Review: Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
Dual Format: Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)
An all-female band try to make it in Hollywood with the aid of a new manager, Ronnie ‘Z Man’ Barzell (John Lazar). It’s rare I find it difficult to write about a film, but I must admit this one has me flumped. It’s all I can do to actually write this. It’s not because it’s terrible, it’s because I genuinely don’t know HOW to describe it. Directed by Russ Meyer, co-written by Roger Ebert (which in itself would make anyone do a double take) this is a supposed satire of the music business in the late 60’s early 70’s. Yes you could even say it’s a MUSICAL. Described as a ‘no-holds-barred psychedelic thrill-ride that gleefully stirs sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, fashion, lesbianism, transvestism and Nazis into one of the most riotously unhinged mainstream films ever made’.
After seeing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, it’s difficult to remember what the movie is really about, or what exactly happened and describe it to somebody who hasn’t. It’s a movie in which the final 20 minutes alone concern, as co-writer Roger Ebert once noted, “a quadruple murder, a narrative summary, a triple wedding, and an epilogue.” That’s to say nothing of the reveal of a key male character as a woman, a previously handicapped character walking, a beheading, and that’s just the ending. Try to imagine what the WHOLE film is like! Do I have to mention the music? Have you seen Sweet Charity? Imagine that, but…out of tune.
The actresses are obviously faking playing their instruments rather badly, though the film has a cameo from early psych-rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock during its first significant party sequence, it’s the Carrie Nations who not only spur on the film’s story, but channel their many melodramas into song. From “Find It” (Where? Under the bed? In the garden?) to the truly hilarious folk ballad ‘Come With The Gentle People’ (you’d think it would be called come ON them, it is Russ Mayer after all).
Even when the film turns dark, when Read’s spurned ex-lover/manager attempts suicide by apparently turning into a puppet during one of their TV performances, it’s just terrible, even the tits can’t save it. But yet again, despite the film being so bad it’s NOT good…. Arrow come up with a fantastic special edition which also includes the rarely-seen The Seven Minutes (1971), Russ Meyer’s Hollywood swansong, an adaptation of Irving Wallace’s polemical novel about the absurdities of American obscenity laws.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
- Limited Edition collection of both of Russ Meyer’s Hollywood films (3000 copies)
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
- Standard Definition DVD presentation of The Seven Minutes
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for both films
- Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Two commentaries on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by co-screenwriter Roger Ebert and various cast members
- Sinister Image: Russ Meyer, David De Valle’s 1987 interview with the director and his former model Yvette Vickers
- Introduction to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by John Lazar
- Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy
- Look On Up at the Bottom, with composer Stu Phillips discussing the film’s music
- The Best of Beyond, favourite moments selected by cast and crew members
- Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby!, a look at the late 1960s culture that spawned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
- Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene, discussed by participants Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers
- Screen tests for Michael Blodgett, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, Marcia McBroom
- High Definition photo galleries
- Multiple trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Kat Ellinger, anne Billson’s 1991 interview with Russ Meyer, and a personal reminiscence by David De Valle