuckling and everything in-between, even delivering wittily-placed Beethoven. Painfully bad dubbing and poor sound effects round out notable technical aspects, although it's almost unfair to critique how the movie was made considering the reason for its creation. With a creative zipper-cam shot, oodles of random sex, a crazed ax-wielding lumberjack, bondage, lesbianism, constantly unsheathed bosoms, bottomless ecstasy and overload of chesty pulchritudinous and lots of unnecessary explanations and dialogue during the lengthy birthday-suit final chase sequence, Russ Meyer's Up! should definitely not be confused with Pixar's latest computer animated family film.
- Mike Massie
Russ Meyer makes his films, when they're at their best or most
brilliantly deranged, like the dream of some sexually charged sixteen
year old who's seen his share of pornos and 70's era exploitation
films. They're crazy visions of women with (usually) nothing lower than
36-C cups, men with third legs (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more),
and enough fornication to blow the head gasket of any puritan viewer.
That being said, Meyer isn't exactly a real porno director. He makes
sex films in the same way that Robert Rodriguez makes wild action or
horror or kids films: as a do-it-yourself-auteur (i.e. writes, directs,
produces, edits, DP's, even camera operates), he's all about getting a
pulpy sensibility of what would otherwise be typical trashy material.
Meyer also is gifted with a wonderfully cringe-worthy sense of humor.
To give just a brief example- and maybe as one of the quintessential
scenes in any exploitation flick- the scene where two completely naked
women, one Eva Braun Jr with a knife and screaming maniacally about the
fall of Nazism and the plight of his 'father', run after one another
trying to kill each other in the woods.
So Up! is in another in a whole body of works where Meyer turns the conventions of the usual in movie-making, like a kooky member of National Lampoon, but at the same time I'm not sure it's one of his very best. It's a little scatter-shot in the story, if there is one closely to even follow with the Greek Chrous (Kitten Navidad) where in every time whatever semblance of a story is taking shape we're led off by this narrator and Meyers's editing which takes us into a strange loop of sequencing of events and images (which in and of themselves are good, but distracting). But when Up! does click, it works very well. Mostly this involves the early scenes with Adolph Schwartz (ho-ho), who gets masochistic sex from a dominatrix and a man with a huge thing, and then gets killed mysteriously in his bathtub. Then we're thrust into some backwoods group, including a shifty but well-intentioned sheriff (Monty Bane), a big, uproarious homunculus in Rafe (Bob Schott), and of course Meyer's 'harem' of girls.
It's fun, in all basic intentions, to see these girls have fun and go into exuberant glee doing their scenes, as opposed to the more degrading XXX features that get pretty boring after a while. This is where the dream facet comes in, where everything is just so surreal (the frolicking sex out in the open, wherever it is, the Nazi stuff right out of a typical exploitation flick from Europe, the double-climax that combines sex AND violence), that you just have to go along for the ride and laugh with all the craziness. What helps is Meyer's great cinematic eye- yes, great- as he shoots and edits as though every image has to be just next to perfect. While the actual content is sometimes all over the place, like with Rafe's rape scenes, where he turns into a true drunken gorilla, the actual quality of the film-making is nearly flawless. Which is to Meyers's credit, as what is in Up! could be the makings of a much more lewd and crude effort.
Hard to find (had to look deep on line) and not without little dips in real strength in the comedy, Up! demonstrates some great Meyers' product: beautiful, voluptuous, and mostly funny women (loved the one woman who's voice sounded out of femme fatale noir), total horn-dogs and beasts in men, and a bit of vicious satire to boot. More beer!
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