(0011X) Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Beyond the Valley of the DollsJuly 5, 1970 | 1 week at #1

Seen by Martin before? No

What did I expect? A trippy freakout, tawdry and unclean.

What did I get? What is there to say about a movie like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls? A movie that breaks all the rules, but works marvelously. There’s a lesson in there about staying true to your vision. It’s funny to think that Airport and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls are the two melodramas on the list so far, because they’re so incredibly different. Airport takes itself deathly seriously, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a joyous romp.

I enjoyed Beyond the Valley of the Dolls a great deal, even though it’s a hard film for me to relate to, what with its utter rejection of conventional standards of quality and all. So it’s salutary to remember that according to IMDB, this is the lowest-rated movie we’ve gotten to so far. It rejects conventional standards of quality utterly, and has been rewarded with the adoration of a passionate cult, not conventional critical approbation.

The appetite of the movie is impressive; it wants every genre, every style, every mood. Or as many as it can get, anyway. And Meyer might’ve been usefully blinkered but he did have talent. One of my favorite bits in the movie is the montage of L.A. before/as the Carrie Nations hit the city. It’s tremendous filmmaking. Ultimately a director isn’t judged on his narrative sense only, a director is judged on understanding what the eye wants to see, what the mind can grasp moment to moment. By that standard, Meyer was a pretty good director.

And right this minute, as the 11th director added to the Directors page, it’s a tricky task to give Russ Meyer an accurate assessment. Let’s be honest, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is an unusual case. But with every bland remake or action movie or romcom that gets added to the blog, as the years crawl by, the more we’ll come to appreciate his presence on that list.

What here smacks of 1970? Aside from the sex, the music, the drugs, the murders, the swinging, the excess, the gender blending, and the double exposures, I can’t think of anything. This is a time capsule of 1970, and that includes all the self-consciously “wholesome” sections and the moral frame as well. They’re part of 1970 too.

IMDB score: 5.8

My score: 9

Director: Russ Meyer

Writer: Roger Ebert

Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John LaZar, Michael Blodgett, David Gurian, Harrison Page

IMDB synopsis: This film is a sequel in name only to Valley of the Dolls (1967). An all-girl rock band goes to Hollywood to make it big. There they find success, but luckily for us, they sink into a cesspool of decadence. This film has a sleeping woman performing on a gun which is in her mouth. It has women posing as men. It has lesbian sex scenes. It is also written by Roger Ebert, who had become friends with Russ Meyer after writing favorable reviews of several of his films.

Get it at Amazon!

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