MOVIE REVIEW | Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

beyond the valley of the dolls - cinema quad movie poster (1).jp
All I knew about Russ Meyer, was that he was famous for exploitationary, boobtastic, B-movies.  And I only know that much based on a joke from Seinfeld.  The episode where their regular diner is all of a sudden staffed by buxom babes and Jerry (or Elaine, maybe?) says, “It looks like a Russ Meyer movie in here.”  All I knew about his movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, was that it is the only screenwriting credit of legendary critic, Roger Ebert.  It turns out, my very limited knowledge of the film and its maker, pretty much sums it up entirely.

Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Meyers) and Petronella (Marcia McBroom) are the chestily blessed young women in a totally far out and groovy rock band.  They head to LA to meet up with Kelly’s aunt Susan (the tit rich Phyllis Davis).  Susan is an heiress and there’s some reference made to Kelly also being entitled to piece of that inheritance pie.

At a party, they meet Jon Lazar’s Z-Man, every late 60s / early 70s cliché, crammed into a single character, who takes the reigns of being the band’s manager.  A post formerly held by Kelly’s boyfriend, Harris (David Gurian).  Also at the party is buttoned down, conservative business man, Duncan McLeod as Porter Hall.  He has some sort of plan to steal Susan’s inheritance…  Or Kelly’s inheritance…  Or both…  Or maybe it just doesn’t matter to the story in any way.

The lack of clarity I had with Porter Hall’s story and character pretty much sums up the biggest problem Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, it’s A.D.D attitude to storytelling.  It’s like Ebert kept getting bored with storylines, so he’d just abandon one to start another.  I know it’s nothing more than an excuse to show fun bags as often as possible, but even cheap pornos make more of an attempt to at least pretend to follow a coherent story line than this.

The more I think about, the more I’m convinced Ebert followed one story thread until he couldn’t think of another excused to get some baps in there, then he’d put that story aside and start on a new one, with its own untapped mine of reasons to go jugs akimbo.

According to IMDB, the movie’s running time is 109 minutes.  That makes me think they must have had a maximum of about 90 minutes of usable footage, because Beyond the Valley of the Dolls blatantly and pointlessly repeats a lot of footage and shots.  There’s a little preamble at the beginning, made up entirely of shots that will appear later at different stages in the film.  And more than once, as things start to wrap up, characters and abandoned storylines get a little recap, with key shots repeated and hand holding voiceover added.

I never thought I’d say this, but Beyond the Valley of the Dolls proves that after enough time and enough naugs, the novelty of unleashed melons eventually wears off.  About half way through this movie, when the spell began to lose its potency, I started to realise how paper thin the plot was, how wooden the performance were and how boring the whole thing was.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was kind of interesting with its time capsule, campy 70s charm, but not nearly enough to sustain a feature length running time.  Instead, ready any Ebert movie review.  It’ll be more entertaining in a few paragraphs than this movie.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Directed By – Russ Meyer
Written By – Roger Ebert

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