Famously, critic B. Ruby Rich reviewed “Faster, Pussycat!” in the 1960s, and dismissed it as a shallow, male fantasy that was content to ogle. It took several decades and a re-visitation for her to see the film as something of a feminist masterpiece. This is a movie that appeals to very low fantasies, perhaps, but also empowers every one of its characters. The villain of the piece may functionally be Varla, but in practice, it’s the Old Man. He is the one who leers and insults the women, and it is he who attempts an act of assault. Although living in a dying, ramshackle home, he still bears the amoral, privileged mien of American “Old Money.” He bemoans: “Women! They let ’em vote, smoke and drive! Even put ’em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!” He is a political throwback on the waning edge of the old ways.
Varla is the new generation, an appellation she received from the opening narration, which calls the protagonists a “rapacious new breed” that “prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody! Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor’s receptionist … or a dancer in a go-go club!”
This “rapacious new breed” is, of course, the woman with the power and integrity to reject the old world of male dominance. The women in “Faster, Pussycat!” are feminist warriors, using movie violence to correct the misogynistic sins of countless past generations. Like a velvet glove cast in iron, these women will force the old men of the world to die out. Varla, Billie, and Rosie are cinematic martyrs, giving their lives for your grindhouse absolution.
Is it the best film ever made? One might merely say that the 2022 Sight & Sound poll overlooked something.