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The Schlock Vault

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

If it’s Russ Meyer, you know it’s going to be busty, and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is, if nothing else, certainly well-endowed.

It’s a lot of other things too. Sensical isn’t one of them.

There’s not much of a plot to speak of. “Dolls” centers around an all-female rock band, who come to Hollywood in hopes of fortune and fame and naturally, find wanton sex, drugs, and despair.

There’s some subplot about one of the women who stands to inherit a portion of $1 million dollars, and her struggle for a piece of that money, but mostly the movie is about parties, scantily clad or naked women, and doing drugs.

The film is an orgy of excess, literally and figuratively, though Meyer can’t be bothered to really finish any of his sequences, inserting mostly two- or three-second sex scenes, often at seemingly random points of the film.

If it’s meant to be a sex film, why not actually show a complete sex scene, or at least allow the nudity to be on screen long enough to constitute it being exploitation? It’s like Meyer wants you to see this, but just for a second.

The film is energetic and upbeat if extraordinarily pointless, and really the schlock doesn’t totally hit the fan until the film’s climax, where the flamboyantly gay Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzel goes off the deep end and starts murdering people. There’s a decapitation, and several other people are shot (one at close range), and odd development for a film that otherwise has little violence.

Also strange is the film’s pre-credits admonition that this film is not a sequel to “Valley of the Dolls,” and features an entire paragraph to that effect. Why, then, title it “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls?” There’s no valley featured, nor are dolls prevalent. Maybe it’s best not to ask.

Roger Ebert famously scripted this film, which presumably was chopped to bits when the film was made. A man of his writing talents certainly must have written some kind of coherent script, right?

So what does “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” have going for it? Well, it’s imminently quotable: “hang cool, teddy bear,” one character purrs to the man she’s seducing as she heads to change into something more comfortable. “This really isn’t your night, is it, pussycat?” another says when a man spurned at a party follows that up by getting punched out (and during this fight the men are egged on by a professional boxer who gives them tips DURING the fight).

We also get a coerced abortion that leads to a lesbian relationship, characters continually pressuring their friends into doing drugs (“There’s juice freaks and there are pill freaks, and everybody’s a freak. What you need is some grass, or a downer or something”), an attempted suicide, mass murder, and jiggly woman parts all the while.

I guess that’s Russ Meyer for you.

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2 Responses to “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)”

  1. Aaron says:

    A little bit more research should have gone into this article. First, you need to watch a few more Meyer films to truly understand what he is trying to do as an artist (and he most certainly is an artist). Having an understanding of Meyer’s work might help you realize that while he definitely loved large breasted women, his films are about much more than that. Try looking at Beyond the Valley of the Dolls as satire. A meta-commentary on the art and culture of the era in which it was made.

    The "dolls" aren’t little girl play toys. Dolls is slang for pills. So there you go.

    The reason this film is called "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is because Fox commissioned Meyer to make a sequel to their hit, genuinely schlocky, "Valley of the Dolls." They had taken notice of Meyer after after his film, "Vixen" made for about $80,000,000 made over $9 million. That was huge for the day, and it wasn’t the first time Meyer had done it.

    The reason that it has its little pre-credit warning is because Jaquelyn Susann, the writer of Valley of the Dolls, hated the film and threatened to sue. Personally, I find that hilarious and think it even adds to the film’s legend.

    Ebert and Meyer wrote the script together. When this was made, Ebert was a relatively unknown critic who had been praising Meyer’s work for years. Meyer wanted someone who really understood his work to help write the script, so he brought in Ebert. Ebert still loves the film and has a nice little article about it on his site.

  2. Derek says:

    I love this flick and I listen to the soundtrack ALL the time. Some nights I will play Look On Up At the Bottle on repeat for hours. The final fight scene is phenomenal. My jaw dropped to the floor when one of the dolls is shot in the head.