|THIS IS MY HAPPENING!!!|
AND IT FREAKS ME OUT!!!
Dir. Russ Meyer
Scr. Roger Ebert
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, Edy Williams,
John LaZar, Henry Rowland, David Gurian, Charles Napier, Pam Grier
Review By Greg Klymkiw
"This is my happening and it freaks me out," declares rock impresario Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell (John LaZar) during his berserker Hollywood party replete with live performances by The Strawberry Alarm Clark, a bevy of boobilicious babes, all manner of fornication and bucket-loads of booze/drug consumption.
Z-Man wasn’t the only one freaking out. When Russ Meyer (Faster Pussycat Kill Kill, Motor Psycho, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens, Up!), the king of big-boob cinema extravaganzas, unleashed his first major studio picture Beyond the Valley of the Dolls upon an unsuspecting public, audiences, critics and the film’s major backer, Twentieth Century Fox, were freaked out to the max.
For good reason.
The opening few minutes of Meyer’s Roger Ebert-scripted dive into L.A. sleaze pits proceed to bash us in the face with Z-Man and Martin Bormann (Henry Rowland), Z’s loyal bartender, right-hand man and resident Nazi (nom-de-plumed as "Otto"), whilst the nutty pair malevolently chase scantily clad babes within a seaside mansion estate. In a climactic moment to end all climactic moments, we cut to a Luger sensually stroking the supple lips of a beauteous-sleeping-big-bosomed-babe until the deadly firearm is inserted erect-penis-like into her mouth, the wet maw eagerly – nay, greedily – accepting the cold-steel schwance-of-death as our dozing dame proceeds to suck it dry. Under the circumstances, who wouldn’t? Be freaked out to the max, that is.
(Oh, okay, and suck it dry, too.)
When Meyer and young film critic Ebert were hired by Fox to concoct a vague semi-sequel reboot to Mark Robson’s through-the-roof sex-and-soap-suds adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s bestselling novel Valley of the Dolls, the artistic pursuits of these perfectly matched reprobates flew under the radar of studio executives during the delightful beginnings of the oft-envied, late lamented and much-revered "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" days of American Cinema. The film was so low-budget by studio standards, nobody in the front office paid it much mind, but for Meyer, the budget might as well have been as large as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra.
He did not waste one cent.
|The Carrie Nations are united in SIN!!!|
So, the film focuses on the buxom Carrie Nations, an all-girl rock band comprised of Kelly MacNamara (Dolly Read), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers) and Petronella "Pet" Danforth (Marcia McBroom). At first they’re infused with the down-home, corn-fed morals of the mid-western US of A, but in no time, they’re turfing their regular squeezes for a series of libidinous adventures with a variety of partners. One of the cuckolded beaus (David Gurian) even takes up with a porn starlet (Edy Williams) who drains him to such a degree that he eventually can’t even get it up.
Fun and games, for one and all – especially the audience – but as this epic of sin continues, the freedom of youth increasingly morphs beyond the "summer of love" antics, and the evils of both L.A. and show business in general give way to an unholy Walpurgisnacht that unravels during the film’s deeply dark finale.
The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten proclaimed that the film was "true to life".
Who are we to argue with this?
|Well, you don't see something like this everyday.|
Besides, what other movie features (again, from the highly quotable Z-Man) one of the greatest lines of dialogue in movie history: ‘You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!’
Black sperm, indeed.
Years ago, I met Ebert as a young lad and proceeded to geek him out with my love for the film. He took me for donuts and we spent an hour together talking about it. His final words to me were thus: "Never, ever feel ashamed to admit how much you love Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
And if you’re listening up there, Mr Ebert, I am not ashamed.
I’m infused with pride to declare my utter, deep passion.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** Five Stars
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls gets the full Criterion Collection treatment on Blu-Ray and (if you must) DVD with a high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray, 2003 audio commentary featuring screenwriter Roger Ebert, 2006 audio commentary featuring actors Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, John LaZar, and Erica Gavin, a new interview with filmmaker John Waters, 1988 episode from "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" on director Russ Meyer, a Q&A about the film from 1992 featuring Meyer, Ebert, LaZar, Read and actors David Gurian, Charles Napier, Michael Blodgett, and Edy Williams, a 2005 interview with cast members, five 2006 about the making of the film, featuring the cast and crew, screen tests, trailers, a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Glenn Kenny and excerpts from a 1970 account in the UCLA Daily Bruin of a visit to the film’s set, plus gorgeous new cover art by Jim Rugg.
This review of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls originally appeared at Electric Sheep.
Read my review of Valley of the Dolls HERE.