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Russ Meyer
Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John Lazar, Michael Blodgett, David Gurian, Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Phyllis Davis, Harrison Page
Writing Credits:
Roger Ebert

Three girls come to Hollywood to make it big, but find only sex, drugs and sleaze.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross

Rated X

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 9/27/2016

• Audio Commentary with Screenwriter/Film Critic Roger Ebert
• Audio Commentary with Actors Harrison Page, John LaZar, Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin
• “Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy” Documentary
• “Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of Dolls” Documentary
• “The Best of Beyond” Featurette
• “Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Times, Baby!” Featurette
• “Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene” Featurette
• Interview with Filmmaker John Waters
• “Memories of Russ” Featurette
• Episode of The Incredibly Strange Show
• Cast and Crew Q&A
• Trailers
• Screen Tests
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 13, 2016)

At its very start, 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls tells us it’s not a sequel to 1967’s Valley of the Dolls. Instead, it simply “deal[s] with the oft-times nightmare world of show business but in a different time and context”.

In other words, Beyond wanted the publicity the Dolls name conjured but had no real connection to the original. Given the crumminess of the first Dolls, however, I thought that might not be a bad thing and settled in for a screening of Beyond.

A brief prologue shows a violent attack on some babe. From there we meet a young mid-west all-girl band called “The Kelly Affair”. Led by singer/guitarist Kelly MacNamara (Dolly Read), it also includes bassist Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers) and drummer Pet Danforth (Marcia McBroom).

Kelly’s boyfriend Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) manages the group and they decide to head to LA to seek the high life. In that pursuit, they hope to get some help from Kelly’s rich and successful Aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis).

Susan takes Kelly to a party thrown by LA rock impresario Ronnie Barzell (John LaZar). The “Z-Man” takes an instant interest in Kelly.

Some of the other locals pounce on the newcomers as well. Porn star Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams) goes for Harris, while lesbian Roxanne (Erica Gavin) zones in on Casey. Pet literally runs into law student/party bus boy Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page), one of the few apparently nice people in the gang.

In addition to these sexual concerns, the band gets a boost when they play a number at the party. Ronnie immediately latches onto them, renames them “The Carrie Nations” and starts their ascent.

Additional romantic complications occur when movie star Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett) also goes after Kelly. The movie follows all the relationships and their ups and downs along with some legal machinations when Kelly decides she deserves half of Susan’s inheritance.

How can I hate a movie that features Cynthia Myers’ stupendous breasts along with cult character actor Charles Napier and psychedelic band the Strawberry Alarm Clock to boot? Add to that a smattering of nudity and Beyond has its moments.

But not many of them. Actually, without the occasional dollops of skin, this flick would border on becoming unwatchable. As hard as it tries to be clever, it consistently backfires.

Let’s say a filmmaker wants to lampoon a poorly acted, badly written piece of melodrama. To do so, he makes a poorly acted, badly written piece of melodrama. Does that film succeed as a parody simply because it’s just as crummy as its inspiration?

Fans of Beyond probably feel that way, but I sure don’t. I want to believe screenwriter Roger Ebert when he claims the filmmakers always intended for it to be a broad spoof, but I often get the impression that's simply a justification for a bad movie.

Truly, it’s very hard to see Beyond as anything more than that. It starts with the ridiculous sight of three babes who badly - really badly - mime a musical performance and it doesn’t get any better from there. The film includes more laughable dialogue in its first 10 minutes than you’re likely to find anywhere else.

Though it may have been intended as a parody, Beyond instead comes across as a typical attempt to exploit the popular scene of the time. Part of the problem stems from the quality of the actors. This may not sound logical, but I think that if you want to spoof bad movies, you need good actors. Otherwise it becomes too difficult to distinguish the parody from its inspiration.

That’s what happens here. Clearly all of the women were cast for their physical attributes alone, as none of them can act at all. The men aren’t any better, and the broadness of the performances makes them tough to take.

Again, the actors don’t seem to play their roles to the hilt to spoof other efforts in the genre. Instead, they appear unable to do anything else as they lack the necessary skills. They act badly because they’re bad actors.

Pretty much everything else about Beyond falters as well. The pop music sounds terrible and we get way too many crummy musical numbers. The film offers choppy editing and a nearly incoherent storyline dragged down by jerky storytelling. Plot threads come and go at random. Beyond ends up as a genuinely silly movie without anything to boost it outside of some decent nudity.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus A-

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Despite the movie’s age, the transfer made it look very good.

Sharpness was largely strong. A smidgen of softness affected some wide shots, but vast majority of the film appeared crisp and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared absent.

I also failed to find any notable source flaws. Some opticals – like the “traveling west” montage – included a few specks, but overall, the flick looked clean.

With its lively party setting, Beyond went with a broad palette that came across well. The colors were dynamic and full. Blacks seemed deep and dark, and except for a couple slightly thick day-for-night shots, shadows were clean and smooth. This was a consistently solid image.

Though it showed its age, LPCM monaural soundtrack of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls worked fine. Speech could be a little distant, but that stemmed from the low—budget source. Overall, dialogue appeared intelligible and without obvious flaws.

Music and effects followed suit. While both seemed less than robust, they offered accurate enough material and didn’t suffer from notable distortion. This became a more than competent track for a low-budget flick from 1970.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2006? The DVD offered a terrible stereo remix, so the lossless mono track seemed much more satisfying.

Visuals also improved, as the Blu-ray appeared more accurate and dynamic. While fine for SD-DVD, the old disc didn’t fare nearly as well as this appealing Blu-ray.

The Criterion disc mixes old and new extras, and we get two separate audio commentaries. The first features screenwriter/film critic Roger Ebert. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Ebert provides a pretty informative and entertaining chat. He lets us know how he got the job as screenwriter and discusses the film’s development.

Ebert tells us a lot about Russ Meyer and divulges notes about the director’s style and personality. We learn about the cast and crew along with studio notes, cuts, technical issues, and some fun anecdotes. Ebert aptly combines the film historian side of things with his personal experiences.

Ebert does run out of steam somewhat as he progresses. He seems to lack much to say about Dolls and tells other stories about Meyer. This means some good tales like how the pair almost made a flick with the Sex Pistols, but he does lose track of Dolls. In any case, there’s more than enough good material here to make this a fun and informative discussion.

For the second track, we hear from actors Harrison Page, John LaZar, Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin. All of them sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. Don’t expect much from this rambling, ineffective chat.

The participants present little in the way of concrete info. We find a few decent stories from the set but don’t learn much. Instead, the speakers usually just say “Look at that!” or “I love that!” Page focuses on how young he looked and obsesses over the lesbian love scene. He gets annoying.

Compared to the exceedingly obnoxious LaZar, though, Page is a treat. LaZar bitches about not getting enough money and whines that he doesn’t know why he’s at the session. He makes some other odd comments and behaves in a generally antagonistic manner toward the others. This commentary would be simply boring without LaZar. His presence makes it actively unpleasant since he comes across as such a jerk.

Next comes a documentary called Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy. The 30-minute, one-second show melds movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We find notes from Ebert, LaZar, Gavin, Read, Myers, Page, Russ Meyer’s production assistant Stan Berkowitz, Meyer’s assistant Manny Diez, biographer Jimmy McDonough, editor Dann Cahn, critic David Ansen, Onion writer Nathan Rabin, critic Michael Musto, actors Marcia McBroom and Michael Blodgett, and cinematographer Fred Koenekamp.

“Beneath” looks at how Russ Meyer got into movies and developed as a filmmaker. From there, we learn about aspects of his style, the status of Fox in the late Sixties, the evolution of Dolls, cast and crew, how Meyer worked with the participants, various production notes, ratings issues, and the flick’s reception.

“Beneath” acts as a basic “making of” piece and does this well. It lacks as much depth and detail as I’d like, and a moderate amount of material repeats from the commentaries, but it serves as a nice overview.

Six segments appear under “Interviews”. Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of Dolls runs 10-minutes, 58-second piece includes notes from Ebert, Read, McBroom, Myers, composer Stu Phillips, singer Lynn Carey, musicians Jeff McDonald, Paul Marshall, Steven McDonald, and Christopher Freeman, filmmaker Dave Markey, Pulp Fiction music supervisor Chuck Kelley, and music supervisor Igo Kantor.

As expected, they talk about the flick’s tunes. They get into the actors’ portrayals of musicians, writing and recording the songs, the score, and thoughts about the work.

“Bottom” acts more as an appreciation of the music than a look at its creation. Though we get some decent notes, there’s a lot of gushing praise for the elements. I find that hard to take, partially because it makes little sense – did anyone really think McBroom looked like an actual drummer? Anyway, there’s still enough good material to make the piece worth a look.

When we go to the 12-minute, 21-second The Best of Beyond, we hear from Musto, Read, Gavin, LaZar, Blodgett, McBroom, Kelley, Page, Myers, Ebert, Rabin, artist Coop, and film distributor Fred Beiersdorf. They discuss their favorite lines, breasts, kisses, and deaths. They also relate their memories of Meyer. We get a couple of decent stories here, but otherwise it’s a pretty fluffy piece that lacks much to interest us.

Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder runs seven minutes, 34 seconds. It features LaZar, Read, Rabin, Marshall, Carey, Page, Gavin, and UCLA history professor Mary Corey. “Signs” looks at aspects of the era in which Dolls was made. The participants chat about music, drugs, sex, and other topics from that period.

If anyone needs this disc to tell them that sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were a big deal in the late Sixties, they shouldn’t be allowed to watch this movie. “Signs” acts as a superficial recap of what everyone should already know about the period.

After this we get the four-minute, 19-second Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene. It includes statements from Myers and Gavin as they reminisce about their big sequence. They toss out a few notes but not anything new or memorable.

New to the Criterion release, Beyond the Bottom goes for 29 minutes, 43 seconds. Filmmakers John Waters discusses Beyond and director Russ Meyer. Waters gives us a good history of the “sexploitation” genre as well as aspects of Beyond. Waters proves to be entertaining and informative.

Memories of Russ lasts eight minutes, 16 seconds and features Napier, Gavin, Page, actor Haji and Meyer’s friend/collaborator Jim Ryan. As expected, the participants discuss Meyer and aspects of the Beyond shoot. It provides a few good thoughts.

Within “Archival Materials”, two components appear. A 1988 episode of UK’s Incredibly Strange Film Show runs 38 minutes, 19 seconds and offers a discussion of Russ Meyer. It involves comments from Meyer, Ebert, former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren and actors Kitten Natividad and Tura Satana. The program mixes movie clips with interviews to become a useful overview of Meyer’s career.

From 1990, a Cast and Crew Q&A fills 49 minutes, 20 seconds with remarks from Meyer, Ebert, Gurian, Read, Napier, Blodgett, LaZar, Haji and actors David Gurian and Edy Williams. They go over aspects of the shoot and the film’s legacy. A fairly loose session, it mixes worthwhile insights and banal fluff. Still, it deserves a look.

Five trailers appear. We get a theatrical ad, a teaser, a “behind the scenes” promo and clips for Meyer films Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill and Vixen.

We also find some Screen Tests (7:29). These come for “Michael Blodgett and Cynthia Myers” plus “Harrison Page and Marcia McBroom”. Both pairs do the same scene: the one in which Lance tells Kelly she deserves lots of the family fortune.

Since only Blodgett plays the same role he does in the film, that makes these fun to see. It’s also interesting to note that Aunt Susan was originally called “Anne Welles”, which would have created a much more direct connection to the original Valley of the Dolls.

A booklet appears as well. It provides an essay from film critic Glenn Kenny as well as an excerpt from a 1970 article about a visit to the set. The booklet offers useful materials.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls attempts to mock its predecessor but it fails as parody, comedy, and pretty much everything else. The movie doesn’t look like a spoof of a bad flick; it just looks like a bad flick. The Blu-ray offers very good picture along with acceptable audio and a long roster of bonus materials. While this becomes a fine release from Criterion, the movie is silly and poorly made.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main