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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Russ Meyer

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Misunderstood on so many levels, Russ "square jaws and big boobs” Meyer’s 1970 piece de resistance may just be one of the greatest films ever made. Scratch that — it is one of the greatest films ever made. Hired by the desperate Fox execs because of his ability to turn a meagre budget into a major profit, what the studio imagined was as far from the result as possible. They envisioned a sequel to the "successful” adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls novel and instead, Meyer and screenwriter Roger Ebert (yes, Mr. "thumbs up”) wrote a parody that would indulge in all of the ridiculous melodrama, bizarre cast of characters, unpredictable twists and, of course, boobs you could shake a stick at. Taking Susann’s story and spinning it into an all-out "musical horror sex comedy” extravaganza, the finished product was both shocking and, surprisingly, profitable. The story of an all-girl band’s rise to fame and subsequent burning crash into a world of drugs, sex, corruption and murder, there’s little to this film that isn’t mind-blowingly sensational — in both senses of the word. Ebert’s commentary (which sounds scripted, like he’s reading one of his reviews) is fascinating and enlightening, giving a rundown of Meyer’s quirks, including his WWII work alongside Patton, his "no sex” rule on the set and his disappointment over the film’s X-rating, largely because he had tamed the film down for an R and felt he could have made it raunchier if he’d known an X was inevitable. Also included in this comprehensive DVD edition is a wildly bizarre intro by John "Z-Man” La Zar, as well as some fantastic and informative featurettes (complete with cast, crew and critics interviews) that show just how significant and underrated this cult classic truly is. "The Best of Beyond” is perhaps the most entertaining, asking the cast what the best death, kiss, boobs and lines (my personal choice is Z-man’s: "You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”) are from the film. Every Meyer film should receive this kind of DVD appreciation. Plus: cast commentary, lobby cards, screen tests and galleries. (Fox)
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