NC-17 Dir: Russ Meyer | Twentieth Century Fox | 109 min.
Review By: Christopher Bligh | January 28th, 2012
Plot: What’s it about?
(Disclaimer: This film came to me at a very weird but intriguing time a few weeks after 9/11. I was working at a supermarket with music filled with a lot of sixties obscurities that made my day go smoothly and it was one weekend that I couldn’t get that era out of my head when one cable channel played this film you’re about to read about during their American Pop weekend slot. It’s from that point on that, not to give away too much in advance, I forever became a fan, quoter and lover of this film for many reasons, one of which remembering this time 31 years after its theatrical release of seeing it the first time with its infectious impression and it’s wild manner, and now onto the review)
It’s the tail end of the sixties, entering the seventies where the time is swinging, the music is ringing and wild times are abound in California so come with the gentle people and look on up at the bottom Beyond The Valley of the Dolls.
An all female rock trio, led by Kelly McNamara (Dolly Read), has just finished rocking a high school and with their big van and their joints, they set on the road with their manager (David Gurian) to California where a long lost yet rich relative resides there and from that meeting on, an open entry to a party at music producer Ronnie “Z Man” Barzell’s (John Lazar) pad filled with a cast of characters, a lot of lovin and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. From that point on, the trio has a sound and a new name, The Carrie Nations and this is the tale of rises, falls (some literal) and the craziness in between their time at the top.
No matter how many times I view this movie, this viewer says to any fellow filmgoer, test out the first few minutes of this movie and tell me it doesn’t hook you. With it’s offbeat, yet suitable scrolling credits in the opening minutes, Beyond The Valley of the Dolls starts with a shot of adreneline and a warning of the trip we the audience are about to take filled with music, color and shock and dares to take a ride unlike any other cinematic gem can ever do so in any decade.
One of the great things about this picture is the random directions that the film takes with almost every scene and every mood within is quick, thanks to the great editing by Dann Cahn and Dick Wormell keeping the pace and the dialogue quick within scenes switching to shot to shot in a rapid pace.
And nothing can make these scenes keep the energy to an all time high thanks to the great score of Stu Phillips, best known for the original Battlestar Galactica. Here is a score along with the great scores that have solid rhythms and beats that mix in well with the movie and all it’s multiple directions daring to go where no other theatrical score has gone before.
You couldn’t ask for more with a screenplay by Roger Ebert that is filled with many words, and scenes that any actor would dream of with the right range of gusto and the involvement of the characters as the viewer honestly does want to follow them and their misadventures leading into what might happen to them next in this world of unpredictability. The entire ensemble cast shines with the smart move by director Meyer of casting unknowns for the leads.
With the ensemble cast carrying the movie from it’s unusual beginning to it’s edge of your seat finale leading to a most intriguing ending, Beyond The Valley of the Dolls is positively beyond any viewers expectations as it dares, shocks and makes a few thrills and laughs along the way making for a most unique mix of the right elements for one helluva film.
Video: How does it look?
Beyond The Valley of the Dolls enjoys its debut on DVD in the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation with eye popping results capturing every color and hardly leaving an artifact of it’s time present. It’s wide ranged color palette is represented nicely and a pleasant surprise for a film that is 36 years old. There’s hardly a flaw present and there’s plenty of room for visual beauty within the music scenes and throughout the entire course of the picture. An excellent transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Stereo track captures the music and the excitement very nicely as the effects and the score are most apparent in the outer channels while the center channels are reserved for the dialogue and slight score additions. There are a few muted moments in the dialogue but not many and the outer channels raise the volume at many times without having the viewer raise their own monitors or television sets in key scenes. Very nice job. This disc also has an English and French Mono track along with English and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
With a long absence from DVD comes a long list of extras starting on disc one where we’re treated to two commentary tracks. The first is from screenwriter/film reviewer Roger Ebert and he gives his take on the film scene specific from the development of the project to his work relationship with Russ Meyer along with a chance meeting in the future of a certain up and coming rock band who wanted their vision replicated but came dead on arrival. A well balanced informative track
The second comes from cast members John Lazar, Cynthia Myers, Erica Gavin, Dolly Read and Harrison Page and their reflections from making the film along with a little bit of in between comments every now and then during their viewing. An equally entertaining track as well.
If that wasn’t enough with it’s colorful cover and it’s blue case and the booklet with lobby cards to match, there is a second disc which comes with an intro from John Lazar with an enthusiastic roar declaring “BVD on DVD!!!”
And thus begins the wide array of extras starting with the “FEATURETTES” section where we’re treated to Above, Beneath and Beyond The Valley, a 30 minute look at the making of the picture along with some background on director Russ Meyer and his obsessions as best told by many cast members and crew including Roger Ebert.
Look On Up At The Bottom goes into the songs and the background music of the film told best by cast and scoremeister Stu Phillips with the collaboration of the girls and the “real” singing voice of Kelly McNamara.
Best of Beyond gets the best scenes together by category with the cast looking back at themselves in the films best moments in this segment
Sex, Drugs, Music and Murder focuses on the mindset of the time the film was made and what was going on around shooting the picture
Finally, Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene is self explanatory, short and sweet with both cast members discussing the infamous scene.
ALL should be played with a PLAY ALL function but together forms a little more than an hour documentary combined together covering all the bases along with a few repeats from the commentaries and some new tidbits not known before. They’re all equally good and all are worthy featurette assets.
With the next section being Z MAN’S PARTY FAVORS combines 3 trailers, one short with pictures teaser and two theatrical trailers, one involving scenes in the spirit of the film itself and the other being more of a featurette both with the same tagline with the latter focusing for 2 minutes with director Russ Meyer during a photo shoot with the girls.
After that are two screen tests with two pairs from the cast that made the feature, Michael Blodgett & Cynthia Myers and Harrison Page and Marcia McBroom. Both demonstrate scenes and both are interesting to see before their big screen scenes. Both trailer and test sections have a PLAY ALL function.
Last but not least are 6 photo galleries ranging from publicity shots to stills around and during the making of the film.
A common thread throughout the commentaries and disc 2 was that Russ Meyer was a director ahead of his time and Beyond The Valley of the Dolls proves that going beyond wild expectations and a unique brand of memorable images, quotes and thrills and laughs to satisfy in less than two hours that this is not only a film that begs to be seen but it’s unlike any film you’ll ever see along with being unlike any 2 disc special edition as it covers the majority of the bases of pre, shoot, and the final product very nicely all around. A high must buy!!!
- (2.35:1) Aspect Ratio
- Video Codec: MPEG-2
- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio Commentary
- Deleted Scene(s)
- Digital Copy
- 2 Disc Set