Awfully Good: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
The recent passing of Roger Ebert marks the end of an era in modern American cinema. But the late film critic didn't just watch movies; he has one official Hollwood writing credit on his resume as well. That movie is…
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Director: Russ Meyer
Stars: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, John Lazar
A group of young female rockers travel to Hollywood, where they quickly get swept up in the chaos and madness of 1960s Los Angeles.
BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is a strange movie and that's putting it lightly. Originally intended to be a direct sequel to the cult drug film VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, BEYOND evolved at the hands of director Russ Meyer and newbie film critic-turned-screenwriter Roger Ebert in to something of a parody of itself. Meyer has called it "a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick and a moralistic expose." And that's still not covering all the bases.
Mike Myers should sue!
I guess "drug-fuelled" would also be a good way to describe it and that's no more apparent than in the film's editing and visuals. The constant psychedelic imagery and overlapping audio/video makes for an almost hallucinatory experience. It's just a constant overload for the senses, even when what's happening isn't making much sense. Everything the main characters encounter in L.A. is grandiose and overdramatic, but the fact that it's satiric of the lifestyle is ingeniously subtle. For the most part, Meyer and Ebert play things straight and let the Hollwood scenesters ridicule themselves. Watch the party scene in the Best Lines clip. All the wacky dialogue and self-aggrandizing posturing seems like a parody itself, but you can definitely imagine something exactly like this happening in that time and place.
Presenting…the most punchable face in the world!
Thankfully, that time and place was apparently an era of loose women and even looser morals. Russ Meyer is known for packing his films with buxom ladies and overt sexuality and BEYOND THE VALLEY is no exception. With a cast comprised mostly of Playboy centerfolds, the female form is gratuitously on display in nearly every frame of this movie. Even if the scene doesn't call for it, the director splices in a second or two of random T&A for the hell of it. Since it's the 60s, everyone sleeps with everyone—a girl has sex in a Rolls Royce while screaming out expensive car names, another "dates" a famous gigolo, and (my favorite) a couple literally goes for a roll in the hay. Hell, when the women run out of men they start engaging in lesbian romances! I should point out that all this fun isn't without consequence. One of the girls gets pregnant and goes to the clinic to have an abortion—at which point the movie immediately cuts to eggs being cooked in a frying pan.
SPRING BREAKERS should sue!
There is technically a plot: your typical "rise and fall" success story, but with a lot more sex and bad hair. We follow The Kelly Affair, a rocking trio of hot young girls (and the boyfriend/manager) as they head for the West Coast. Being attractive and naïve, they almost immediately get thrust in to the "scene," meeting important people with great names like Lance Rocke, Baxter Wolfe, and Emerson Thorne. And then they're discovered by Z-Man, a completely insane record producer (based on Phil Spector) who's a cross between William Shakespeare and a medieval minstrel. With Z-Man's help, the band gains instant fame—and the drugs, casual coitus, money, power and more drugs that come with it. Lead singer Kelly makes the logical decision to ditch her small-town boyfriend to shack up with…well, everybody. (Her former beau immediately hooks up with a porn star, but then attempts suicide and becomes paralyzed.) Of course, everyone eventually learns a lesson about what's really important in life, but only after one of the craziest endings ever.
And the Olympic gold medalist for The 100-Yard Torso Sword Catch is...
Seriously, nothing can prepare you for the finale of this movie. I will attempt to explain, but obviously: SPOILER WARNING! Z-Man invites some of his friends over for another party. Except this time he arrives with a random Nazi, drugs everyone, and makes them dress up like superheroes and refer to him as Super Woman. High as a kite, they all start making out and squishing their faces. Z-Man tries to have sex with gigolo Lance Rock but is rejected—prompting one of the greatest lines in all of cinema: "YOU WILL DRINK THE BLACK SPERM OF MY VENGEANCE!" He then reveals that he/she has female breasts and proceeds to cut off Lance's head with a sword while the 20th Century Fox theme plays in the background. Now, wielding a blade, a gun and running around in a cape, Super Woman starts killing pretty much everyone. Eventually the rest of the cast shows up to save the day (including the guy in the wheelchair). They defeat Z-Man/Super Woman as their friends and loved ones lay slain around them…but it's okay because the fight somehow fixed the paralyzed dude's legs! They all get married in a triple wedding as a voiceover talks about life and destiny and recaps all the characters and what they learned. It's truly amazing.
BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is without a doubt trashy schlock and exploitation cinema, but is it a bad movie? No, it's entertaining as hell and I think it does exactly what Ebert and Meyer set out to do. And while a lot of that is complete insanity, there's also a relevant cultural critique at work. And boobs; lots of boobs.
Truly one of the great WTF? lines of all time. Plus, some groovy hippie speak and a bonus for fans of the band Sublime. (NSFW)
This spoken word montage gives you a good taste of what this movie is like. And a bit from the…um, memorable ending. (NSFW, SPOILERS)
Everyone bares their breasts! Even the men!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- There are new boobs onscreen
|Extra Tidbit:||The spoken intro to Sublime's "Smoke Two Joints" comes from this movie.|