Beyond the Valley of the Dolls/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

In 1969, Russ Meyer and his friend, film critic Roger Ebert, began working on the script for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. It was originally supposed to be an official sequel to the film Valley of The Dolls (1967), which was a story of three women who try to make it in show business and their trials and tribulations with love and fame. When Jaqueline Suzanne, the writer of the book Valley was based on, submitted a script for a sequel, 20th Century Fox didn't want to make it, but part of the contract was they would be able to use the same title. In a very odd choice of people to make the new movie, they brought in "The King of The Nudies" Russ Meyer to come up with a brand new story that was not going to be a sequel but would instead use some of Valley of The Dolls' themes. Russ had met Roger Ebert after Roger had written a letter to a Chicago newspaper praising the support Russ' film Vixen (1968) had gotten there. Russ decided that since Roger could write well and understood the types of movies he wanted to make, it would make the most sense for Roger to take a try at writing the script for the new project. Roger then began writing the screenplay at a fever pitch. He and Russ would discuss the story over dinner each night. What Roger came up with was something truly incredible and bizarre. He took the basic premise of Valley of The Dolls and injected it with a totally psychedelic, sex, drugs and rock n' roll atmosphere. This was Valley of The Dolls set in Russ Meyer's own Movie Universe. Where anything could happen and usually did!

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"The Kelly Affair " are an up and coming rock 'n roll group. The members are lead singer Kelly McNamara, (Dolly Read), drummer Petronela "Pet" Danforth (Marcia McBroom), and bassist Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers). Their energetic manager is Harris Allsworth (David Gurian). After playing the rocking hit "Find It" at a senior prom, the group decide they should try for the big time and move out to LA. Kelly's aunt is Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis) a wealthy woman who can get them into the thriving music scene. Soon after they arrive, Aunt Susan gets Kelly into the most popular music producer's latest party. This music mogul is the great Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John Lazar), (who is clearly inspired by Phil Spector). Z-Man as his friends call him is one strange dude. He seems to only speak in Shakespearean soliloquies. He's a colorful, fun character. When Kelly, Casey and Pet get a chance to play their music with backup by The Strawberry Alarm Clock, they really turn the place on including Z-Man and soon they're being booked all over town to play in the big clubs. While Z-Man takes over managing the girls and renames them "The Carrie Nations", Harris is left out in the cold and basically forgotten about. Luckily he's got one fan in Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams), an older porn queen who has set her sights on him. At one of Z-Man's parties, Kelly meets the golden haired beach god Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) who quickly sweeps her off her feet. It's apparent that Lance's intentions aren't honest and that he merely wants to go through Kelly to get to her rich aunt to get some of her money. Meanwhile, Pet meets a young law student named Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page) who moonlights as a waiter at Z-Man's estate for extra money to pay for school. As the story moves on through many twists and turns, The Carrie Nations find fame and love but the down and out Harris quickly spirals into despair...

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As Roger Ebert stated, the film was written quickly (6 weeks). It was also very much based on things that were occuring in pop culture at the time. For example, Roger and Russ didn't know much about Phil Spector personally, but Z-Man Barzell was their fantasy of what they thought a teen music mogul was like. There were several things that Roger read about in the news that he then used as inspiration for the melodrama that runs throughout the movie. The Randy Black boxer character is based on both Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown. The climax of the film was inspired by the Manson murders. When it's all put together you get a truly unique, fantastic idea for a movie that, speaking personally as a film fan, I just loved. While watching, it seems like Russ Meyer was in a frenzy while editing the movie as it flows at a machine gun pace. Noone is given a chance to blink. The dialogue is pulpy and flies by at light speed. You have to watch it a few times and really pay attention to take it all in. As the movie progresses things start to slow down a little and we're given a chance to get to know the many colorful characters, but still it's never slow enough to bore you. There's constantly something going on, whether it's a music number, a sexual encounter or an argument/fight. Russ' direction along with the crisp, colorful cinematography and set designs just make it all the more rich and intriguing. Watch the great scenes of The Carrie Nations playing their singles as Harris and Z-Man are floating on opposite sides of the screen in a semi-dissolved state. Its visually mesmerizing.

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Being a fan of the original Valley of The Dolls film, I couldn't help but really get into this movie. It's like Roger Ebert took the basic synopsis of that film and just made it wilder, more melodramatic (didn't think it was possible) and downright bizarre. Add to that the awesome rock soundtrack by The Carrie Nations, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Stu Phillips and you've got a real cult classic treasure. It's very much Russ Meyer & his pal Roger Ebert set loose inside the candy store that was 20th Century Fox at the time. It's really amazing what was made on what now would be considered a very miniscule budget too. Russ made a low budget cinema masterpiece. This is the kind of movie that just toys with the whole notion of what a movie can be. It's a comedic satire but it's a rock n roll film and it's a horror film plus a lurid melodrama all mixed together and injected with some good acid. Turn it on and go beyond the boundaries of ordinary cinema! Highly Recommended!


Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.

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