Eve and the Handyman (1961):

The nudie format raised by Russ Meyer, as in The Immoral Mr. Teas, for an elaboration of Tatiesque comedy. The title's Original Woman is Eve Meyer in a black beret, a vague sort of gumshoe complete with trenchcoat and purple noir prose; her Adam is the handyman (Anthony-James Ryan), whom she spies amid surrealist chaos (an alarm clock is drowned in a bathtub and tossed out the window, the pugilistic neighbor leaps from under the sheets and boxes the air, a line drawing of a naked, frowning beauty oversees it all). Ryan goes about his business with the fulsome heroine on his trail, materializing as secretary, nurse, and waitress for the movie's assorted promiscuous equations. "Only a superman refuses to be blinded by the barrage of beauty," snaps the narration, but the handyman is just a mere mortal fumbling through temptation, venturing into the women's bathroom only to get trapped in the toilet, his back is turned as a flash of nudity brushes next to him at the laundromat. Old jokes are managed ceremonially (the tiny sign atop the pole is given the calm vaudeville delivery it deserves), new jokes are brought out with such rapidly as to turn translucent (a tree is about to give birth, Ryan is there for the cesarean operation); the jukebox from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! makes its first appearance, the skit at the beatnik studio reveals the Méliès touch that Andrew Sarris detected in Meyer, and establishes the filmmaker as his own best critic. ("Modern art must go... But where?") With the battle of the sexes' lack of connection mirrored in the film's own dislocation between sound and image, it is no coincidence that the gags (vide the handyman polishing the glass pane as the temp squirms on her seat) are more suggestive of masturbation than of intercourse. Human interaction is giving way to auto junkyards here, yet Meyer remains optimistic about the unifying force of sex, particularly when expressed in industrial stock footage edited into metaphorical humping, an experiment so disarming that even the sourpuss painting has to smile. With Frank Bolger, and Iris Bristol.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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