Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls review
"Come varlet [meaning "someone who waits on or tends to or attends to the needs of another", or an "evil person"] drink the black-sperm of my vengeance!"--from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
You've probably read that Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay for this atrocity--it's true. For every film the fat-guy has panned (Brown Bunny)--and even wanted banned--this negates his opinon every-single-time. It is so completely wrongheaded and retarded, that it's almost as annoying as Plan 9 From Outerspace...almost. It's true, the film has been hailed by the likes of John Waters, who is a BIG fan of the late Russ Meyer, but since-when is he always-right? You have to take his praises with-a-grain-of-salt, he likes this kind of movie because it`s really a disaster that the makers thought was great at-the-time. Yep, it's "camp" because it sucks so-badly that it's unintentionally-hilarious. The key-word is "unintentionally". Anyone with a half-baked idea could make a movie in 1969-1970, because the old studio-system was dying. The aging cigar-chompers had no-idea what to release anymore. Nada.
With a dying-industry (sound-familiar?), the rise-of-porn and the counterculture--shute, they were up-for-anything in tinseltown. Anything. This is why such a turd as this got-made. Roger Ebert had been already writing-for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, but the opportunities were obvious out there in Hollywood. You could almost fall off a truck and get a picture-deal. It has to be understood that at this time porno was beginning to really take-off, even before Deep Throat became a hit. There was a shining-moment when porn nearly became mainstream theatrical- fare. The studios knew who Russ Meyer was from his work in the independent-gutters, so why not risk a feature-film with him?Ebert has had some interesting-things to say about BTVOTD over-the-years, as in this 10th anniversary interview:
"Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" seems more and more like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum. At the time Russ Meyer and I were working on "BVD" I didn`t really understand how unusual the project was. But in hindsight I can recognize that the conditions of its making were almost miraculous...The movie's story was made up as we went along, which makes subsequent analysis a little tricky.
You-bet, Roger, but I'll try. Perhaps my head will explode like in Scanners, though. While Ebert co-wrote the screenplay, it's obvious this is a Russ Meyer vehicle. It's a really cheesey-story about a girl-group called the "Carrie Nations", which is ironic since she was one of the key-players in getting the Prohibition of alcohol instated as a Constitutional-amendment. Not very party-friendly, really, but that's the wrongheaded-part of the movie. Meyer was just another cigar-chomper, just a small-fry indie one.
You see, the story is basically a very-dumb soap-opera surrounding the big-titted girls, and a hangout that is run by the band's manager/producer, "Z-man". In the Russ Meyer universe, it seems gay-men all speak like Shakespearian-actors (aka "iambic-pentameter"). Yup, Z-Man is a ridiculous-caricature of none-other than Phil Spector (he's in the prologue of Easy Rider as a speed-dealer), a guy also known for producing megahits by girl-groups. Spector is also-known for shooting women with big-tits in-the-face, but that's another-story. Anyway, things get out-of-control fast: everyone is fucking everyone-else's boyfriend/girlfriend/hermaphrodite, and jealousy and drug-fueled violence erupts ala the Manson Family--Z-man chops-off the head of a guy he wanted to fuck, but who spurned-him. He states the quote before this article.
BUT WAIT, there's a MORAL to the movie too: Meyer wants us to get-off on the decadence, but has a sad-ending with a dopey-voiceover about the "evils of the counterculture", which was common at that time. He both slams, and panders-to the counterculture at-once. OK, maybe the studios made him do this, I don't know, but the movie is basically-inept, realistically. It DOES look-good, but the music is dumb--like the Archies were--and the acting is very-very wooden. The dialogue is horrible, something an autistic-child could do-better. YET, it is entertaining for all these reasons. Sure, the drug-freakouts are creepy, and Z-man's freakout is, well, freaky. Fuck-it, watch this movie, it's a great-laugh, and if you like boobs as much as I do, you'll love it.