Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 02 September 2008
Source RM Films International VHS
Good Morning… and Goodbye!, Russ Meyer’s seventh narrative film, opens with perhaps the most glorious instance of narration in his entire body of work. I cannot resist relishing it in full:
How would you define nymphomania? Irregular union. Deflower. Wench. Voyeurism. Strumpet. Hedonist. Bacchanalia. How would you define doxy? Scabrous. Promiscuity. Ribaldry. Paramour. Debauchery. Adulterate. Carnality. You may look to the definition of these terms in what you are about to witness: an adult motion picture that explores the deepest complexities of contemporary life, as applied to love and marriage in these United States. All of the characters are identifiable, perhaps even familiar. And, par chance, you may view the mirror of your own soul.
This monologue accompanies the image of a woman running – naked and in slow motion – through a field.
There is no greater summation of Meyer’s penchant for the combination of words and women; it’s a sequence that singularly epitomizes his preoccupations as a director, and it does so with such assured ribaldry that it renders the entire remainder of this film an afterthought. This is unfortunate, because Good Morning and… Goodbye! is a transition in Meyer’s career worthy of consideration, a departure of some magnitude from the sparsely populated Gothic films that precede it.
The film concerns a network of eleven characters—all of them losers, as the narration doth protest. Their number is divided between the men and women, but they are all more or less anchored by Angel, the film’s centerpiece of insatiable lust. As portrayed by Alaina Capri (who was previously in Common Law Cabin), Angel bears an uncanny resemblance to Erica Gavin’s Vixen, although her actions are more measured than they are heated. We are introduced to her during some afternoon skinny-dipping, after which she returns home to her aging husband Burt and his bedroom disappointments, the most recent of which inspires another in what is apparently a string of Angel’s rants of dissatisfaction. The two have a virginal daughter (from Burt’s previous marriage; the actress portraying her is only five years younger than her step mother) who is always dressed in attire, typically polka-dotted, that exposes her tanned midriff. In her introduction, she drives down a rural highway, signals a young and interested member of the opposite sex (he, also in a convertible), and lures him into a roadside dance—literally, the boy and girl get out of their cars and dance excitedly before acknowledging each other in speech. Impromptu episodes of dancing are in this film often summoned without any foresight whatsoever.
The accompanying narration do a superlative job of describing the dilemmas for the audience, and it is so analogically relentless that the film very nearly becomes an abstraction despite the adequacy of the visuals in forwarding the narrative. The narration establishes Angel as “a casserole requiring a lead flavor […] The soul whose character permeates the dish […] A monument to unholy carnality, and a cesspool to marital pollution […] savagely seeking the tranquilizer of unrestrained fulfillment.” Angel is sexually insatiate and therefore adulterous, you see, and this is demonstrated in how quickly she warms up to the film’s token muscle. But the full extent of her rancor is established in this narration.
Audience to all of these affairs is a sorceress (portrayed by Meyer regular Haji), as she’s deemed in the narration, who’s present although unimplicated in many of the events. She’s our proxy to all the affairs, all the dissatisfaction, and all the dancing, but also a mystic—her very presence seems capable of triggering consideration and responsibility within this bevy of sin. Meyer would use this device again in Cherry, Harry & Raquel and Up!, both of which are less varied and yet more frantically surreal than this film. In both of those cases, a mystic complements the narrative in order to elongate it (the former film, for one, necessitated length after the lead actress departed early), but the result here is nonetheless bizarre, an element that further varies the film’s kaleidoscope of characters.
Up until this point in his career Meyer has employed no more than a handful of characters, all of them in rural locations, to depict his fatalistic scenarios. The agenda here is more or less the same – to place characters of loose morals into situations in which they are tempted to compromise marital or relational vows – only more manifold, resulting in more parallel narratives between which Meyer cuts in deftly hasty fashion. Remarkably, Good Morning and… Goodbye! never veers into incomprehensibility, as each thread of the story arc is kept refreshed. Granted, the story arc is one of soap-operaean banality, but nonetheless the craft on display here is more assured, concentrated, and mature than Meyer had heretofore exhibited.
Good Morning and… Goodbye! concludes with some violence, but it is not absolute in the same way as it is in his Gothic films. Instead, the conclusion is one of reconciliation and repair. Cued from the opening narration, the viewer is to consider these scenarios and apply them to her own life in the interest of betterment and satisfaction. Many, if not each of Russ Meyer’s films posits itself as a sort of instructional parable, and this tendency enables their preeminent appeal as camp because the tenets these films uphold are ridiculous. These parables are always willfully ignorant of the irrelevance of the worlds they’ve conjured, worlds in which people speak in relentless strings of analogies, in which dancing accompanies even the most trivial of social interactions. But if these films were as sociologically influential as they’d like to be, we’d all be having a lot more fun.
The Immoral Mr. Teas / Eve and the Handyman1959 / 1961
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!1965
Good Morning and… Goodbye!1967
Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!1968
Cherry, Harry & Raquel!1970
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls1970
The Seven Minutes1971
Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens1979