Cherry, Harry and Raquel! (1969)

Also known as: Megavixens
Three ways to love

If one of your lead actresses walks out days before shooting is finished, as a director you are faced with something of a dilemma. You've got gaps to fill, alternative scenes to shoot. According to some reports auteur genius Russ Meyer faced just this problem when filming Cherry, Harry and Raquel! in 1969. Linda Ashton, who plays the Cherry of the title, supposedly walked off the set due to hating the hotel they were all staying in. While Cherry is obviously short at just over an hour, and seems to be missing some sort of story arc in there, it's still a creative triumph for Meyer. Inserting odd, disconnected scenes with the inimitable Uschi Digard - here billed as "Astrid Lillimore" - creates a surreal sex and violence masterpiece that's hard to forget, once seen. In addition, you've got the iconic Charles Napier radiating virility and machismo to add to the viewing value, so it's hard to go wrong here.

After a bizarre screen crawl extolling the values of viewing freedom, we see the Raquel of the title (gorgeous blonde Larissa Ely) naked and in a slow-motion embrace on the bare earth with a young, dark-haired man. We don't see him again until the end of the film. We see images of Uschi, known throughout the film as 'Soul', in a bikini on a yacht, and hear about the evils of Marijuana. We then see that we're near the Mexican border in some sort of desert town. Raquel is now having oral sex with an older man, Mister Franklin (Frank Bolger). Franklin's orgasm is interrupted by Harry, (Napier) the local sheriff who's on the crook Franklin's payroll. They're dope smugglers, and Franklin's angered that one-time partner Apache (John Milo) has started up a new racket in the area. He orders Harry to go and blow Apache away. Harry's not keen, but caves in under threat of exposure. Franklin, probably because of his own sexual inadequacies, angrily kicks hooker Raquel out, but Harry offers her a lift home in his jeep. They come across an abandoned car, and have sex in it. Instead of Meyer's usual nude sex scenes we get clothed sex between the pair, but see brief glimpses of them cavorting naked in the desert. During this there's brief shots of Soul dancing nude around the phallic-looking rock structures, dressed in an Indian feather-bonnet.

Searching for Apache.

Harry drops Raquel home at his deputy Enrique's (Bert Santos) and demands that Enrique comes out to help him off Apache. Eventually Enrique agrees, and the two drive into the desert. Lying in wait for Apache, they think they see his car and blast the Hell out of it, but it's a trap. The car rolls into an embankment and explodes - empty of any driver. From above, Apache begins shooting at them, and they narrowly escape. Apache himself flees but leaves a trail of blood. Harry's satisfied that Apache will die alone in the desert from his wounds, and he and Enrique return to their homes. Harry returns to his "limey" girlfriend Cherry (Linda Ashton) who's a nurse in town. The two have sex as Harry tells a tale of first doing it when he was fourteen. They head into the desert and after Cherry playfully buries herself nude in the sand, Harry sculpts her breasts and torso out from it. The two have sex again. This time Meyer uses short scenes of the nude Soul, as the two make love, to maximum surreal effect. Soul on a exercise machine. Soul eating celery. In her indian headdress again. In the shower. Eating in the pool. Bashing a tennis racket in the water of the pool! What does it all mean? Cherry sees one of Raquel's hairs on Harry's uniform, and suspect Harry's shenanigans. She doesn't care though, saying she'd like to meet Raquel some time. Obviously Miss Cherry is up for anything.

Nurse Cherry.

Later, Harry sees Nurse Cherry off at the hospital. Soul seems to be the telephonist, but talks in German. In some absurd scenes she is running the switch on a train track! Franklin is in the same hospital for an operation, and almost has sex with Cherry after giving him a sponge-bath. She stops short and leaves. Harry runs into Soul in the desert, changing her car's flat tire. Later Franklin rings Harry and demands that he kill Enrique - he now knows too much. Again Harry rails against it, but he's caught in a trap of blackmail. Franklin also tells him to send Raquel over to the hospital for a 'session'. Harry turns up at Enrique's while the deputy and Raquel have sex. Harry interrupts it, and send Enrique to stash some dope in his mine. After Enrique leaves, the Sheriff ends up having sex with Raquel himself. Later he returns home to get his rifle, but the wiley Apache steals his jeep while he has a beer, and races off. Enrique is driving happily in the desert, planning to keep the dope for himself. Apache, in Harry's jeep, intercepts him and after toying with him for a while, manages to lure Enrique out of the car. Eventually the Mexican is hit by the jeep enough to be killed. Raquel turns up at the hospital to do her required "task" with Franklin, but finds him dead with his throat slashed.

Sapphic love.

As Raquel recuperates after the shock in hospital, Cherry visits her and the two finally meet. After Raquel gives her a joint the two instantly hit it off, and soon have the lesbian sex they've been craving. Meanwhile, Harry waits in his house, and the Indian turns up. After a game of cat-and-mouse, the two finally confront each other in the open, fighting and grappling as Cherry and Raquel make love. Eventually, the men blow each other apart with shotguns. Meyer knows how to shoot violence with aplomb, and the brutality in Cherry, Harry and Raquel! is no exception. Quite a few squibs went off here, as the two combatants fire round after round at each other, Harry cursing Apache all the while. Eventually the two fall dead, Harry on top of Apache, as we see short shots of Harry and Cherry having sex. Some sort of homo-erotic message here?

Finally we end our film on a montage of super-quick cuts of all that we've seen before. Our male narrator runs through the dubious moral aspects of all our protagonists. The characters made bad choices, but we are led to understand the effect of Soul, the one constant who influenced them all. A particularly wild soul inhabits this desert, hence, events ran wild for all who lived near her. We then see our final twist as Raquel finishes typing her story. Harry is her conservative-looking husband. But who is the young, dark-haired man from the opening sex-scene?

The end for Harry?

As mentioned before, Cherry, Harry and Raquel! is something of a surreal masterpiece. To edit all these subliminal shots in, absolutely staggers me, Meyer must have spent ages working on this! To form a complete picture of what, or who, Soul exactly is from these short glimpses is a challenge, and one day I'll be up to it. Uschi seems to be having a grand old time portraying Soul though, gyrating around the desert, and I don't think she wears clothes, except for a brief scene in a bikini, anytime in the film. Napier as Harry is his usual over-acting, white-toothed self, and he adds his comsiderable presence to a conflicted bad-guy role. Larissa Ely as Raquel is sumptuously beautiful as the blonde vixen, although the character is a bit one-note. Linda Ashton's Cherry is not as conventionally beautiful but similar to Ely, does not bring a huge charisma to Nurse Cherry. Perhaps her lack of enjoyment on set found it's way into the role. Nonetheless, they're both extremely attractive and their sex scenes, together and with males, are all quite titillating.

Meyer's usual high standards of cinematography, locales, dialogue, music and composition all apply here. The psychedelic theme song, "Toys of our time", seemingly written especially for the film, will stay in your mind for days to come. Though Cherry is a slightly flawed work, I put special emphasis on the slightly. The actresses, though lovely, are not operating on the same level as other films, and the relationships between characters are not as clearly defined. On the plus side, the surreal 'Soul' delirium Meyer injects, to make up for the loss of Ashton, leaves your head spinning with erotic images. It's a full-on flesh-feast with a brain, signalling the types of erotic epics to come with Up! and Supervixens. Therefore, a must-see! I can only recommend this one wholeheartedly, and it will, guaranteed, be viewed and enjoyed multiple times in this household.

© Boris Lugosi, 2007.


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Review written: 07/31/2007 22:11:40