Beyond the Valley of the Dolls The Criterion Collection
Criterion Collection, Special Edition
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In 1970, 20th Century-Fox, impressed by the visual zing King of the Nudies Russ Meyer (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) brought to bargain-basement exploitation fare, handed the director a studio budget and the title to one of its biggest hits, Valley of the Dolls. With a satirical screenplay by Roger Ebert, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls follows three young female rockers going Hollywood in hell-bent sixties style under the spell of a flamboyant producer whose decadent bashes showcase Meyer s trademark libidinal exuberance. Transgressive and outrageous, this big-studio version of a debaucherous midnight movie is an addictively entertaining romp from
one of the movies great outsider artists.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Audio commentary from 2003 featuring screenwriter Roger Ebert
- Audio commentary from 2006 featuring actors Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, John La Zar, and Erica Gavin
- New interview with filmmaker John Waters
- Archival interviews with writer, director, and producer Russ Meyer
- Q&A about the film from 1992 featuring Meyer, Ebert, La Zar, Read, and actors David Gurian, Charles Napier, Michael Blodgett, and Edy Williams
- Above, Beneath, and Beyond the Valley; Look On Up at the Bottom; The Best of Beyond; Sex, Drugs, Music and Murder; and Casey & Roxanne, five documentaries from 2006 about the making of the film, featuring the cast and crew
- Trailers and TV spots
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Glenn Kenny
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Viewed today, it’s hard to pin a specific description on BVOD. It’s not so much a time capsule of a specific era or place—indeed, it feels outside of time and the place is strictly studio backlot—and it isn’t much of a satire, though there are some funny bits. It’s certainly NOT a sequel to Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls”, which had 1967 film critics scrambling for their dictionaries to locate new synonyms for “awful” (to be sure, after viewing BVOD, 1970 film critics were scrambling for superlatives that went beyond the merely awful). BVOD, really, almost defies description: it’s a goofy mishmash of parody, soap opera, horror show, cautionary lecture, rock video and enough libidinous horndogs, Playboy playmates, heaving bare bosoms and simulated sex to give the suggestion of a skinflick. And then some. It’s a hell of a ride, fast-paced, beautifully filmed and brightly colored, populated by gorgeous people spouting terrible, outrageous, often hilarious dialogue.
The tale of a small-time, all-girl rock band that comes to L.A., falls into the hands of a rock music impresario, hits the big time and ends up with “everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear end” (to quote Thelma Ritter in the superior “All About Eve”), BVOD is nothing if not entertaining. Far from cerebral, it’s a visual feast, (especially the Criterion Blu-Ray) and the hit-or-miss lines, especially from John LaZar’s Z-Man, are classic. Interspersing quasi-Shakespearean iambic (ish) pentameter with such howlers as “This is my happening and it freaks me out” and “ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance”, LaZar is like the Dr. Frankenfurter of BVOD, and the most interesting (and, ultimately, most frightening) character in the film. To be fair, I won’t bother criticizing the acting in the movie. It is what it is. Some performers are more competent than others but the acting is pretty much beside the point because, let’s face it, you’re not watching BVOD for the acting and it’s not “All About Eve”. The singers who make up the fictitious rock band, The Carrie Nations (what a god-awful name!) are played by Dolly Read, Cynthia Meyers and Marcia McBroom and they do exactly what they’re supposed to do: look good, take off their clothes and do an impressive job lip-synching, and fake guitar- and drum-playing a surprisingly good rock score. Credit for the vocals go to singer Lynn Carey, who has an amazing voice and really should have had a bigger career. (Sidenote: on one of the blu-ray extras, Carey recalls dating Jay Sebring and declining an invitation to accompany him to Sharon Tate’s home on the night he, Tate and three others were murdered). The rest of the cast includes Meyer’s girlfriend (later wife) Edy Williams, hamming it up as a fun-loving, sex-crazed starlet; “Vixen” star Erica Gavin, as a lesbian fashion designer in love with one of our girls; prettified muscle-boy Michael Blodgett playing a bed-hopping gigolo; with Harrison Page and David Gurion on hand to woo the band. Meyers regular (and noted character actor) Charles Napier also shows up, as does TV star, Phyllis Davis (in her pre-“Vega$” days).
The Criterion Collection Blu-Ray gives BVOD the usual, lavish update and makeover we’ve come to expect: the film looks flawless and the extras are fascinating to watch, particularly the commentary from the film’s stars, interviews with John Waters and the film’s cast and a Q&A from 1992 featuring Meyers and Ebert. There’s also a nifty booklet enclosed.
46 years after I first saw BVOD, I still like it (although the ending still grosses me out). It is one of the most WTF movies I’ve ever seen released by a major studio (20th Century Fox) and yet it is entertaining on an almost surreal level that ignores common notions of what constitutes a “good” movie
If you dig rock songs of any style or just love films that revolve primarily around girls/women then 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls will not disappoint you at all!
By the way, "Find It" is one heck of a scorcher!