After re-watching Pixar's latest last night, I remembered a big problem I'd encountered in my first viewing.
I should first say that I wasn't as big a fan of Up as everyone else but, admittedly, i'm in the minority. And anyway I had problems from the start...
Not with the film of course - we'd only seen a poster at the time my problems began. My issue was with the title itself. Up. Innocent enough you may say? Well yes. But every cinema buff will know that Up is also the title of a very different type of film. It is, in fact, the title of a 1976 sexploitation film by Russ Meyer (King Of The Nudies).
Meyer was a famous American filmmaker in the (s)exploitation genre - he wrote, directed, produced, photographed and edited most of his films and they focused on strong-willed, big-breasted female protagonists. He also collaborated with film critic Roger Ebert on a number of features including their 1970 classic Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (which Ebert wrote, from a story they devised together). His films often contained absurdly comic situations, strung together by acts of violence (red syrup) and soft-core pornography.
The son of a policeman and a nurse, his cinematic career began in 1959 with the feature length The Immoral Mr. Tea. He rose in skill and popularity through the years, mixing styles and genres - the work gradually got crazier, sexier and cooler. He released his true masterpiece -Faster Pussycat...Kill! Kill! (a big influence on Tarantino's Death Proof) in 1965, and the film is now regarded a true cult classic. The quintessential (but not very good) Meyer film though, is the 1966 documentary Mondo Topless, which is a study of strippers in San Francisco. It's a pure exploration of Meyer's key theme - the female form, and even though the film tells us practically nothing about San Francisco and its inhabitants, it gives us a great look into the mind of its creator. Over the next ten years Meyer kept experimenting, making the first two films of his Vixen trilogy along the way, in 1968 and 1975. So, now we come to 1976, and Up!
Up! starts with one of the greatest opening scenes in cinema history.
Hitler (under the name Schwartz), fresh from a leather-clad, bisexual orgy, retires to a bubble bath, only to be greeted by a mysterious, well-endowed woman who releases a piranha into his bathtub.
Yes. You heard me.
The rest of the film plays out in a similarly mad way. Kitten Natividad plays a one-woman Greek Chorus (nude of course) who narrates the events (because it makes pretty much no sense) and soon bizarre and sexy plot twists pile one on top of each other. So, it's not exactly kid friendly material.
A key scene in the movie sees hitchhiker Margo Winchester (Raven De La Croix) and cafe owner Paul (Robert McLane) having typically wild Meyer sex out in the woods - on logs, in rivers, halfway up a tree - while cutting back and forth to Sheriff Homer (Monty Bane) in a similar situation with Pocahontas (Foxy Lae) back at his cabin. There's no indication of where she came from, but she's not there for long. After reaching up to pull on the lightbulb that hangs from Homer's ceiling she electrocutes the pair of them resulting in one of the funniest, weirdest slapstick shots you will ever see. And this is before the bare breasted, bloody chainsaw finale...
Even the films original tagline - 'If you don't see Up!...you'll feel down!' brings to mind images of balloons.
And the icing on the cake? The film opens with the declaration "no fairytale...this!'
So, next time you sit down with the family, to watch the latest Pixar 'classic', think of me. Because when you're watching the tender, real relationship between Carl and Ellie play out...i'm imagining Hitler being devoured by a piranha...