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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).

December 7, 2007

The Scoop:
It’s about time I got around to reviewing this classic.

Along with “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (1965), this represents the apex of the Russ Meyer canon. Finally, Meyer’s single-minded obssession with big breasts is coupled with a wonderfully campy plot — an all-girl rock band called the Carrie Nations (played by, from left to right in the photo, Marcia McBroom, Dolly Read and Cynthia Myers) comes to Hollywood, where they find drugs, violence and lots of wild sex.

In the first film of his ill-fated stint as a major studio director, Meyer teamed with future film critic Roger Ebert to create a landmark work that celebrates the excesses of the free love ’60s while also looking ahead to the crises and malaise of the ’70s. Not bad for what is, at heart, a cheap sexploitation flick.

Read, Playboy’s Playmate of the Year for 1966, is an especial revelation in her first starring role. So is John Lazar, who plays flamboyant record producer Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell, a character based on the unhinged exploits of Phil Spector.

Fast-paced, joyous and filled with great music, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is definitely of its era and wonderfully loopy fun. It is very nearly the perfect movie, despite its shocking downer of an ending.

Meyer’s joy ride as a major studio director would have a rough ending as well. Despite the smash box office success of the film, it draws controversy, too, particularly from Hollywood’s old guard, who are aghast by its excesses (it was one of the earliest films to carry an X rating). After just one more film for Fox (the disappointingly straight “The Seven Minutes” in 1971), Meyer was dropped by the studio and he returned to the exploitation underground.

Best Line:
“This is my happening and it freaks me out!”

Side Note:
The “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” project originally began at Fox as a true sequel to their madly successful 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s trashy novel “The Valley of the Dolls.” However, the script Susann submitted fell short of the studio’s expectations, and their contract allowed Fox to go ahead with a sequel without her involvement in such a situation. The project went through a number of incarnations in the development process before finally being given to Meyer, who the stodgy studio had signed in an attempt to get a piece of the booming youth market. The rest is history, as they say, although Susann was able to get Fox to append the now-famous disclaimer to the beginning to warn viewers that “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is not, in fact, a sequel to “Valley of the Dolls” after all.

Companion Viewing:
“Spice World” (1997) and the “Josie and the Pussycats” cartoon series.

Official Site.
As a Side Note.

Take a Look:
The totally awesome trailer:

The cross-country trip:

One of the all-time great party scenes:

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