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  Cherry, Harry & Raquel! Desert RosesBuy this film here.
Year: 1970
Director: Russ Meyer
Stars: Charles Napier, Larissa Ely, Linda Ashton, Bert Santos, Frank Bolger, Uschi Digard, Michelle Grand, John Milo, Michaelani, Robert Aiken, John Koester, Daniel Roberts
Genre: Comedy, Sex, Action, Thriller, Trash
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Harry (Charles Napier) is the sheriff of this county, but he's not exactly on the level, if you know what I mean. This morning he is playing cards with some buddies when one of his underlings, Enrique (Bert Santos), knocks on the door and tells him he has a telephone call to take. Reluctantly Harry tears himself away from his game and his winnings to hear from the drugs baron who is pretty much his boss around here, Mr Franklin (Frank Bolger). He tells the lawman to get over to his place as quickly as possible because he has a new job for him - but once Harry gets there he has to wait, as the old man is being serviced by a certain Raquel (Larissa Ely)...

The deserts of the United States have provided the preferred locations for quite a few notable directors, from John Ford to Jack Arnold, but one of those who doesn't get mentioned too often in connection with those stretches of dust and sand is Russ Meyer. In Cherry, Harry and Raquel! (the exclamation mark is important: presumably you're meant to shout the title) the desert features heavily, probably because it was bright and cheap. All Meyer had to do was take what little crew he had and point the camera at his frequently undressed cast, and the rest would come together in the editing room.

Meyer's editing here is among his very best, and almost stops you noticing that a lot of the wild scenes are merely there for padding. You won't find his leading ladies' bras padded, but you will find shots of Uschi Digard wearing nothing but an Indian headress running around the great outdoors or lounging in a swimming pool, which at first glance seem to be commenting on the story, but on closer inspection are more likely included to provide more nudity to keep the perceived lechery of the audience fascinated. Why does Uschi (here appearing under one of her many pseudonyms) sport that headdress?

That's because she's representing a character we never see until the very end, The Apache who Mr Franklin has ordered Harry to kill off. An attempt to stretch out a paltry amount of footage to feature length it may be, but such fast cutting and visual wit and innuendo does do its work and keep your attention throughout what unfolds as a fairly flimsy plot. Mainly it's a way to manage the main characters into sexual pairings, so Harry seduces Raquel (or does she seduce him?), then goes back to his English girlfriend Cherry (Linda Ashton - at least she's supposed to be from London, but that's one strange accent), and finally the two girls find they have something in common besides Harry.

Which would be a penchant for lesbianism, of course. Therefore everyone is catered for as we even get a full frontal of Napier, starkers except for a pair of cowboy boots. The star was one of the few Meyer leading men to graduate to roles in "proper" Hollywood movies, but he never forgot the debt he owed the auteur, as he was possibly the finest lead actor Meyer ever worked with, bringing the precise amount of square-jawed masculinity to offset the more eye-catching female pulchritude of his co-stars - Napier was a long way from playing a space hippy on Star Trek, that was for sure. If the two ladies of the title here are not among the finest who ever appeared in front of this director's camera, then Meyer makes up for it with brusque wit and an incredible amount of energy. I'm not sure what a major studio like 20th Century Fox saw in him to hire him for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, but it was this film that apparently did the trick. Whether that was a good thing or not is up to you. Music by William Loose.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Russ Meyer  (1922 - 2004)

American director and one of the most notable cult filmmakers of the 60s and 70s. Meyer worked as a newsreel cameraman during World War II, before becoming a photographer. In 1959, his work for Playboy led to his first film – the hugely successful ‘nudie’ feature The Immoral Mr Teas. Other soft-core features followed before Meyer moved to a series of trashy, thrilling B-movies – Mudhoney, Motor Psycho and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – that combined the two elements – incredibly voluptuous women and graphic violence – that would become Meyer’s trademark.

Cherry, Harry & Raquel! and Vixen were more sexual and cartoonish, developing Meyer’s excellent visual sense and skilful editing techniques. Meyer made two films for 20th Century Fox – the bawdy satire Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (written by critic Roger Ebert) and the semi-serious The Seven Minutes, but their commercial failure led the director to return to his independent roots. Supervixens, Up! and 1979’s Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens were even more energetic, inventive and sex-filled than their predecessors, the latter proving to be the last film Meyer directed.

 
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