Most people are aware of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” and, of course, Stanley Kubrick’s “Napolean”. Two films that were never made and never will be. Personally, my favorite film that was never made was 1978’s punk rock gem: Russ Meyer’s “Who Killed Bambi?”
This really begins when I was 12 or 13 I remember flip-flapping through albums at a local record store (Flipside Records) and continually being drawn to the soundtrack album to “The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle”. I’d already owned “Anarchy in the Uk”, but I was strangely drawn to this album. There were photos of bizarre British ‘punks’ all over it, odd, weird people, dwarves in spiky hair, punk gals with green hair and safety pins all over and through their flesh (not to mention, a topless photo of Sue Catwoman, who I immediately crushed on and set in motion a fetish for young punk chicks for years to come!) what I remember most however, was the back of the record. It showed a color photo of an actual deer, dead, arrow pierced it’s neck, red blood smeared across the wound and in bold red Disney font the phrase: Who Killed Bambi? emblazoned above! I was in awe! Everything about the image resonated with me! The grisly real life carnage of animal death (reminding me of nothing so much as the imagery from Mondo movies) contrasted with that Disney lettering and word “Bambi”, it reminded me of the adult animation I was fixated on at the time. After deciding I’d buy this album, I brought it home, put it on the turntable and listened to the whole thing. The first “swindle” was that none of the songs were by the Sex Pistols, it was other people doing their versions of Pistols songs, or songs like “Who Killed Bambi?” by Ten Pole Tudor, which I loved (!) but were ‘technically’ not Sex Pistols songs. In fact I liked most of the songs on the album, I liked them more than most of the songs on “Anarchy in the UK” in fact. At this point I decided I HAD to see the movie! I could imagine all sorts of punk rock sex and violence and it it was more than an adolescent boy’s mind could bare! I kept wondering: how was the dead deer and “Who Killed Bambi?” going to play into this whole thing?
So, I set forth to find a copy of the film. This was not an easy film to locate. It wasn’t readily available in video stores (to those too young to know, video stores were these arcane places where you paid, like, $70-or more likely, your parents did-as collateral, along with a copy of their drivers’s license, then you could rent videos at their store. It was a kind of hostage situation. See videos, or VHS in those days, were worth, like, $99! So, obviously, the store needed to make damn sure you didn’t run away with their precious $99 piece of merchandise!) after much hunting around and talking with various people, it ended with my friend Bill (my one stop source for all things ‘punk’ AND he lived right around the corner from me!), he informed me about this thing called The Gore Gazette-a little xeroxed ‘zine that offered obscure movies-the owner of The Gore Gazette, was (I believe) related to the guy who owned Flipside Records, the store I bought the Sex Pistols soundtrack from in the beginning, see everything come’s full circle! It was through The Gore Gazette that I managed to obtain a cruddy VHS copy of the Sex Pistols’ (mostly unseen in the US) film, “The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle” (that’s what one had to do back then, kiddies, ya had to physically visit different underground and black-market outlets and seek out a copy of a copy of a copy of a foreign PAL version of what you were looking for-it was all a bit like that scene in the movie “8mm” where Nicholas Cage is trying to procure a ‘snuff film’ from a shifty Joaquin Phoenix), when I finally watched it, I was crushed! Highly disappointed! What, no dead deer? there seemed to be no reason for the song “Who Killed Bambi?” The only parts I enjoyed were some animated sequences and one where Sid Vicious (singing My Way) walks down a lit staircase, pulls out a revolver (I fetishized guns-I was 12 and a boy-duh!) and shoots these British, upper crust, bourgeois audience members. Squibs exploded with bright red blood and covered everything, being a typical ‘gore hound’, I was marginally happy with that scene. Otherwise…that’s it! Literally, the rest of the film was a giant bore! I was expecting a wild and crazy punk film, instead, it was all uninspired, clunky cinematography, dumb skits, crummy aesthetics, no sex, no violence (apart from that one scene), bad direction, shitty performances and even worse story lines! I wondered why I’d bothered, I could have stayed home, watched The Young One’s and gotten a far more clever and interesting take on what British punk rock in the late ’70s.
After this “great” and final “swindle”, I’m not sure how long, perhaps it was when I talked to the owner of Flipside about my “great” disappointment with “The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle”, when I was finally informed about the first piece to this puzzle. He told me that originally, the Sex Pistols were supposed to make a different film altogether, called “Who Killed Bambi?”, but made “The Great Rock ‘N Roll Swindle” instead…and whamo! I had a new obsession!
Who killed, “Who Killed Bambi?”?
It was decades later when I finally cobbled enough pieces of the puzzle together and learned, as much as one could, exactly what happened to this never completed film. For me, it was a case of two different ‘obsessions’ colliding with each other.
Shortly after the incident with “The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle”, I saw a film called “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” it was directed by the master of sexploitation films, Russ Meyer. I remember when I rented it, I had to be crafty, the film was rated X. And rental houses were (kinda) strict in those days, sometimes. Well this rental house had “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” placed in the “porno” section, so there was little, to no way, we were gonna be able to rent this thing! Eventually, I was able to work out a scheme. I got my mother to rent me the film. I explained how it was not a ‘real X rated film’, it was only rated that way because of the violence. See, in my family it was perfectly acceptable to rent a film that was violent, so I could watch films like “Last House on the Left”, “Pieces” and “Three on a Meathook”, but ask to see “Porky’s” and it was “no way, José!!!”. So this was how I conned the video into my warm and clammy adolescent hands to watch with all my friends. We all loved it! It was a superb, splendid, campy, slick and sexy piece of cinematic history (with some violence too, so it wasn’t a complete lie) and we were all wondering if the screenwriter billed in the film as Roger Ebert, was THE Roger Ebert, the one we knew from TV, the movie critic we all knew as “the fat guy” and judged movies either: ‘thumbs up, or thumbs down’, we couldn’t for the life of us imagine it was the same guy (it was!). The movie would have easily generated a soft R, even then, and why on earth it was placed in the “porno” section is ‘beyond’ me! After that, I decided I was gonna see every single Russ Meyer film he ever made. Which was not an easy feat. You see how hard it was to try and rent his most accessible film? Well, imagine how hard it was gonna be to get the films he produced and distributed himself? It was extremely difficult and took many, many years. Eventually, I saw them all and became SO obsessed with Russ Meyer, I determined that he was not just one of the best sexploitation filmmakers, he was, one of the best filmmakers. Period!
So, it was, while I was wallowing in Russ Meyer’s cinematic world of giant breasts, when I became aware, readung an interview with (of all people, Malcolm McLaren) that Russ Meyer was the filmmaker who was hired to make “Who Killed Bambi?” AND (Reading Meter’s insane 1000 page autobiography!!) I learned that there was actually an opening scene that he shot! This gave me mixed feelings, it further added to my feelings of loss and regret, as now I knew for sure that this would have been a magnificent film and worse still, I’d never, ever get to see it! But, I had a new obsession, I had to see this opening scene, that supposedly existed!
Over the years, I’d pieced together small details about the film. I once even tried to ask Mr. Meyer personally, when I spoke with him at a Beyond the Valley of the Dolls 25th Anniversary Celebration, in Orlando, FL. But, I was dating a gal at the time who was, what Russ would call, “heavily cantilevered”, so all I could get from him were brief sentences like, “Who Killed Bambi would have been the best film I ever made!” (Which may have been true, but was hardly any new information) and “Malcolm McLaren was a shit heel!” (Which I also already knew, since Meyer had always maintained that the film went under because McLaren was a cheapskate, which may also have been true?) Otherwise, he was ogling the gal I was with and trying to talk to her. He didn’t give a shit about me, some ‘fan boy’, although it was fun to know that both Russ and I were vying for the affections of the same girl, for a little while anyway. Of course, I’d heard all the stories about how Meyer hated Johnny Rotten (neé John Lydon) because of Lydon’s hatred for America (Meyer was an old WWII vet, so things of that nature did not fly with him) and how Sid Vicious was gross, disgusting and impossible to deal with…but apparently Meyer got on famously with Steve Jones and Paul Cook, whom Meyer said, “wanted the American Dream!” and that was probably true? I’d also read interviews with Roger Ebert, slated to write the film (!) who said that all the Pistols, including Malcolm McLaren loved “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and would watch the film constantly, so they decided Meyer was their man! They wanted him to make their first film! Meyer had quite the cast already lined up as well, playing Sid Vicious’ mother, was to be Marianne Faithful! Can one imagine? What brilliant casting! In the infamous scene with Sid and his mother, it begins with Sid coming home and finding his mum shooting up (I think I know why Marianne jumped at the role?) and then the mother seduces her son and the two begin making love! Suddenly, right in the middle, coitus interruptus, Sid’s mum’s boyfriend catches them in the act! Cuckolded, the man tries to separate the two while being smacked at with chains, vases and Sid’s fists! It would have been quite the scandalous scene. Meyer also planned to have his friend, the man who played Darth Vader (not James Earl Jones of course) but the actual guy in the Vader suit to play the chauffeur of the aging, rich rock star called MJ (whom I later learned was to stand in for Mick Jagger and represented an the older aeon of rock) He was also in Meyer’s earlier film (the highly underrated) “Blacksnake”! Meyer, also cast the wonderfully bizarre, P.J. Proby as the Max BIalystock character, I believe? Basically, this was going to be one fantastic line up! Well, financial backing came through in dribs and drabs, but Meyer (always the fastidious work horse) already began shooting the opening scene, when (you know how things in film go?) financial backing, well, backed out! I first heard about the only available footage of the film, described by Meyer himself, in his autobiography and it’s extremely descriptive. But when I saw real scene, with my own eyes! It was magnificent, I’m convinced this would have been a film that would not have disappointed the 12 year old me, no, this was exactly the kind of film I had always envisioned.
The opening scene begins with a chauffeur driven limousine careening through the forests of some English countryside, a man called “MJ” (Mick Jagger) sits in the back of the limo, they stop at a clearing. MJ leaps from the back seat, dressed like Robin Hood, crossbow in hand. He aims, then shoots a deer. The deer lays dead, an arrow through it’s neck! This was the exact same image that drew me to the back of the “Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle” album in the first place, MJ ties the deer to the front of his limo. Drives to a small village, removes the deer and throws it at the front door of a small thatched-roof house. MJ gets back into his limo and is gone! The front door to this small house opens, out steps a 12 year old blonde girl, her hair braided in a pair of golden ponytails and dressed in a full Alpine/Heidi costume. The girl looks down and sees the dead deer lying at the foot of the door and shouts:
“Mummy, mummy…Who Killed Bambi?!!” And thats its…that’s all there is! It’s all I’ve ever seen, and it’s the best opening scene I’ve ever viewed! That little scene alone, beats the entirety of “The Great Rock an’ Roll Swindle”, to death!
“Who Killed Bambi?”‘s script reads like a film that would have been somewhere between the high camp, look and raunch of “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and a punk version of Richard Lester’s “A Hard Days Night”, it could have been brilliant!
Much later, in 2010, Roger Ebert, mercifully put the script he wrote, up on his blog. I read it all in one sitting! One can, now, only imagine the brilliance that would have been “Who Killed Bambi?”
I won’t go on to describe anymore of the movie, I wouldn’t do it justice, so here’s a link to the script, and I hope you all read it!