In 1959, Russ Meyer revolutionized the American sex film industry with The Immoral Mr. Teas, which introduced humor and storytelling into a genre that had hitherto been lacking in them. This and the films that followed earned him the nickname "King of the Nudies", and established the recurring motif of enormous bosoms which would henceforth characterize his work. He went on to revolutionize the industry again with a series of black and white gothic melodramas inspired by Italian neo-realism, and then made a further breakthrough in 1968 with Vixen!, one of the first sex films to cross over to mainstream audiences and appeal to dating couples.
Vixen!'s astonishing profitability brought Meyer to the attention of 20th Century Fox, who hired him to direct his first Hollywood studio film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, from a screenplay written by film critic Roger Ebert. Reviewers were baffled by the delirious mixture of sex, satire and exploitation, but the movie quickly became a cult success on the midnight movie circuit, and, along with Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, secured its director's reputation as an independent film-maker with a unique personal vision.
Meyer's films can be read as parodies of cinema archetypes and melodramatic conventions, as assaults on good taste, pin-ups come to life, an assemblage of Pop Art imagery and an ofttimes glorious celebration of American manhood's onanistic fantasies. In 1992, the British writer and film critic Anne Billson spent a day in his company; this, the transcript of their conversation, offers a glimpse into the mind of an extraordinary film-maker and true American auteur.