Blu-Ray Review – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

I’ve always despised the film critic Roger Ebert due to missing the point on most of favourite films such as Blue Velvet and Brazil to name just two of many. However as much as I hated the man it’s worth remember he wrote one of the greatest cult films of all-time Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with his dear friend Russ Meyer. Meyer was trying to go legit with this film after years of making cult “nudie” films. He had however already made Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! which was already closer to legit filmmaking than much of his earlier films.

Meyer got the backing of 20th Century Fox for what was initially intended as a sequel to the hit melodrama Valley of the Dolls but soon morphed into one of the most damning statements on the entertainment industry ever produced. Meyer has been on recording say his intention with the film it to be “”simultaneously be a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick and a moralistic expose” and it’s certainly all of those things. The plot and editing are super ramshackle but that’s a part of the fun of film, lots of big plot points were decided during the production including the big twist at the end. Much of the cast initially couldn’t figure out if the dialogue was meant to be comedic or not when they first say the finished product.

The main jist of the film is it’s about an all girl rock band called The Kelly Affair who go to Hollywood to find fame and fortune. Lead singer of The Carrie Nations Kelly MacNamara (Dolly Read) is owed a large family fortune from her aunt. Her aunt also introduces them to a the Phil Spector esq. record producer Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell (John LaZar) who becomes their Svengali manager and they are rechristened The Carrie Nations. Naturally lesbianism, acid, murder, nazis come into play in this damning film on the entertainment industry.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls ended up being a surprise hit in 1970 due to maybe capturing the zeitgeist of the hippie dream dying in a post-Manson/Altamont world. Curiously the murder near the end of the film eerily predicts the murder charge Spector would be convicted of many years later. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls remained a strong video and DVD seller throughout the years and is one of the best statements on fame/celebrity but also the ’60s counterculture that is spawned out of and all this from being initially meant to be a sequel to a fairly forgettable melodrama.

Meyer would make one more studio film for 20th Century Fox which is included in this set The Seven Minutes. It’s a change of pace for Meyer, for the most part is a relatively straight courtroom drama about a novel The Seven Minutes that is considered obscene when a young man rapes a woman after buying the novel. The story of censorship obviously meant a great deal to Meyer who faced problems with being considered obscene throughout his career even though his films now seem very tame. It’s not an essential Meyer film but it’s an interesting footnote of his career.

The disc is fairly loads with extras, there are two commentary tracks first up is Roger Ebert and the second is by the cast. The featurettes on the disc all come from the old 20th Century Fox special edition DVD along with the screen tests. The Seven Minutes disc includes a 30 minute interview with Meyer from ’80s.

★★★★★

Ian Schultz

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