Sunday, July 10, 2016

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; erotic drama, USA, 1970; D: Russ Meyer, S: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John LaZar, Michael Blodgett, Erica Gavin

Kelly, Casey and Petronella are members of a girl rock band, and their manager - and Kelly's boyfriend - is Harris. They decide to travel to Los Angeles, where Kelly meets her aunt, Susan, who wants to give her a substantial amount of her family's inheritance. However, Susan's lawyer, Hall, tries to persuade Susan to not give Kelly a single penny of the money. Meanwhile, Kelly's band strikes her fortune in L.A. with the new manager, Z-Man, who propels their careers, but also pushes the three women into the world of drugs and one-night stands. When Kelly finds a new lover, Lance, Harris jumps from the top of the studio and becomes a paraplegic. Angered that Lance rejected his flirting, Z-Man reveals he is a woman and starts killing everyone in his mansion, including Casey. He is stopped and killed by Kelly, Harris, Petronella and Emerson.

Even though it enjoys the status of a cult film, Russ Meyer's first production for a major film studio, 20th Century Fox, and one of rare examples where his film heroines are not large-buxom women, written by film critic Roger Ebert, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is melodramatic trash with too much "invisible" satire that lacks true humor or auto-ironic fun to differentiate it from other typical stories of a couple of girls who go to Los Angeles to become famous, only to also experience the downside of showbusiness. The authors start a lot of subplots, but complete almost none of them, resulting in a chaotic, episodic and bizarre flick that does not have a clear narrative or a purpose, furthermore exacerbated by a catastrophically trashy and violent finale involving a Nazi servant and Z-Man who reveals to have breasts. The script lacks inspiration and true humor, with only a couple of sequences truly reaching a comic timing (Lance meets Kelly and wants to go to her party, but his own date, a blond woman, declines, saying it is "past her bedtime", and then Lance simply goes with Kelly, anyway, adding to his ex-date: "Let me at least call you a cab!"; the red-haired granny among the party guests; the final narration which includes such lines as these: "Z-Man... He forgot that life has many levels, and by choosing to live on only one, lost sight of reality."), thereby consolidating the impression that "Beyond..." is more like a 'guilty pleasure' than a really well thought-out or planned film.


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