The finest moment for quasi-pornographer-cum-counter-culture-auteur Russ Meyer, and far from the finest moment of its co-writer Roger Ebert, this parodic semi-sequel to 20th Century Fox’s camp melodrama Valley of the Dolls has, despite its sizeable cult following, and occasional critical appreciation, only just arrived on Blu-Ray, having been out of print since a DVD special edition in 2006.
All-girl rock band The Kelly Affair, soon to become The Carrie Nations, arrive in Los Angeles to pursue a serious musical career, but instead find themselves mixed up in that familiar vortex of drugs, sex, fame, insanity, the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Arthurian delusion, and murder. “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!”
Lurid, colourful, sleazy, sexy, queer, often tasteless, and always ever so camp, the picture is pretty much exactly what you’ll be expecting if you know it on reputation; about the only surprises are a) the fairly tender – and progressive – depiction of the film’s black couple, and b) that Russ Meyer reins in to some extent his famous obsession with breasts, casting only two of his three female leads as buxom ladies. But just because the content here is unsurprising doesn’t mean it’s not shocking, and the degree of brutal violence and sex – including gay and lesbian scenes – on display here is quite something. Meyer and Ebert both believe the film represents the only time “the lunatics were running the asylum” on a major studio picture. The result is pretty much a bad film, but it’s also a dazzlingly brilliant one, and many, many times better than the flat melodrama it ostensibly parodies.
Audio and Visuals
Trust Arrow! The film’s psychedelic visuals and psychedelic sound are groovier than ever. I hate to think of some poor sap watching an old VHS of this somewhere back in time, squinting their eyes to try to see the appeal. Well, now they can in high-definition. The sound is in mono but it still sounds just brilliant, frankly.
You know what you’re getting with Arrow: a cooler-than-cool menu, a great box with reversible artwork, and of course a booklet with new writings on the film.
Arrow have rarely been known to let us down in the past, and certainly wouldn’t on such a major cult film as this one. Included are two commentaries; the Roger Ebert one will likely be the big selling point, but the one featuring cast members is worth a listen also. The introduction to the film by actor John LaZar (Z-Man) didn’t do it for me, but some might be in the right, John Waters-y mood to appreciate it. The featurettes are: “Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy”, a well-made making-of; “Look On Up at the Bottom”, which discusses the memorable music of Stu Phillips; the lightweight puff piece “The Best of Beyond”, in which the cast discuss pressing issues like the film’s best line, or who had the best knockers; “Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby!”, a morbid and actually uncomfortable look at the influence the Manson murders had on the film; and “Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene”, in which actresses Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers are still awkward and giggly to this day about their lesbian scene. Aside from those there are screen tests, stills galleries, and trailers. The set is solid, and if a couple of the featurettes are lightweight, they’re made up for by the main making-of documentary, which is solid. Also kindly included as an extra is an entire film: Meyer’s follow-up, the 1971 adaptation of Irving Wallace’s pornography-and-censorship satire The Seven Minutes.
Hey man, if this is your scene, check it out, baby!!
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is released on Blu-Ray and DVD from today (18th January). This special edition will be limited to just 3,000 copies only, will you be trying to get your hands on one? Let us know in the comment box below!