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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Dolly Read
Cynthia Myers
Marcia McBroom
John LaZar
Michael Blodgett.
Directors
Russ Meyer.
Screenwriters
Roger Ebert.
Running Time
109 minutes

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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls


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Plot
The Carrie Nations, a three-girl band, come to Hollywood and get mixed up in heartbreak, showbiz success, drugs, sex and a psychopathic hermaphrodite rock star who throws a party which turns into a massacre.


Review

Not a sequel to the bland film of Jacqueline Susann’s trashy best-seller, this is more like a demented remake, alternating modish psychedelia with deliberately square moralising.  20th Century-Fox, seeing how things were going in 1970, hired sexploitationer Russ Meyer, fresh from cheap masterpieces like Faster, Pussycat, Kill! KILL! and Vixen, and gave him a healthy budget, soliciting the sleaziest mainstream film made in Hollywood til that point. 

Beyond is light on the nudity and enormous breasts for which Meyer’s films are known, but zips astonishingly through bizarre insanities (co-scripted by critic Roger Ebert) with movie in-jokes (a lawyer villain named after shifty character actor Porter Hall), recurrent Meyer obsessions (a cameo from Martin Borman), caricatures of celebrities (‘Randy Black, the heavyweight champion of the world), exploitable hot topics presented with all the sensitivity and understanding of a supermarket tabloid (rock n roll, lesbianism, LSD, ‘wild parties’), a soundtrack that alternates girlie pop and oompah band music, overheated dialogue (‘you shall drink the black sperm of my vengeance!’) and lovingly-deployed cliché film techniques (the animated line on a map as the girls drive West). 

Everyone gets a quotable signature line: Edy Williams, as hot-to-trot starlet Ashley St Ives, rounds on a guy who takes her fancy with ‘you’re a groovy boy – I’d like to strap you on some time’; John Lazar, as Jagger lookalike superstar and incipient gender-confused mass murderer Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell, screams ‘this is my happening, and it freaks me out!’; and David Gurian, as temporary paraplegic Harris Allsworth, declares ‘I want it, I need it, I love it when a beautiful woman licks between my toes.’


Extras

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
Released: 12 February 2007
Five featurettes on Disc Two, along with screen tests and trailers, and commentaries from Ebert and the cast give a detailed look behind the scenes.


Verdict
Russ Meyer does mainstream, kind of.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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