Meyer had started his film career shooting newsreel footage during WWII, and in peacetime began to find success as a glamour photographer during Playboy's early years. In the early 1960s he started filming soft porn 'nudie cuties', before hitting on his own niche of weirdly violent live action cartoons, full of large breasted, aggressively dominant women, and spineless quivering men. Once publicly accused of being "nothing but a tit man", he retorted, "That's only the half of it."
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) was the film that put Meyer on the map, followed by such equally scandalous classics as Vixen! (1968), Supervixens! (1975) and Up! (1976) It would certainly appear he liked exclamation marks almost as much as he liked boobs. He wrote, produced, directed, and self-financed most of his films, and retained all the rights, dying a rich man in 2004. His headstone reads "King of the nudies. I was glad to do it."
Ebert was an admirer from the start. "Russ had a very healthy, go-ahead, unapologetic way of celebrating the female form," he told Meyer biographer Jimmy McDonough. "I found him to be one of the most fascinating men I ever met. He was smart, funny, extroverted, robust, no bullshit." The pair apparently shared a sense of humour, and a love of movies and food. Plus, said Meyer, "Ebert has that wonderful sickness about him: Bosomania. He's truly a Jekyll and Hyde: we've got to make that clear. He's more debauched than I!"
Having decided to work together on the film Meyer would eventually regard as his masterpiece, they hammered out a treatment in three days, a first draft in three weeks, and the finished screenplay in six. Ebert proudly called Beyond "a camp sexploitation horror musical that ends in quadruple ritual murder and a triple wedding". He went on to contribute, uncredited, to further Meyer projects, but always denied Meyer's claim that he demanded "a girl at the end of every week" as part of his payment. "I did not," he said. "Nor, for that matter, did I get one."
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls was, uniquely for Meyer, a studio picture for Fox, leading to several colourful production battles, not least over its MPAA rating. Russ & Roger Go Beyond then, has the potential to be not only a hugely entertaining making of yarn, but also a document of a beautiful friendship. The script is being developed by Simpsons and Saturday Night Live scribe Christopher Cluess, but there's no director or start date as yet.
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)