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.