The film opens on vertical audio patterns oscillating in sync with an over-stimulated narrator pontificating about the violent nature of the female gender and the connection between eroticism and murder.
The peculiar opening then cuts to a dizzying collage of go-go dancers wiggling with reverse cuts to the head of a male spectator floating in a black background and howling with both anger and arousal, “Yeah baby!” and “Faster! Faster! Go! Go!”.
Three strippers – Varla, Rosie and Billie – cruise the California desert, each in a distinctive imported sports car.
Rosie is a brunette kitten with hints of lesbianism and an even more ambiguous accent. Billie is a blonde ‘good girl’ who breaks into go-go dancing fits for no apparent reason.
But it is Tura Satana’s dominatrix in driving gloves, Varla, that makes the film iconic. She is busty, vampish, violent and sassy while never once smudging her perfect Betty Page make-up and hair.
The girls cross paths with an all-American couple, Tommy and Linda. Tommy is a car enthusiast and a ‘good kid’.
His strong jaw and plaid ensemble reassure us of his American teen wholesomeness, while the unremarkable girlfriend, Linda, pretty much only exists as a showcase for abuse from others.
Drag racing ensues, which leads to a fight and inevitably the murder of Tommy by Varla. They leave his corpse in his car and – for reasons unknown to anyone other than Meyers – knock Linda unconscious and take her with them.
Down the road the femmes fatale learn from a service station attendant that there’s an isolated household nearby with a crippled old man (Stuart Lancaster), his shotgun, two sons and supposedly a large stash of money.
One son (Dennis Busch) is a big strong lug with the subtle nickname ‘Vegetable’, while the other son, Kirk (Paul Trinka), is the closest this movie comes to a sympathetic character.
Meyer’s girlie trio karate chop, cat fight and seduce their way towards the money, although the would-be heist is both thwarted and aided by the cinematic axiom that those who live in seclusion are sexually deviant, socially inept, intellectually deficient and emotionally troubled.
The crippled guy’s back-story is almost interesting enough that you care what happens to this damaged family – almost.
This was the Playboy era of ‘innocent smut’, so while the camera may fixate on the stripper’s bodies, there’s no hint of actual sex – kinky or otherwise. Innuendo rules the script, which is less actual dialogue and more a stream of 1966 slang exchanged at tennis-match speed.
Everything is subtext for something else: sex is an extension of violence, violence an outlet for sex, and cars represent both sex and violence – and are the weapon of choice in most of the movie’s murders.