Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (newsletter excerpt)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls main claim to fame was that it was written by Pulitzer Prize winning film critic Roger Ebert. It was always joked about as a scourge on his professional career, so when I had the chance to watch it recently I was pleasantly surprised by its sheer audaciousness. Financed & released by 20th Century Fox at the end of the studio's most disastrous decade, the film is an over the top sex romp from B-movie soft porn director Russ Meyer. Self-styled as a Rock-Horror-Exploitation Musical, the film has pre-film title card explaining that it is NOT a sequel to the 1967 smash hit Valley of the Dolls, crafted from the best selling novel by Jacqueline Susann. Based on Meyer having turned the $60,000 budgeted & independently released Vixen into an $8,000,000 hit in 1968, Fox offered Meyer an A-level studio budget & the title Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to work with, unbeknownst to Susann. What Meyer & Ebert created was, in essence, a Russ Meyer film that looks amazing & has high production values. For those who've never seen a Russ Meyer film, they very particularly reflect the director's obsession with well endowed naked women. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, then, is, in essence, soft core studio porn, but done in such a joyous, over the top & genre bending way that you can't help but enjoy it & revel in its complete crazy mixture of sex, drugs & rock-n-roll.
Needless to say, Susann was furious that her title had been bastardized, so she sued the studio, precipitating the title card disclaimer. Even when given an X rating, Fox was well rewarded for the gamble, however, because Beyond generated $9,000,000 at the box office, was Fox's 4th highest & overall, the 17th highest grossing film of the year, to say nothing of the cult status the film has achieved.
Go in with no expectations & the film is a wild ride snapshot of a particular point in time, seen through the filter of a very specific fetish. Besides, once you've seen the Z-man, you'll never forget him.