Movie of the Day

Cherry, Harry & Raquel!

I don’t know why film students learning about montage are forced to watch the Odessa steps sequence from The Battleship Potemkin, when they could watch the opening sequence of Russ Meyer’s Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, or the whole film, really.

Meyer is—fortunately or unfortunately—known as the director the world’s greatest breast fetish. But he was also a master of montage, and this is nowhere more evident than in this film, which is nominally about a corrupt sheriff and drug running in a small town on the US-Mexican border. The film opens with an introduction that unfolds at breakneck speed,  with a wordy prologue about the state of the world as modernization threatening the natural forces of life playing over rapid intercutting of scenes of industrial landscapes and images of frolicking nude women.

Then comes a lengthy narration about the dangers marijuana poses to the minds and bodies of the bored middle classes. Audiences know they have an exploitation film in store for them as the staunch moralism of the narration plays over shots of yet another busty woman sun bathing on the deck of a yacht.

The story concerns a square-jawed sheriff played by Charles Napier who double-crosses the rich, elderly businessman who is paying him to look the other way as he runs drugs from Mexico to Stateside. The story is scant, but it hardly matters, and the film really is about montage. A lot of it is there to titillate the audience, and Meyer would have probably been the first to admit, but the majority works for relating the thoughts (even if they are dirty thoughts) of the characters, and for some pretty inventive story telling. Legend has it that many of the non-sequitor edits were added to pad out the running time after a lab ruined half of the film tediously shot on location, but Meyer later denied this. Either way, it is a film that is really made by its editing.

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