Mudhoney (1965)



I finally saw the movie from which one of my favorite bands got its name.  I guess I don’t really “get” Russ Meyer.  I’ve seen Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and I found those and Mudhoney entertaining enough.  I guess they’re supposed to be a mix of satire with some titillation?  Mudhoney is certainly well made – albeit with a couple continuity jumps – and has its tense dramatic moments but was he just trying to make trashy melodrama?

That might be the issue I have with the movie; I’ve seen films like Common Law Wife, Jenny Wife/Child and Shanty Tramp and I watched those for their shoddy film making, antiquated look and occasional nudity.  Meyer’s film isn’t nearly as shitty as the crap Something Weird puts out yet seems too trashy to be taken as “real” cinema.  Was he trying to be the b-grade Douglas Sirk?

For those unawares Mudhoney tells the depression/prohibition era tale of a hired hand named Calif (John Furlong) who comes from Detroit to some non-disclosed location in the deep south where he begins working for a farm owned by some guy (forgot the character’s name) and his hot, blonde niece Hannah (Antoinette Cristiani).  Only problem is that Hannah is married to an abusive, alcoholic nut job named Sidney (Hal Hopper) who, along with raping and beating his wife and visiting the local whore cabin, plans on inheriting his wife’s uncle’s farm when the old man kicks off.

Naturally the story heats up when it’s revealed that Calif has a thing for Hannah and, given that Calif isn’t an abusive drunk like her husband, she likes him back.  This creates all kinds of tense and melodramatic situations; Hannah screams a whole lot and even finally fights back against Sidney.  Meanwhile Sidney also attempts to get the townsfolk against the hired hand through the help of a naive preacher.

In my opinion the movie would be a tad more dull if it weren’t peppered with colorful side characters, most of whom inhabit the local whore cabin I mentioned earlier.  This tacky bunch definitely add a lighthearted if a bit sleazy touch to the story.  Eula (Rena Horton)  and Clara Belle (Lorna Maitland) are two hot, busty blondes.  The former is a deaf mute and both bathe nude outside and are always horny.  In fact Eula ingratiates herself to the local preacher who, after doing his thing, yells “sinner!” to the amusement of the rest of the group.  The barn is tended to by the hilariously weird and ugly looking Maggie Marie (Princess Livingston) who jovially exclaims about how she hasn’t turned a trick in 15 years.

The film does make its statements on morality.  The preacher accuses everyone of being a sinner while the inhabitants of the happy whore cabin basically celebrate their sexual freedom.  Yes we see both Eula and Clara Belle naked and yes, it’s meant to excite – I mean, come on – but both scenes have a natural, carefree tone about them.  Clara Belle even says to Calif, “oh you’re one of those city boys who uses a bathing suit.”

But the main crux of the story lies in what Sidney does and, indeed, he’s one awful son of a bitch.  I don’t want to give too much away but he does some pretty selfish, mean-spirited and downright sociopathic things eventually leading to the film’s cataclysmic conclusion.  The ending is pretty epic.

Overall the film is pretty entertaining.  The opening sequence of Sidney driving drunk, storming into his own house and raping his wife – as awful as that is – does an excellent job establishing the twisted, white trash world we are about to enter.  Is that the point then?  Should I re-rate this movie and give it four crosses?  Only time will tell!

I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney (2012)



Mudhoney is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time.  They rank right up there with AC/DC, the Ramones and Motorhead for their ability to release similar sounding, yet consistently pleasing music during the course of their existence.  Their sound combines fuzzed out Blue Cheer and Stooges inspired riffs, 60s “Nuggets” garage rock and a clever, smart ass sense of humor; the band is also known for dropping musical and lyrical homages to Blue Cheer, the Stooges and Alice Cooper among others.

The story of Mundhoney is also partly the story of independent label Sub Pop, whose own principles are rife with contradiction and whose story warrants its own documentary.  But I digress.

I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney is a pretty standard rock doc; there isn’t that much stylistic flash as it cuts between talking heads, neat performance footage and old time-y TV clips, which seems to be a growing trend among these newer music documentaries.  Overall, it’s an entertaining film but, if you already know the group’s story, then really there isn’t that much to get out of it other than a flannel draped nostalgia trip.

The story of Mudhoney is as follows:  guitarist/singer (now just singer) Mark “Arm” McLaughlin met guitarist/sometimes singer Steve Turner while the two were in noisy punk band Mr. Epp and the Calculations who were sort of like a goofier Flipper.  The two became best buds for life and went on to form Green River with guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament.  Green River were essentially just a lo fi hair metal band and, when they broke up, the “sellouts” Gossard and Ament left to form Mother Love Bone and eventually become multi-millionaire rock stars in Pearl Jam.

Meanwhile Mark Arm and Steve Turner stayed “real” and “true” and “underground” by forming Mudhoney with former Melvins bassist Matt Lukin, who claims he was fired from the Melvins for “not having a pussy”, and drummer Dan Peters; the group got their name from the 1965 Russ Meyer film.  At first Mudhoney thought they would release a couple singles or an EP, last for a year and move onto something else.  However, in 1988, their first year of existence, Mudhoney’s Sub Pop released debut single “Touch Me, I’m Sick” rocketed up the independent charts and they were crowned the kings of this underground movement/genre called “grunge.”  For the grunge neophyte, there is a HUGE difference between the noisy, messy, underground grunge of the pre-Nevermind era, with bands such as Mudhoney, Tad, Steel Pole Bathtub, Love Battery, Skin Yard and the Melvins, and the radio-friendly, “alternative rock” of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and Silverchair.  I suppose Soundgarden and Nirvana fell on both sides of the fence.

Mudhoney released two well received albums – Superfuzz Bigmuff EP (1988) and Mudhoney (1989) – toured the world with Sonic Youth, toured the States with various label mates like Tad and Nirvana and gained strong reception wherever they went.  Then, after the release of their 100,000 selling second album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, the shaky financial situation at Sub Pop forced Mudhoney to regrettably leave the label and go to Reprise; apparently they would have stayed at Sub Pop had they known that Nevermind was going to be such a huge success, funnelling huge amounts of dough into Sub Pop coffers.

Anyway, the group deliberately set out to prove to fans that, not only would they not sell out to the majors but, that they wouldn’t change their sound at all.  To be sure the albums Piece of Cake (1992), Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew EP (1993), My Brother the Cow (1995) and Tomorrow Hit Today (1998) all sound exactly the same and just like their Sub Pop releases.  Okay, Tomorrow Hit Today has a slightly swampier feel to it.

By 1998, however, “alternative nation” was all but dead and Mudhoney saw the writing on the wall. Matt Lukin quit and the group went on hiatus.  Then, for some reason or another, in the early aughts, Mudhoney caught a second wind that paralleled the rise of garage groups such as the White Stripes, the Dirt Bombs and the Von Bondies, hired new bassist Guy Maddison, who was a nurse by day and played in the Australian band Bloodloss at night, re-signed with Sub Pop and lived happily ever after.  If you must know, the albums they released henceforth are Since We’ve Become Translucent (2002), Under a Billion Suns (2006), The Lucky Ones (2008) and Vanishing Point (2013).

People who do interviews in the movie include Seattle grunge alums Tad Doyle, Kim Thayill, all five Mudhoney members and Sub Pop label owner Bruce Pavitt.

Interesting anecdotes include:

– Courtney Love apparently seeking therapy after hearing the song “Into Your Shtik”

– Mudhoney being surprised that Pearl Jam’s road crew wasn’t full of douche bags like the one for Nirvana had been

– Mark Arm apparently dabbling in heroine and dating a stripper (although my friend Dan claims this is common knowledge)

-Mudhoney’s unfortunate meeting with an A&R gentleman from the allegedly independent Caroline records.  Whatever his name is (they deliberately say it in the movie to call him out but I just forgot) makes unreasonable demands on the group that directly influence them to go to a major label

-Mark Arm working the back room at Sub Pop and personally addressing all packages that are sent out

But the main message I got out of the movie is that Mark Arm and Steve Turner (well I’m sure Matt Lukin, Dan Peters and Guy Maddison as well) are intelligent, laid back dudes who don’t have egos and are comfortable with a modest, middle class existence provided they can make any music they want.  And furthermore, in spite of not becoming multi-millionaire rock stars, they still managed to party a lot and get chicks.

Now, I ask of Sub Pop, when are they going to reissue those goddamn Tad albums?!