Back in the midst of something that could pass for civilization after the remote and riparian rumpus that was Common Law Cabin, Russ Meyer began to sharpen his satirical knives with Good Morning… and Goodbye! Raucous and horny, sweaty and dirty, Good Morning…and Goodbye! mixes elements from almost every Russ Meyer film that came before it. The blue collar cuckolding from Lorna, the bickering hillbillly couple from Motorpsycho!, and the teen/parent angst from Common Law Cabin all get tossed into the stew with our cast of, in narrator Joe Perrin’s own words, “eleven losers,” creating a mold that would hold for the remainder of Meyer’s career.
Good Morning… and Goodbye! is an extra-sudsy soap opera about couplings and decouplings that’s much softer and more whimsical than Common Law Cabin as there is no body count and the waters are literally calmer. Its opening narration, much more soothing than John Furlong’s ball-clenching bark that began both Common Law Cabin and Mondo Topless, sets the table with its dryly delivered litany of questions such as “How would you define ‘nymphomania’?” which are rhetorically asked in order to introduce the film’s characters and the universally dramatic questions that will be asked within its narrative.
The film follows the exploits of Angel (Alaina Capri) and Burt (Stuart Lancaster), an unhappily married couple who live with with Burt’s seventeen year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Lana (Karen Ciral), in a gothic mansion in the middle of absolute nowhere. Wealthy but impotent, Burt cannot satisfy the oversexed Angel who is having a torrid affair with Stone (Patrick Wright), burly fuckboy who moves from window to window, pencilling-in the women he services. When Lana meets and falls for far-out surfer Ray (Don Johnson) and Burt stumbles upon a libidinous wood witch (Haji) who helps him reclaim his mojo, all of the characters and the elements begin to congeal into an explosive mixture that features wanton passion, good natured sex, and radioactive physicality that leads to a hysterically violent (but happy, natch) conclusion.
Unfulfilled women, weak and useless husbands, and powerfully sexual outsiders had always been a staple in Meyer’s films, but the way he arranges the furniture in Good Morning… and Goodbye! more or less cements the formula going forward. This is Meyer’s first foray into the examination of suburbia destroyed by rot from the inside out with a taste of sex, deception, and sin. Needs are not met and the homeostatic balance gets turned upside down, not only in the marriage of Burt and Angel but also the marriage of Stone’s gravel pit co-worker Herb (Tom Howland) and his loud, redneck wife, Lottie (Megan Timothy).
The family dynamic in Good Morning… and Goodbye! is a little like Common Law Cabin but delivered with more of a sting which has everything to do with Alaina Capri’s performance as Angel. Sparing nobody in her path, she unloads a sultry boatload of insults, double-entendres, and petty low-blows from Burt to Lana and everyone in between, just in case she missed someone. Born to deliver the lines as written, if Capri could be considered hot-tongued in Common Law Cabin, she is classifiably poisonous here. Every inch of dialogue that comes out of her mouth might as well be punctuated with a lip-smacking grin because, once the absolute correct frequency is found, the lines were probably twice as delicious to deliver as they are to hear.
And Stuart Lancaster is no slouch as he volleys insults back into Angel’s court with equal aplomb. In doing so, Meyer hits her character with some full-bodied slut-shaming but, interestingly, lets her plead her case and even actually takes her side. Meyer isn’t arguing for infidelity, necessarily, but he is arguing for a woman’s right to want to be wanted and to be sexually fulfilled without shame. “I’m tired of being easy, dirty and bad!” she complains with some actual conviction.
Also interesting is that Meyer’s look at swinging is curious and not critical, really only drawing the line at outright hostility. Empty sex can substitute for actual intimacy as an emergency lifeline but grudge fucking is absolutely not allowed, which is exactly where the story goes wrong for the characters involved as Stone deliberately cuckolds Herb out of spite and then makes a play for Lana once Angel has finally rejected him for the last and final time (echoing a subplot that popped up in Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, itself just published the previous year).
Another curious development for Meyer is the ever-developing motif of the sexually dysfunctional work team of horny layabouts. Herb hiding in the brush while he watches an afternoon dalliance with Stone and Angel furthers an idea that began with Lorna as Jonah peeped in on Luther as he assaulted Ruthie. As his filmography went along, Russ Meyer’s ideas began to reveal themselves as true kinks as peeping went from merely watching to getting sexual gratification while watching a male friend engaged in sexual congress. And while this particular Meyer convention still had some room to grow before his career would come to an end, Good Morning… and Goodbye! is the first real illustration of Meyer’s broadening sexual borders seeping out into his projects. After all, there is something thrillingly perverse and unusual for such a machismo hound like Meyer allowing the hillbilly wife to get turned on by watching two men tangle ass with each other. “No lovin’, no fightin’, just talkin.’ Why don’t you just shake hands and we can all go to bed?” she disappointingly hollers at them both when the action stops. Maybe the inspiration for Haji’s sexed-up sorceress really put the tweeze on Meyer’s mind, allowing it to open up and spill out just a bit. Whatever the reasons for their appearance in the film, Meyer’s sexual revelations on display are definitely fascinating.
And Meyer was the proud owner of such a dry sense of humor that it might be easy to miss just what an incredible satirist of square, middle-class norms and soul-sucking suburbia he really was. And while his films are often satirical, they’re almost always set in a world of their own. After all, in what other universe can a beach party teen romance spring forth from a stagnant lake with no real shoreline? Is this the kind of place one would bring a surfboard as Ray does so causally in Good Morning… and Goodbye!? Absolutely not. But, in this world, Ray is a surfer in a place with no surf and he and Lana communicate in a hep slang that never really existed in a time recorded on this earth.
Good Morning… and Goodbye! also contains some nice forward progress in terms of the look and mood of the film. By moving away from the completely rustic setting of Common Law Cabin, Meyer is able to allow some primary colors pop amid the gorgeous, golden curves of Wheeling, California. The interiors make use of some nice period touches such as some funky swag lamps and the decadent bedding. Igo Kantor’s lilting score registers nicely as some easy-listening den music that should only be played on one of those record player cabinets that you used to see in your grandmother’s house that also doubled as an impossibly heavy piece of furniture.
In the end, everything resolves with some good natured cock-blocking and a few life lessons that lead to a marital coupling which sets the universe straight with the simple mantra that more or less states “fucking… yeah, it’s a good thing.” With Good Morning… and Goodbye!, Russ Meyer unpacked some old ideas and reframed them for a more open time which seemed to be engaging a more open mind and, in doing so, he crafted his funniest, sunniest, and most thoroughly watchable film since Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and folks who ignore it do so at their own peril.
(C) Copyright 2022, Patrick Crain