Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Human Target 4: aka In The Valley of The Teen Dolls aka: Teen Cleavage. 1971. A Lost Gem by Russ Meyer

When Russ Meyer set out to make the sequel to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which was a sequel to The Valley of The Dolls, the idea was capitalize on the "cleavage craze" of 1971. But all did not go as planned, as was the norm for Meyer's productions. Beset by problems from the start such as studio interference, budgetary cuts, incompetent and stoned production designers, general social unrest in America, a rumored spat with a transsexual lover, cloaked death threats from Roger Ebert (for refusing to use him as screenwriter again) and an order from President Nixon to cease filming, Meyer still prevailed in the end to make another sublime (and profitable) addition to his Valley saga, a land where porn is on the lips and cleavage of every hard-on speed freak with over-lit facial tones and stilted dialogue. How was he able to accomplish this? By calling on the talents and influence of Bob Hope, who by that time was known throughout Hollywood as a long-cocked swinger under his club name "Bugger Man".

 Bob Hope personally funded the film that had the working title "Teen Cleavage" in exchange for sexual dibs on all the cast. Meyer was so accustomed to these kinds of requests that he immediately agreed. Rumors from the production implicate Hope in various sexually deviant crimes that he was never successfully prosecuted for.

The screenplay was written by Meyer himself in a single night as shooting was scheduled to begin the next morning in Bob Hope's Palm Springs love shack. Naturally, the story was fragmented and incoherent but to see the Meyer magic work is one of life's great pleasures.



Hope, then 71 years old and indiscriminately fondling men and women on and off camera, plays "Old Flo" the cross dressing owner of a whorehouse in the dying town of Rockland. It is unclear if this fictitious town is in California or Arizona or Nevada although fans have insinuated the derogatory remarks made by Old Flo about "Damn California Hippies," and "Dope Smoking California-ites" and "Unpatriotic Bear Flag Bastards" that the location is not California.

Hope's whores are played by three unknown actresses who never appeared in a film again. Candy, Roxy, and a black whore named Spanish Fly? all flaunt large breasts hanging from their transparent nightgowns as they await the next customer. The dialogue in the whorehouse stands out as the least inspired of Meyer's career, possibly improvised or rehearsed moments before the camera started rolling.

Roxy: "I'd like a man with a great big cock for once."
Candy: "I know."
Old Flo: "Tell me about it. Before California came along miners knew how to treat a woman. They hit pay dirt every time. Oooh!"
Spanish Fly: "Hey now!"
Candy: "I'm bored"
Candy: "I'm horny."

At this point the blind negro piano player, Fingers, would launch into an existential song accompanied by an invisible horn section. And the music would compel the ladies to disrobe and dance while Old Flo rubbed their breasts with his/her bald head.

Enter "The Stranger" a man whose name is not even revealed in the credits. Stranger wants to have sex with all the women. Old Flo says that he has to sexually service her/him first. So Stranger agrees and Flo falls in love with him. But Stranger says he's from California so Flo attempts to kill him but has a heart attack while Stranger is trying to defend himself. Spanish Fly and Candy are making love in a nearby room and become alarmed by the sounds of struggle and believe Stranger has killed Old Flo. Instead of being angry, they are relieved because they are actually Magic Fairies who have been imprisoned by Old Flo and now are free. This is revealed in a 30 minute flashback sequence replete with psychedelic music and double exposure and narration by Meyer himself. Clips from Beyond The Valley of The Dolls (1970) were used to replace footage lost when Bob Hope reportedly went on a rampage in a Benzedrine frenzy and burned part of the editing studio down.

Stranger is now, according to the laws of the fairy, owner of the whorehouse. But the fairies have a secret stash of gold they want to share with Stranger. In takes 20 minutes of mind boggling costume changes and real time make-up application and many many ass and naked tit shots before the kids get on the road. This is the magic of Meyer productions: what should be deadly boring is somehow edited so quickly and is so erratic and erotic that it's infinitely watchable. You would think I've never seen a set of irresponsible and superficial teenagers get ready for an event...but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.

The four half naked polyester royalty set off for the hidden stash of gold. Then the true motives behind the women becomes clear as Stranger is killed by a naked Amazon Witch guarding a hoard of gold. (The original script called for a mountain lion to kill Stranger but the lion died on set before filming.) But Stranger manages to revive himself and behead the guardian nudist before both expire for good. This allows the three Fairies to dance in a shower of gold coins, naked, before cuddling on a bed that magically appears in the remote cave.

Critically panned, the film nevertheless was profitable. Bob Hope, credited as Bugger Man, denied any involvement and a paternity suit with Spanish Fly was settled discretely.

I caution you to judge a Meyer film by its content. Meyer popularized the grindhouse/tight budget style of independent filmmaking.  B Movie maker Ed Wood is perhaps more famous for making bad movies (I saw this movie at a midnight double feature with Plan 9 From Outer Space in Austin) but Meyer made movies that people watched and still watch. He didn't give people what they wanted. He gave them what he wanted: tits and ass and action and songs and violence.

I should mention that the original title "Teen Cleavage" was abandoned in favor of "The Valley of The Teen Dolls" which met with resistance due to overuse. So, in an attempt to "be patriotic" regarding the unpopular Vietnam War, and to satisfy Bob Hopes request, Meyer changed the title to "Human Target". Later interviews with Meyer indicate he called the studio and said, "It's called Human Target. For damn's sake." But the line went dead and all they heard was "Human Target For..."
So, they thought the title was Human Target Four, and that's how the marketing material was written. Meyer never attempted to explain how this was the 4th in a series of movies that didn't exist. And no one asked.

Bloopers:-- In the scene with the jukebox you can clearly see that the machine is unplugged although it is playing that annoying carnival theme.
--Bob Hope's long blonde wig falls off during his naked wrestling match with the stuffed monkey. This may be intentional.
--Spanish Fly and Fingers are obviously wearing skin suits during the hot tub humping scene.
--Although there is no mountain lion seen, a mountain lion roars as the group enters the cave. This is never followed up on and may have been a miscommunication with the audio effects team, thinking the mountain lion still existed in the footage.

Human Target 4 (1971)
Written, Produced and Directed by Russ Meyer
Starring Bob Hope

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