The curious preamble is structured around absence (disembodied feet, hands, wheels), surely the most disturbing thing for this most flesh-bound of filmmakers. Spooner, MO, is divided between the sadistís (Hal Hopper) ranch and the cackling croneís (Princess Livingston) brothel, the middle-aged "city boy" (John Furlong) ambles into town en route to California and falls in with some "fine southern friends." In the farm are Hopperís abused wife (Antoinette Christiani) and her ailing uncle (Stuart Lancaster); a raucous Elly May (Lorna Maitland) and a mute naÔf (Rena Horten) adorn the cathouse, the fire-breathing missionary (Frank Bolger) skulks among them, crying "Sal-vation!" Russ Meyer orchestrates this rustic Vulcanís net with a rockabilly vehemence that dismantles its half-hearted Prohibition setting and lets the sexual hysteria and political anxiety cascade freely. In the crumby desert, water is sexuality -- Maitland flaunts her fulsomeness in the stream ("I guess you gotta have one of them, whatcha call Ďem? Bathing suits!"), the sight of Horten bare by the water pump upends the Bible-thumper ("Shades of Sodom! Sins of Gomorrah!"). Furlong and Christiani are posed as the tentative positive couple, even if only so that Meyer can rhyme their lyrical frolic in the meadow with Hopper raping and drowning the preacherís wife (Lee Ballard) in the swamp. Much lacerating material is drawn from Tobacco Road, Johnny Belinda and Godís Little Acre, the silent strumpetís name (Eula) plays like a joke on the buxom Nordic model until you remember Faulkner -- Meyer bulldozes it all toward the remarkable moment in which "Shall We Gather at the River" yields to the two patriarchs tumbling together into an open grave. The coda drags in a Publilius Syrus quote, as if the prophecies of misshapen Eros and the manipulation of a disgruntled publicís anger needed underlining. With Sam Hanna, and Nick Wolcuff. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce