Sunday, April 28, 2013

El Professore Movie Reviews: Cherry, Harry & Raquel

Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Larissa Ely, Linda Ashton, Charles Napier
* * * 1/2
For me, Russ Meyer films can be broken down into two categories; pre and post 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls'. I enjoyed nearly every one of Meyers early low budget, independent features and found them in their brief running times to be filled with colorful characters, wild action, clever humor, brilliantly filmed rapid fire editing... and of course sexy women with huge breasts who are filmed at every conceivable angle. The pinnacle of these was 1966's 'Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill! (ironically or perhaps not, Meyer's lone entry that was devoid of nudity). After a good many of these glorified home movies, Meyer was offered a deal at the prestigious 20th Century Fox and lensed '... Dolls' (co-scripted by non other than the late Roger Ebert) and for me, this was the start of Meyer's decline. The film played like a big budget parody of his earlier work and it's large budget seemed to not jibe with his cinematic sensibilities. The fact that the film was also his first to feature some true mean spiritedness in it's violence added to the whole forced feeling of the production. Meyer appeared to have lost his touch and his career took a nosedive after that (my opinion of course as there are those who loved '... Dolls' as well as his subsequent features). 'Cherry, Harry and Raquel' is one of Meyers' last independents and one of his best... just not for the usual reasons.

Full review after the break.

Harry Sledge (Charles Napier) is a small town sheriff who is also a drug runner for a rich, old pervert. In between, Harry gets to make out with buxomy Cherry and Raquel (his boss also has the pleasure of getting his aged freaky on with the two of them) The main plot unfolds when Harry and his deputy, Enrique must but heads with rival drug dealer (and local Indian looney), Apache.

Starting out as a narrated diatribe against drugs, the film quickly turns into a very memorably surreal experience. Part of this is due to the legend that half the film was ruined in the lab and Meyer was forced at the last minute to shoot new scenes of the incredible Uschi Digard prancing around in the buff (of course). Her scenes have nothing to do with the rest of the film, but seem strangely appropriate for that very reason. Napier gives a terrific performance as the crazed, intimidating Harry (a dry run for his truly uncomfortable turn in 'Supervixens', one of my most disliked Meyer films). He is easily the most compelling character and this is where the oddity of this film lies; the two women Cherry and Raquel as portrayed by Larissa Ely and Linda Ashton are among the least memorable of all of Meyers' jiggly starlets. They're both beautiful, but neither were especially personable (compare them to say, Erica Gavin or Tura Satana, both of whom lit up the screen even when fully clothed). They're oddly subdued perfs ultimately make them forgotten once the picture ends. The biggest (and most lamentable) reason to enjoy this film is for it's action sequences. While this is hardly the reason to watch a Russ Meyer picture, I have to say that as a fan of action films, the scenes featuring the blood drenched running battle between Harry and Apache are among the best I've seen from this vintage and reveal once and for all that had Meyer decided to go this route full time, he could have been mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Sam Peckinpah and Don Siegal. The crazed, rapidly edited action in this film (perhaps more so than any of his others) is absolutely incredible. The finale which intercuts our protagonists rifle fueled death duel with scenes showing Cherry and Raquel making out with each other (in the men's absence) is one of Meyer's finest and most deviously clever sequences from any of his pictures.

As wrong minded as this may sound, 'Cherry, Harry and Raquel' is worth checking out for it's blisteringly bloody action scenes and a top notch Napier perf even more so than the expected Meyer titillation (though that part certainly didn't hurt, either). A fun 70 minutes for exploitation film fans.

NSFW warning on the trailer:

Cherry,harry & Raquel ! "trailer" Russ Meyer by gregwallace

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