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Mark Robson
Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Paul Burke, Sharon Tate, Tony Scotti
Writing Credits:
Helen Deutsch, Dorothy Kingsley

Film version of Jacqueline Susann's best-selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.

Box Office:
$5 million.
Domestic Gross
$44.432 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 9/27/2016

• Audio Commentary with Actress Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca
• “Hollywood Backstories: Valley of the Dolls” Documentary
• Two Interviews with Writer Amy Fine Collins
• Trailers and TV/Radio Spots
• Archival Programs
• Screen Tests
• “Doll Parts” Visual Essay
• 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.


Valley Of The Dolls: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 20, 2016)

Time to take a look at the film AMC called “a classic tale of backstabbing [and] infighting!” 1967’s Valley of the Dolls introduces us to Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins), a babe from a small New England town. She leaves her provincial life to work in New York City.

Anne grabs a job as an assistant to a theatrical lawyer named Bellamy (Robert H. Harris). After she encounters a vicious aging stage star named Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward), she decides the show biz game isn’t for her. However, a glimpse of Bellamy’s hunky younger partner Lyon Burke (Paul Burke) changes her mind. They slowly dig into a romantic relationship.

As Anne becomes involved in the city’s scene, she meets other single young women. These include rising singer Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke) and showgirl Jennifer North (Sharon Tate).

As we learn about those women, we also see their romantic entanglements. Neely’s engaged to stable Mel Anderson (Martin Milner), while Jennifer uses her looks to snare a succession of rich old men. However, more serious romance hits her when nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) heads her way.

Matters complicate as the movie progresses. We watch the careers and relationships of the three women unfold and grow with all their ups and downs. Jennifer struggles, but Neely becomes a huge star, and Anne turns into a successful model. We also see them get involved in self-destructive behavior like booze and pills.

Cinematic soap opera also has an audience, I suppose, though it seems like we don’t see as many films of that sort as in the past. Maybe we still get as many soap opera flicks these days but they just don’t stand out to me in the same way. Efforts like Peyton Place and Dolls wear their origins on their sleeves and tattoo us with their soap opera themes.

That makes them age poorly, since they tend toward overly theatrical characters and performances. Actually, of the three main women, only Duke flies into the land of the excessively emotive. Hoo boy, does she go over the top!

Duke’s performance doesn’t quite compare with Faye Dunaway’s wild turn in Mommie Dearest, but it approaches the same nutty levels. “Bigger and louder!” seem to be the only directions she received for the character.

On the other hand, Tate and Parkins barely register in their roles. Tate remains stiff and flat throughout the film. She brings absolutely no spark to the part as she mumbles her line and meanders through the scenes.

Parkins seems no more convincing or vivid, and she feels unnatural as an actor. For instance, when she tries to appear nervous, she looks like someone consciously pretending to be nervous. Parkins presents such a lightweight performance that she barely sticks to the screen. In fact, I found it tough to even remember her character’s name since Parkins makes so little impact.

The story packs in all the usual soap opera conventions, so there’s little to differentiate Dolls from other efforts in the genre. It includes sickness, sex, mental illness, abortion and all the other usual tawdriness. It stakes a position daring for the era, which makes it look stale almost 50 years later.

And silly, for that matter. I can see why Dolls has become a cult classic, as it lacks any form of believability or reality. The first half comes chock full of superfluous musical numbers that slow it to a crawl. The tawdriness elevates during the second half, though it doesn’t make things much more interesting.

Only unintentional comedy allows Dolls to be even remotely watchable. From the absurd performances to silly situations to inane dialogue, this thing’s a howler. How could actors read lines like “At night, all cats are gray”?

I just don’t have enough of an affection for camp to enjoy Valley of the Dolls. Poorly acted, badly written and generally absurd, the movie suffers from many more flaws than positives. It’s a goofy flick that merits derision.

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

Valley of the Dolls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong transfer.

Sharpness seemed fine. The opening sequence showed a smidgen of softness - usually via stylized photographic choices – but those dissipated once the story kicked into gear. That left us with a tight, well-defined presentation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent in this clean image.

Colors acted as a highlight of the presentation, as Dolls went with a splashy palette that showed up well. The hues were consistently vibrant and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots offered good clarity and visibility. Pretty much everything about the transfer impressed.

I found the stereo soundtrack of Valley of the Dolls to be satisfactory given the movie’s age. The soundfield opened up reasonably well, which meant music showed fair stereo delineation, and some effects spread to the sides too. Directional dialogue occasionally bled across channels but the imaging usually seemed fairly well-focused.

Speech lacked edginess and remained intelligible though somewhat stiff. Music seemed fine, as the score and songs lacked great range but appeared reasonably warm and full. Effects were acceptably clean and accurate, though they also lacked range. Overall, this ended up as a fairly good track for its vintage.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2006? Audio showed better stereo presence as well as warmth. Visuals appeared significantly tighter, cleaner and more natural. This became a major step up in quality, especially in terms of the picture.

The Criterion Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and we open with an audio commentary from actor Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Casablanca mainly acts as fan and interviewer. He tosses out his own thoughts about the movie as well as his namesake, but Parkins handles most of the informational duties.

And she does quite well in this surprisingly candid chat. Parkins discusses how she get her part, her career at the time, working with the director and actors, relationships off the set, wardrobe, hair and costumes, sets and locations, changes from the book, and other production topics.

Parkins tosses out many nice insights. We learn of Judy Garland’s abortive involvement in the project, and Parkins even goes into her reactions to Sharon Tate’s death at the hands of the Manson family. Casablanca performs the interviewer role well, as he asks good questions and keeps things moving.

Casablanca also makes sure they get gossipy, so we hear their debate about which men were hot and which weren’t. I admit I didn’t much look forward to this commentary, and it occasionally dragged, but the overall result satisfied.

Hollywood Backstories: Valley of the Dolls fills 25 minutes, six seconds. It presents comments from Parkins, columnist Michael Musto, author Helen Gurley Brown, actors Patty Duke, Robert Viharo and Michele Lee, Ethel Merman’s friend Tony Cointreau, and choreographer Robert Sidney.

“Backstories” takes us through a mix of aspects of the production. It looks at the origins of the book, its inspirations and its path to the screen. It also examines the crew and cast, censorship concerns, clashes behind the scenes, and the movie’s reception and afterlife.

Various scandalous elements appear here like Susann’s obsession with Merman and Judy Garland’s problems. The best parts of “Backstories” show clips with Garland as well as a Patty Duke screen test not found elsewhere on this disc. It’s also good to hear from Duke since she doesn’t pop up during the commentary. “Backstories” mixes things together in a satisfying way.

Three components appear under Archival Programs. “Valley of the Dolls: A World Premiere Voyage” presents a 48-minute, 12-second piece from 1967. This shows elements of the cruise voyage on which the movie debuted.

Hosted by Bill Burrud and Army Archerd, they take us from the voyage’s launch in Italy and follow aspects of the premiere. They also talk to folks like Parkins, Susann, Duke, Tony Scotti, Susan Hayward, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke and Mark Robson.

Though firmly promotional in nature, it never seems terribly sure what it attempts to promote. More travelogue than movie-related program, “Premiere” occasionally looks at the flick, but it spends more time on the local sights. We’re also subjected to some badly lip-synched numbers from Scotti. It’s surprisingly boring, though it’s nice to have for historical reasons.

Next comes the 50-minute, 31-second “Jacqueline Susann and the Valley of the Dolls”. Another show from 1967, it features comments from Susann, her husband Irving Mansfield, some participants in the film, a few other authors, and various readers. As implied by the title, it focuses on the author and her efforts. It covers her career and issues related to Dolls as both a book and a movie.

And it does so in a rather interesting manner. Unlike the dull “Premiere”, “Susann” proves to be open and frank. It delves into various controversies, and we even find segments of a Susann interview with a radio host who attacks the book as smutty.

I like all the comments from Susann and her husband, as they provide good notes about her promotional work and other topics. We also get a little more from Judy Garland, a factor that’s useful. This is a very solid program.

“Archival Programs” concludes with “Sparkle, Patty, Sparkle. A Q&A from 2009, it goes for 16 minutes, 29 seconds and involves actor Patty Duke and writer Bruce Vilanch. Duke discusses aspects of her Dolls experience. Duke offers some good anecdotes, but Vilanch eats up too much of the time and makes too much of the chat about himself.

Under Screen Tests, we get 28 minutes, six seconds of footage. All of the segments are fun to see, especially when we view Parkins’ stab as Neely.

A four-minute, 53-second compilation promises trailers and TV spots. However, it appears to give us two trailers and zero TV promos – I guess the second ad might be a TV clip, but its 92-second length and its 1.85:1 aspect ratio says “trailer”.

Radio Spots offers a 19-minute, 54-second package with three different segments. It mixes interviews with Duke, Parkins, Burke, Hayward, actor Martin Milner, composer Andre Previn and producer David Weisbart. These don’t offer much more than promotion, but they’re still interesting to hear.

Two segments appear under Interviews. “Once Was Never Enough” lasts 21 minutes, 49 seconds and provides comments from writer Amy Fine Collins, as she discusses author Jacqueline Susann. Collins delivers a solid biography of Susann.

“Travilla: Perfectly Poised” runs seven minutes, 37 seconds and includes more from the interview session with Collins. She tells us about costume designer Travilla’s work on the film. Collins provides another useful chat.

Finally, Doll Parts presents a “visual essay” from film critic Kim Morgan. It goes for 17 minutes, 11 seconds and offers Morgan’s musings about the movie. Morgan seems to take the flick awfully seriously, and her investment in Dolls leads to a fairly pretentious take on it.

A booklet finishes the set. It includes photos, credits and an essay from film critic Glenn Kenny. It finishes the package well.

While lovers of camp embrace Valley of the Dolls, it offers nothing else. If you don’t adore so-bad-it’s-good flicks, you’ll get absolutely no enjoyment from this moronic affair. The Blu-ray offers very good picture along with fairly positive audio and supplements. This Criterion release becomes the best presentation of the film, even if it loses bonus materials from the DVD.

To rate this film, visit the original review of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS

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