‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,’ the Greatest Cult Movie Ever Made, Joins the Criterion Collection with a Stunning Blu-ray

GameStop, Inc.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

In the cinema as in life, truth in advertising is a rare occurrence. Long ago, one movie featured the most honest and accurate marketing campaign in history – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. “This is not a sequel – there has never been anything like it,” the posters and trailers proclaimed for Russ Meyer’s madcap satire of a rock ‘n’ roll trio’s rise to stardom at the end of the ‘60s/dawn of the ‘70s.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls isn’t just a cult movie, it’s the greatest cult movie ever made – featuring, as the trailer proclaimed, “love, rape, murder, dope, grass, abortion, suicide – something for everyone.” And boy, they weren’t lying. This movie literally has it all, and it’s all amplified to 11. As a matter of fact, the film’s actors are so straight-faced in its lunacy that many people have a hard time deciphering whether or not Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is actually satire, which is one of many reasons why it’s an amazing film to behold. By the graces of the cinema gods, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is finally getting the treatment it deserves with a deluxe Blu-ray released by the Criterion Collection, the finest purveyors of cinematic classic on home video.

When Russ Meyer arrived at 20th Century Fox in 1969, he was coming off the biggest hit of his career with Vixen. Meyer was an independent filmmaker through and through, self-producing his own films that he wrote, shot, edited, and directed himself. Of course, he was mainly known for his one obvious obsession – buxom women. The profit margins of Meyer’s films did draw the attention of the studios and the director teamed with a young film critic named Roger Ebert to develop a sequel to Jaqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. But these two outsiders amplified all the camp of the original story and infused it with counterculture that was sweeping across America throughout the late ‘60s, even topping off the film with a Manson-esque conclusion.

The story itself is rather simple, it’s the complications and characters that make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls so oddly complex. Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers), and Petronella (Marcia McBroom) make up The Kelly Affair, an all-girl rock ‘n’ roll band seeking superstardom by making the move to Los Angeles with their manager and Kelly’s boyfriend Harris (David Gurian). Upon their arrival in Tinseltown, Kelly seeks out her estranged aunt Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis), who has inherited a fortune and plans to share it with her recently reunited niece. Susan takes Kelly and her bandmates to a party at Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell’s (John LaZar) expansive mansion, where they’re introduced to a collection of freaks and weirdos all scraping by in the sleazy world of show business. There’s the greedy and underemployed actor Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett), who uses and loses women as quickly as their bank accounts run dry; Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams), the porn star with voracious sexual appetite; Roxanne (Erica Gavin), the kindhearted fashion designer; Emerson (Harrison Page), a waiter and law student with a romantic eye out for Petronella; Randy Black (James Iglehart), the rage-filled womanizing boxer loosely modeled on Muhammed Ali; and Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), the attorney for Susan Lake who has a dubious moral code. Relationships are built and crumbled amidst a culture that passes people around like burned down joints – discarded once their usefulness has been expended. Everyone thinks this is the place to be, but there’s a lot of pain once you’re Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Most of the attention paid to Russ Meyer’s films are focused on the curvaceous women that he placed front and center in practically all of his movies. And Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is no different, with a number of buxom Playboy Playmates in starring roles. But the sexuality of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls never really matches its reputation. As Ebert notes in some of the special features of the Criterion disc, Meyer blends extremely absurd comic humor in the sexy moments. Nothing really emphasizes this more than the scene where the pornstar Ashley St. Ives is about to have sex with Harris in the back of her Rolls Royce. As the passion grows, she exclaims that sex in the back of the Rolls is an unparalleled experience, not even matched by a Bentley – her orgasmic exclamations of “Bentley” are matched with quick edits emphasizing the grill of the luxury car. This is just one aspect of the quirky comedic elements blending with Meyer’s sexual aspects that runs throughout his filmography as well as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

But while distracted with what’s right in front of you, it’s amazing how easily Meyer’s amazing skills as a photographer and editor are overshadowed by the sexual elements that fascinated the director. One of the most famous edits in the history of cinema is in Lawrence of Arabia; Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence stares in to the flame of a match, and when his breath extinguishes the flame, the film cuts to the rising sun over the expansive desert. The opening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has an edit that is equally impressive, if not even better. After gazing upon the curvaceous figure of a sleeping Erica Gavin, a gun slowly enters her mouth. Her eyes open in shock as the barrel of the gun goes deeper in her mouth. She screams – then Meyer cuts to Dolly Read’s visage in the midst of screaming a part of her rock ‘n’ roll number “Find It.”

Meyer uses editing to convey his story with a breakneck pacing, further emphasized by the quick montage that precludes the move west for Kelly and the rest of her band. As they discuss the pros and cons of Los Angeles, Meyer shows images that represent their varied points of view, even employing wildly exaggerated lenses to further highlight the twisted world of Tinsletown. Another observation from Roger Ebert in the special features that really helps explain Meyer’s unique use of editing is that the director used constant editing as a means to obscure some of the questionable acting abilities of his cast that were usually hired more for their physical attributes than their talent.

The special features on the Criterion edition of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls are a blend of old and new features. A number of the documentaries that appear on the disc are from the 2003 DVD edition that is currently out of print. They feature interviews with members of the cast and crew, as well as getting commentary from enthusiasts like writer Nathan Rabin and artist Christopher “Coop” Cooper. There are two audio commentary tracks, one from 2003 with Roger Ebert and another from 2006 with the members of the cast. There’s also a unique documentary and interview with Russ Meyer from a British program The Incredibly Strange Film Show from 1988 that examines the career and legacy of Meyer’s films. A fascinating essay by critic Glenn Kenny explores the history and impact of the film, and there are a number of archival pieces that further expand upon the film. The real high point of the special features is a brand new interview with John Waters about Russ Meyer and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The legendary director puts a personal spin on the film and Meyer’s influence on his own works. As only John Waters can do, he gives an interview that is both incredibly personal and funny, and also very informative about Meyer’s context in the exploitation movie marketplace.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was one of two Russ Meyer movies made within the Hollywood studio system, the other being The Seven Minutes (which I’ve never been able to track down). Despite the fact that Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was a smash at the box office, 20th Century Fox always had an odd relationship with the movie, always pretending that they never made this madcap classic. For over 40 years, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has alternated between barely available and out of print on home video, but that’s about to change now that it has finally found its rightful spot among the Criterion Collection. Sure, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls toes the line between trash and art, but no other movie is adept at toeing that incredibly thin line. It’s a dream come true for fans of Russ Meyer and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is now part of the Criterion Collection, and the Blu-ray set certainly doesn’t disappoint. This is actually happening and it freaks me out.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
  • Overall Score
5

Summary

A gorgeous restoration overflowing with great special features, the greatest cult movie ever made, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, joins the Criterion Collection in an amazing Blu-ray set that honors the crazy legacy of Russ Meyer’s subversive classic.

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Mandalorian Chapter 1 Review
The Armor ACTUALLY Works! – The Mandalorian Chapter 1 Review

The Star Wars Universe is finally delving into the dark side… or...

Hollywood Up-and-Comer, Wren Barnes Talks About Her Budding Career

You might not know her name yet, but Wren Barnes is...

Alex Ardenti Documents Dietary Supplement in ‘Supps: The Movie’

Italian fitness photographer, filmmaker and bodybuilding expert, Alex Ardenti has taken...

Event News Event Reviews
Adam Rocha Celebrates the Silver Anniversary of the San Antonio Film Festival

The San Antonio Film Festival (SAFilm) is celebrating 25 years of ...

Legion M President, Jeff Annison Talks about All the SDCC 2019 Festivities

Legion M is the only fan owned film studio that brings...

Viz Media SDCC 2019: Seis Manos and more!

Announced earlier this year (click here), Seis Manos is an upcoming...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG Legendary Duelists Magical Hero Will Open 2020

Dark Magicians are getting new tricks in Legendary Duelists Magical Hero coming...

John Wick Hex
Create the Legend of John Wick in John Wick Hex

Create the Legend of John Wix and be John Wix before...

Battle for the Grid Season 2
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Season 2 Now Available on Consoles

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Season 2 now available on...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
David Dastmalchian Teams Up with Dark Horse for ‘Count Crowley’ – Interview

Actor David Dastmalchian is the embodiment of turning one’s life around....

Neon Future Interview with Founder & Writer

A few months ago at WonderCon 2019, I had the honor...

Blue Bastion
Help Bring the World of Blue Bastion to Life

Live now on Indiegogo, help bring the rich and wondrous world...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
LS50X Snoop Dogg Limited-Edition Headset
LucidSound Announces LS50X Snoop Dogg Limited-Edition Headset Pre-Order

LucidSound announces LS50X Snoop Dogg Limited-Edition headset pre-order opening November 19...

Sparkling Ice +Caffeine
The Ultimate Hydration for Gamers – Sparkling Ice +Caffeine Review

Sparkling Ice +Caffeine is the perfect blend of taste, hydration, and...

Blue Yeti Nano Microphone Review

We have been playing with the Blue Yeti Nano for a...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Ken Shamrock Shows His ‘Valor’ With VBK 1 This Fall

The Most Dangerous Man in the World, Ken Shamrock is a...

‘Pitbull’ vs. Archuleta and Machida vs. Mousasi Headline Bellator’s Return to L.A. on Sept. 28

  LOS ANGELES – The opening round of the Bellator Featherweight World...

UFC Featherweight Contender, Brian Ortega Talks about Health and Recovery

Brian Ortega is one of the baddest fighters in the UFC....

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: After the Aftermath!

The search for a defense against the dark arts teacher begins...

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Emissary of Death: Aftermath – The final chapter…I think.

Wizards use UBER

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Emissary of Death: Aftermath! Almost the final cut!

Voldemort doesn't get it.

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 34: Chris Prynoski

Whitney Grace is digging through her queue of old new stock...

Episode 33: Jerry Beck

Join Whitney Grace in this blast down memory lane with an...

Episode 32: Mathew Klickstein

I’m back and done explaining about the current state of my...

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Comedy Duo Ben Giroux and Jensen Reed Take Us, ‘Back To The 80s’

Two of the funniest men in show business, Ben Giroux (Hart...

James Maslow ‘Rush’es the Stage to Perform at Super Girl Surf Pro on Sunday

James Maslow is an American singer, actor and songwriter best known as the star of...

Jason Lazarus Talks about Composing the Music for ‘Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans’

Jason Lazarus is a Los Angeles based composer for film, television, and...