A voluptuous young woman is lying naked and drunk on her bed. Also in the room is another well-endowed woman whom she tells that she has got to take clothes off also. The woman starts taking of her clothes and the already naked woman gazes at her breasts and says “So that’s what my husband was after… not bad, not bad, I gotta admit that’s not bad at all”. The woman she’s talking about is Erica Gavin as the title character Vixen, but she could just as well have been referring to this landmark Russ Meyer movie of which I got to admit: it’s not bad, it’s not bad at all.
most Russ Meyer movies the plot is simple: Tom Palmer is a pilot who’s flying tourists around. When he’s away from home his wife Vixen is getting it on with practically everybody. They live in a secluded part of a Canadian mountain resort together with her biker brother Judd. Also hanging around is his friend Niles, who’s black and fled from the U.S. because he doesn’t agree with the Vietnam war. Basically everything revolves around Vixen and her unsatisfiable lust: she has sex with a Mountie, a tourist couple, her husband and even her brother… The only person she absolutely won’t have sex with is Niles, because he’s black. Vixen: a racist bisexual polygamous adulterous nymphomaniac and one of the greatest characters Russ Meyer created.
“Vixen!” is pretty low on plot: The only thing that actually happens is a couple staying overnight, of which Vixen seduces both persons on separate occasions, and the appearance of a guy named O’Bannion in the third act of the movie. He’s a tourist requesting to be taken to California, but secretly has an entirely different agenda. It turns out he’s a communist who forces Vixen and Tom to fly to Cuba with Niles tagging along also. It comes out of nowhere but provides the movie with a finale and a moment of some sort of respect of Vixen towards Niles.
While Meyer received success with well-endowed naked women his movies where never truly explicit and always had some sort of plot making the nudity feel less gratuitous. Some of his movies hardly had any nudity like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or Common-Law Cabin. “Vixen!” is clearly a first step into the world of true softcore pornography as Vixen has no less than 6 sex-scenes in the first 55 minutes. Upon its release it was granted the then new X-rating, adding to people’s curiosity and making this a box-office hit movie. Nowadays “Vixen!” could hardly be called X-rated, but comparing it to the amount of nudity on display in Showgirls it would probably receive an NC-17, though it’s in my opinion an R-rated movie at best. The sex-scenes are tame, and mostly focus on the upper body and the occasional butt-shot, but I do have to give credit to Meyer for including an extensive lesbian sex scene, something which must have been pretty ground breaking back in the day. In Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! it’s only mentioned Varla and Rosie were lovers, but in “Vixen!” the bisexuality of the lead character is explored much more graphically. In some of his previous work Meyer cut away during sex-scenes to suggestive stock footage of cars crashing, rockets taking off and such. In “Vixen!” he just lets everything unfold on screen without cutting away to such symbolic images.
The lesbian sex-scene isn’t the only controversial scene in “Vixen!”; at one point she dances suggestively on a table in front of the couple who’s staying overnight with a dead fish in her hands. In a later scene she walks in on her showering brother, joining and seducing him. After that her brother jokes about it now being Niles’ turn with her, which absolutely disgusts and distresses her. Your brother is OK to have sex with, a black man totally not. Vixen: an American redneck living in Canada.
What makes “Vixen!” so immensely watchable are two things: the lead actress Erica Gavin and the sharp written dialogue. Gavin can hardly be called a talented actress, but her performance here is energetic, her screen presence undeniable. Aided by a script full of snappy lines and actions that actually make her a total bitch, it can only be attributed to Gavin’s performance of Vixen that she makes us somehow like her to a certain degree, even after the cheating, racist remarks and incest. Her line delivery isn’t flawless, but she gives it a 100% at all time and is just fun to watch.
The character of Vixen is one that has been crafted over the course of the past two years by Meyer in other movies. Alaina Capri, who starred in Common-Law Cabin and “Good Morning… and Goodbye!”, played a similar character: a voracious and ferocious presence, one who cheats on her husband and constantly delivers snappy lines. The only difference is Capri did it to her movie husband while Vixen loves him very much, but just isn’t satisfied with a monogamous relationship. Capri also refused to display nudity, whereas Gavin is fully naked 80% of the time.
In general “Vixen!” isn’t a great movie, but for a soft-core skin flick it is highly entertaining and maybe even Meyer’s best movie up until that time, or at least up there with “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!“. The banter between Vixen and Niles provides a lot of comic relief even if Vixen’s remarks are racially insensitive. Even without an actual plot the movie is never boring, mostly because the sensual scenes with Gavin are skillfully done. The movie is basically a series of sex-scenes tied together by small interludes featuring Tom, Niles and her brother Judd, until O’Bannion comes around to provide the movie with a villain. It’s one of the more intriguing choices Meyer made. He supplies the movie with a social commentary with the character of Niles who came from the U.S. to Canada because he was supposed to be drafted. He uses Niles as a platform to protest the Vietnam war. When he introduces O’Bannion he provides the audience with his view on communism. The final act of the movie revolves around Niles being persuaded to go to a Communist country because all people of all colors are alike there. The racist Vixen is a symbol for America. When it turns out O’Bannion is at heart just as racist as Vixen is, he chooses the lesser of two evils. Quite a political subtext for a movie that is centered around a racist bisexual polygamous adulterous nymphomaniac.
Bottom line: for a softcore porn flick “Vixen!” is not bad, it’s not bad at all.