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Russ Meyer look


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#1 James Bond

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 01:34 PM

hey everybody,

Lighting is definitely not my forte - but i do possess a rudimentary knowledge of the equipment, if not techniques.

Essentially, I'm trying to recreate an in-studio late 60's Russ Meyer film look. Certainly, film stock would play a part, but I'm limited to using 16mm 200 ASA Kodak True Vision.

I'm wondering if any of you lighting wizzes might be able to suggest hints? Just to my eye, his films look daylight/HMI lit and heavily diffused - the colours seem soft given the sharp focus...

Additionaly, would any sort of non-conventional light positioning/contrast mean anything in getting this "look"?

Many thanks,

Mr. Retrogorilla, student filmmaker Esq.,
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#2 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 04:16 PM

hey everybody,

Lighting is definitely not my forte - but i do possess a rudimentary knowledge of the equipment, if not techniques.

Essentially, I'm trying to recreate an in-studio late 60's Russ Meyer film look. Certainly, film stock would play a part, but I'm limited to using 16mm 200 ASA Kodak True Vision.

I'm wondering if any of you lighting wizzes might be able to suggest hints? Just to my eye, his films look daylight/HMI lit and heavily diffused - the colours seem soft given the sharp focus...

Additionaly, would any sort of non-conventional light positioning/contrast mean anything in getting this "look"?

Many thanks,

Mr. Retrogorilla, student filmmaker Esq.,

its been awhile since ive seen one of his movies, maybe keep the light hard not diffused, most stuff from that time had hard lighting.
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#3 David Venhaus

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Posted 03 October 2006 - 09:32 PM

Which of his films are you thinking of? From what I remember, the look of his films of that period can vary quite a bit.
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#4 James Bond

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 01:03 AM

Which of his films are you thinking of? From what I remember, the look of his films of that period can vary quite a bit.


Most of his later colour stuff - after the B&W fare such as "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" - ermmm....one good example would be "Cherry, Harry & Raquel" or even "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls".

I'm hoping to be able to get a suitable Eastman Color/grain effect in post - but his films really catch my eye in terms of lighting (and composition) - you can tell he had extensive still photography experience.

I guess what I'm asking, would HMI's with diffusion give me that "soft" yet "punchy" look even though I'm planning on a deep focus for the shoot? Hmmm...wish I could describe it better :-)
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#5 John Holland

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 10:56 AM

Forget hmi's you need hard light , as key and a strange fill , also hard , and some really bad lab work , Worst lit films ever . John Holland , London.
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#6 Hal Smith

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Posted 04 October 2006 - 11:27 AM

Forget hmi's you need hard light , as key and a strange fill , also hard , and some really bad lab work , Worst lit films ever . John Holland , London.

It's my impression that Russ wanted his films to look like the contemporary cheap porn flicks - maybe he used the same crews? :D
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#7 David Venhaus

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Posted 05 October 2006 - 07:35 PM

Russ Meyer was a pro still photographer before doing movies. He is credited for shooting layouts for Playboy magazine in its early days. From what I remember, the colors in "Cherry, Harry & Raquel" were very vivid and bright, while in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" they were much softer, very different looks. Might be because much of "C.H&R" was outdoors and mostly natural light while "B.V.D." was mostly interiors and artificial lighting. From interviews I've read, Russ Meyer didn't want anything to do with hard-core porn.
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#8 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 12:25 PM

Russ Meyer was a pro still photographer before doing movies. He is credited for shooting layouts for Playboy magazine in its early days. From what I remember, the colors in "Cherry, Harry & Raquel" were very vivid and bright, while in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" they were much softer, very different looks. Might be because much of "C.H&R" was outdoors and mostly natural light while "B.V.D." was mostly interiors and artificial lighting. From interviews I've read, Russ Meyer didn't want anything to do with hard-core porn.


'Cherry, Harry & Raquel' was made by Meyer's production company Meyer was the cameraman.

While 'beyond the valley of the dolls' was made Fox, a major studio that uses union crews, and Fred Koenekamp was the cameraman, not Meyer.
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#9 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 02:11 PM

I went to a 24 hour projection of Russ Meyer films and he was present. I seem to remember him saying that he was an army cameraman and did industrial films (and said that in his opinion he continued to do them) before doing fiction work.
I do not think he was into hard core porno films either.
Saw some photos of him handholding an Arri2B with 200 ft. mag.
I don't believe much hardcore porn was shot in 35mm.
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#10 Hal Smith

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 04:38 PM

I do not think he was into hard core porno films either.
Saw some photos of him handholding an Arri2B with 200 ft. mag.
I don't believe much hardcore porn was shot in 35mm.

I wasn't implying Russ made, or wanted to make, hardcore porn, but that his "style" seemed deliberately reminiscent of hardcore. I think he wanted to make films that could get "respectable" distribution but still be pretty purient.

A disclaimer: I am not a "big boob" fan - too much of a good thing and not the main entree.
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#11 David Venhaus

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Posted 06 October 2006 - 04:50 PM

More then just a specific look, Russ Meyer has a certain visual style to his films. On most of his films, he was the cinematographer, director, writer, producer and editor, so he had a lot of artistic control of his projects.

There actually is a lot of adult hardcore, especially from the 1970's, that was shot on 35mm. Back then, the main outlet was theatrical release rather then home video.
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#12 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 09:38 AM

I really question that a lot of "hardcore" porn was shot on 35mm. Most I think was shot on 16mm.
I believe that the biggest markets for hardcore were peepshows and super8 (for home viewing).
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#13 James Bond

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 11:41 AM

His cinematic style lent itself well to his films - they were supposed to be comic book style characters (i.e. his women were extremely endowed, his crazy characters off the wall crazy, etc.) - everything on-screen, including the somewhat gaudy lighting, was a perfect match to his style of storytelling.

I'm interested in capturing some of the same vibe - much has to do with his editing style and composition/blocking, but I was just curious if HMI's would be the best to approximate that Meyer look?



I really question that a lot of "hardcore" porn was shot on 35mm. Most I think was shot on 16mm.
I believe that the biggest markets for hardcore were peepshows and super8 (for home viewing).


No, for awhile porn was quite chic, the "in" thing...the majority of Bob Chinn's work (Johnny Wadd films) was shot in 35mm Panavision. "Deep Throat", "Beyond the Green Door", etc. all were 35mm.

As mainstream popularity waned and the films went back underground, less was shot on 35mm and the industry was the first to embrace video in the 80's.
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#14 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 11:51 AM

I never thought of "Deep Throat" and "Beyond the Green Door" as hardcore porn. Porn yes but not hardcore porn. Too much "narrative" and production value. Same with "Story of O" and "Emanuelle".
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#15 James Bond

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 01:46 PM

I never thought of "Deep Throat" and "Beyond the Green Door" as hardcore porn. Porn yes but not hardcore porn. Too much "narrative" and production value. Same with "Story of O" and "Emanuelle".


Before Deep Throat, there was no "porn" as you describe it...or very little except for aformentioned underground stag loops and such.

Most films attempted some kind of narrative, no matter how contrived...some actually quite good, Joe Sarno and Randy Metzger films were quite well done by anyone's standards.

All the grindhouse fare prior to "Throat" was decidely softcore. Harry Novack films and their like...nudity and implied sex.
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#16 David Venhaus

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Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:51 PM

During the 1970's, there were about one hundred 35mm adult features produced every year. Some were still being shot on 35mm up through the late 80's, but not nearly as many. Here is a link to an interesting site dedicated to the history of the "golden age" of 35mm adult film and x-rated theaters.(there is no nudity on the site)
http://realboogienig...l/fun_facts.htm
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