Beyond the Valley of the Dolls - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Reviews

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January 20, 2017
Okay then... I just don't get the appeal. There are some fairly hilarious scenes, but this just feels like a long episode of a 60s version of Real World on acid with the Manson murders thrown in for good measure.
½ December 15, 2016
Since long before DVDs for the preferred format for movie collectors and the laser disk was trying to become the de facto home entertainment format, they have carefully built a reputation of releasing versions of movies in a fashion that is closest to the original filmmaker's vision. They have carefully built up the collection by including some of the most influential, famous and well-regarded films in the art form. I've been following them for many years and have a prized place gather together on a single shelf in my collection. There is one filmmaker I never thought I would see on these illustrious group cinematic artisans, Russ Myers, a man who contributed many sexploitation films during the 1970s, the era of cinema when explicated movies dominated the drive-in movies and dilapidated movie across the country. My initial reaction when I saw his name on my monthly press release from Criterion announcing that his 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls', was to be included in the upcoming release slate. It is many years since I've watched this film and although the announcement failed to whet my appetite. I did find myself curious to revisit the movie if only to find out why the movie was considered worthy of inclusion on this list. It does have somewhat of an infamous history with a Hollywood. The screenplay written by the iconic film critic, Roger Ebert. The movie also an early effort for Russ Myers, a director who would go on to helm such movies as 'Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens,' 'Wild Gals of the Naked West' and 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!' The title refers to the original book and movie written by best-selling author, Jacqueline Suzanne. Her literary niche dominated by salacious dramas that preceded the guilty pleasure reading provided for women of all ages with romance novels. Many critics in the upper echelons of literary circles have regarded Ms. Suzanne's works as crudely pandering to the lascivious interests predominately of women. It was noted that for an author with loyally followed by such a demographic that this film compromised artistic integrity. Those offering such an observation would be inclined to wonder why the National Enquirer has failed to win Pulitzer prizes for their investigative journalism.

Reportedly the story began as a sequel to Suzanne's novel, 'Valley of the Dolls,' it soon became obvious that the film required a significant rewrite as a parody of the original movie in hopes that a fašade could provide a shroud of semi-respectability. After re-watching the film after many years, I found myself obliged to experience the movie a few more times to attempt to understand the nuances which might lurk below the surface. Once again I was surprised that was able to find such subtleties. This film can faithfully represent the format movie's format which appealed to and encapsulated the zeitgeist of the generation. Motifs such as this been an accepted use of this genre for centuries particularly useful when the subject matter is considered somewhat controversial. The target demographic for this work film happens to be the work of people that are the most avid fans of grindhouse exportation. Disgusting this type of movie proved to be the most efficient way to achieve acceptance. Once I was able to apply this train of thought to my subsequent experiences with the movie, an entirely different perspective was revealed. There is a thin line between a bad example of the genre in a sharply honed satire of it. Ultimately, the film does fall short of its full potential but ultimately remains to deserve of its cult classic status. In acknowledgment of its ability to shine spotlights on the hedonistic excesses of grindhouse movies and has earned a place in the Criterion catalog.

The story followed an all-female rock band, 'Kelly Affair,' at a time when such a roster nothing but a novelty not a serious part of the prevailing rock scene. The lineup consisted of three young and exceptionally attractive women; Kelly MacNamara (Dolly Read), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers), and Petronella "Pet" Danforth (Marcia McBroom). Ms. McBroom was the requisite African- American establishing the filmmaker's liberal leanings. Including the other two band members was to create name recognition, at least within the high school/college aged males who were most likely to purchase a ticket; popular Playboy Playmates. A significant number this cadre of scantily attire pop icons have appeared in some movies of this ilk although few became involved with Oscar worthy productions. also ensuring willing compliance with the fundamental component considered mandatory for the genre, gratuitous nudity, and sensationalistic simulated sex acts. The reason for the inclusion in the Criterion is forthcoming, but some initial background is germane to the discussion. The group managed by Kelly's boyfriend, Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), who arranges for the group to travel to Los Angles. His hope is to reunite Kelly with her extremely, estranged yet incredibly wealthy aunt, Kelly's estranged aunt, Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis), heiress to the family fortune. This scenario connects the counter culture with traditional Hollywood tropes. Which are reinforced by the distrust Aunt Susan's financial advisor, Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), has for Hippies. The prevalent look dominating the fashion and interior design choices are overwhelming 'Mod' a term mostly applied to those outside its adherents. Porter despised the nice for a far more mundane and eternal reason; he was after Susan's money for himself. The first step in his plot involved discrediting Kelly.

Despite the fact that the trio possessed a penchant for pot and expressing their sexuality they were innocents, ill prepared for the schemes and predatory intentions of those posing as people looking out for them and helping their careers. When introduced to the famous music producer, "Z-Man" Barzell (John LaZar), he invites them to perform at one of his infamously wild parties. The enthusiastic reception prompts him to become their overly controlling manager whose first official action us to change the name of the group to the 'Carrie Nations.' The immediate result of this is a battle for control between Harris and Z-man. If you are inclined to apply traditional literary subtext to this, it represents the escalating battle between the girl's old life/personalities and the changes required to fit in as part of this fast paced world driving the 'big city.' The story introduces in quick succession the usual grindhouse players to provoke the required drama and fuel a string of scenes involving sex, drugs and rock and roll. Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) is a high priced male escort who targets Kelly once he learns of her inheritance. After being deserted by Kelly, Harris is seduced by porn star, Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams). His continual over indulgence in hard drugs and alcohol frustratingly makes sexual activity impossible. Spurned by the porn star has a physical altercation with Lance after which in a drug fuel carnal encounter with Casey. She becomes pregnant, so much for his troublesome impotence. Swearing off men Casey becomes involved in a lesbian relationship with clothing designer, Roxanne (Erica Gavin). She convinces Casey to have an abortion.

Compounding the melodrama, Harris attempts suicide only to become paraplegic. Kelly has to turn away from her new found success to be his caregiver, and the band is ripped apart by excessive drug use. If Cinemax produced a story for a Lifetime movie it would look a lot like this, a very obvious morality play containing enough sex and drug use to demand an 'X' rating under the then recently instigated movie rating system devised by the MPAA. Once all the players are on the stage, and the myriad of machinations revealed I could begin to see a few hidden semi-precious gems contained in the movie. The story encapsulates the predominant themes popular in the seventies. Once again the understanding and ultimately appreciation of the movie is greatly dependent upon the age of the viewer. Those of use that sat in one of those dingy theaters will experience nostalgia while younger audience members will inevitably be confused with some details.

It is crucial to remain cognizant of the socio-political environment of that decade. The protests of the late sixties escalated as the War in Vietnam, experimentation with drugs had pervaded the generation and supplanting the old sexual mores with a liberated spirit of freedom. Abortion was illegal making what would be a moral dilemma into a criminal act. It was impossible for the parents of that generation to consider 'permissive' young women as victims of Machiavellian predators. A common story for Hollywood was the corruption of a talented young talent striving to follow her dream. This movie modernized the familiar tale adapting it for a new generation of cinephiles.
½ December 9, 2016
Russ Myer's magnum opus, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", combines skin with satire to deliver a truly original comedy. It features deliciously over-the-top acting and a great original soundtrack, and most importantly, it is absolutely 100% unpredictable. It's a film that film buffs, in particular, will definitely appreciate.
December 5, 2016
November 11, 2016
A Roger Ebert satire classic
June 12, 2016
First heard about this on the Cinema Snob's review to commemorate Roger Ebert. The Cinema Snob made it sound real amazing and like a grindhouse epic. Was able to get it on hold at the library and to me it seemed okay. There's a lot of nudity and this is a NC-17 picture after all. Still felt okay and it was good to know Roger Ebert actually made some movies in his life and didn't just talk about them. Heard also from the Cinema Snob that this was one of the best movies of the 1970's. Maybe also a must see for inspiring film makers I think, haven't seen the Cinema Snob review of this in a long time. If you also want to know more just watch the Cinema Snob Review of this if you want to know more.
½ May 22, 2016
Not bad, but not good, this film seems to not know what kind of film it is. Part rock opera, druggy/hippy flick, sexploitation, parody, satire, that looks like it might end as a horror movie and then ends as a morality tale complete with fairy tale happy ending...A real head-scratcher for sure. Entertaining in its own right, the acting was not bad at all considering the actors were probably confused about what was going on 99% of the time.
October 12, 2015
Before Jacqueline Susann rises from the grave and rips your scalp off in angry comeuppance, I must inform you that 1970's "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is not a sequel to the 1967 cult film adaptation of her then-controversial novel "The Valley of the Dolls" but a sleazier parody. Because if I don't, her ghost might want to file another lawsuit for something akin to defamation, and I'm not much in the mood to deal with vengeful pulp writers who don't understand that there isn't anything necessarily wrong with topping bad taste with more bad taste.
I haven't seen the original "The Valley of the Dolls," but it doesn't take a lot of research to come to the conclusion that those who like it only fondle it for its campy terribleness - the more serious minded brush it off as soap opera without the classy underlinings of 1957's "Peyton Place."
Its supposed successor, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," is much more renowned in terms of the schlock cycle. Those who dig the trash manifestations of exploitation, blaxploitation, and nudie-cuties know it as a classic waiting in the wings of rediscovery. It's no surprise that it's directed by Russ Meyer, a garbage king maybe only rivaled by Jack Hill; the bigger, more infamous surprise, though, is that the film is written by Roger Ebert, the film critic who helped define a generation and the film critic who currently serves as one of my two reviewing idols (the other being music's Robert Christgau).
What we have with "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is not a disaster (which most would expect) but rather a delightfully tawdry mess of schlock - when it isn't stooping to stock dialogue and scenes worse than anything you'd find on a particularly bad episode of "The Days of Our Lives," it confides in its old friends nudity and violence. It would cause Joan Crawford to foam at the mouth - so bless its heart for topping "Trog."
The story is mostly nonsensical and giddy, either because of its editing (fond of jump-cuts) or because Meyer and Ebert are less concerned with being coherent and more with figuring out which wacky scenario they can turn to next. It involves three sexy young women, Kelly (Dolly Read), Pet (Marcia McBroom), and Casey (Cynthia Myers), who, when not smoking pot and getting it on, are part of The Kelly Affair, a talented rock group managed by Kelly's boyfriend, Harris (David Gurian). With enough chops and good looks to propel them to potential superstardom, they travel down to Hollywood in hopes to find Kelly's Aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis), a millionairess whose endless show business connections could lead them to the fame and fortune they thirst for.
Things quickly pick up after Kelly comes in contact with erratic music producer Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John LaZar) at one of Susan's parties. With a mutual attraction between them, it doesn't take long before he replaces Harris and changes the group's name to The Carrie Nations. Their act spreads like wildfire throughout the United States and they become major performers - but the endless touring and endless bouts of drama can only lead to trouble.
I forgot to mention that side-plots involve a porn star's (Edy Williams) ambitious decision that she must seduce Harris, Pet's troubled affair with a foul-tempered fighter (James Iglehart) who irrationally runs her boyfriend over with his fancy pants convertible, Casey's one-night-stand that ends with an abortion and a lesbian sex scene, and Z-Man's desperate attempts to hook up with an expensive gigolo (Michael Blodgett).
I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but I want to establish that "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is wilder than most mainstream films that were released circa 1970; for being the product of a major Hollywood studio, it leaves class in shambles and ass on a pedestal. But it's all in fun, bad taste - and I had a blast watching it. Maybe it's Ebert's knack for writing dialogue that appears to be stocky and satirical all at once. Maybe it's the way Meyer directs the film, hoping to push the buttons of Jacqueline Susann and the public and succeeding rather tremendously. Or maybe it's the performances, which range from Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" camp (Z-Man, Ashley St. Ives) or paralyzingly stifled attempts at likability (every one of its leading characters). I can't say, but I'd take something as mind-boggling as "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" over "Switchblade Sisters" any day.
The film was rated X upon release and was reconfigured as an NC-17 product back in 1990. How curious. There is no genitalia, no boundary-pushing violence, or harshly graphic dialogue in sight - it's a game of generational match-up severely head-scratching, even frustrating, as it more than likely deters audiences wondering what a Roger Ebert written film would be like. Don't step back in fear: bask in the thunderous trash that is "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls."
September 24, 2015
i think the weirdest sequel ever not 2 mention Roger Ebert co-wrote the script
September 23, 2015
Hilarious, hyperactive and sexy, this exploitation parody film has style with writing credit from the late legendary film critic Roger Ebert.
½ May 30, 2015
A classic Russ Meyer film about ambition, power, sex and really big boobs. Roger Ebert's one dip in filmmaking is shamelessly funny. One will find more oddly clever lines hidden between Meyer's hyper-attive pace. Actually goes beyond camp to an almost new genre of film entertainment. A must see! I'm still puzzled how this movie still earns the equivalent of an X rating. It's all so silly, it is difficult to find it at all offensive and impossible to deny the entertainment it offers.
½ January 30, 2015
Famously scripted by critic Roger Ebert, this was exploitation director Russ Meyer's big shot at success, backed by a major studio. However, today it comes across as terribly dated, half-baked, and, alas, pretty boring. The stars weren't exactly chosen for their acting prowess (given Meyer's well-known predilections) and the camera tends to leer until the editor quickly cuts to something tamer (but too many quick cuts annoy this viewer). The plot revolves around a girl rock band that travels to California and possibly gets an inheritance but certainly gets mixed up with some odd characters (one of whom spouts Shakespeare-sounding lines - Ebert's contribution?), do a lot of drugs, and pretend they are the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Originally rated X for violence (not sex, apparently, although don't quote me on that). Give it a miss.
½ January 17, 2015
While it's clever in some aspects, this is mainly complete nonsense. The actors are terrible but I guess that was a focal point of this movie.
December 20, 2014
This was Russ Meyer's only big budget movie. Roger Ebert wrote the script. He's a better movie critic. It's just a long soap opera with flashes of nudity. Although it's about an all girl rock band, the music is terrible. Russ Meyer is an old World War II vet trying to be hip in the late 1960's and just doesn't quite get it. One of the themes of this movie is the generation gap from that era. He had a good eye for girls with big boobs but had no ear for rock music. Just a few years before this movie was made, the Monkees TV show was about a fake band but managed to have real hits. This movie had a no-hit rock band doing the music. The NC-17 rating is because of the weird climax to the movie with a trans-gendered dude cutting heads off and stabbing and shooting people for no reason. The story starts out with an all girl band playing at a high school prom. They decide to go to California to claim an inheritance for the lead singer. They must have been in Oklahoma because they have a map sequence of them traveling that starts in the Texas Panhandle on I-40. They get to L.A. and become instant stars. Nothing in the story makes any sense. The acting is bad. The dialogue is flat or makes no sense. The only thing the movie has going for it is the good looking women. I've got the Laserdisc version of this movie. If you want to see a good Russ Meyer film, watch Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill. It's low budget but fun.
November 26, 2014
Considered a classic (& the only screenplay by Ebert!). Definitively ahead of it's time, the ideas just weren't properly utilized by the director or this might have been considered ground breaking art.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2014
Hilariously bizarre and well-paced in its escalation of insanity, this Roger Ebert-scripted film is, nonetheless, a sleazy and roughly-edited work of nonsense. It has a lot to say, and even more to show, but it ultimately doesn't feel like it's about anything in general.
August 6, 2014
This was a really bizarre movie from exploitation legend Russ Meyer and film critic Roger Ebert.
Has a little bit of everything you could want.
April 16, 2014
Its so terrible, in the best ways possible. Russ Meyer and a young Roger Ebert captured the chaotic spirit of the 60's in such a brilliantly cheesy way. I can't help but marvel at it.
March 11, 2014
after watching this movie only one thing popped up in my head.....Roger Ebert was the most brilliant screenwriter of all time
½ March 5, 2014
Not even close to as Good as Valley of the Dolls
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