Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970)
Three young women—Kelly MacNamara (Dolly Read), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers), and Petronella "Pet" Danforth (Marcia McBroom)—perform in a rock band, The Kelly Affair, managed by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), Kelly's boyfriend. The four travel to Los Angeles to find Kelly's estranged aunt, Susan Lake (Phyllis Davis), heiress to a family fortune.
Written by Roger Ebert and directed by Russ Meyer, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is the result of the friendship of both men and many common interests, one in particular : big boobs. Following Ebert’s admiration and fascination at Meyer’s quirky but pleasing Faster Pussycat, Kill!, Kill!, he met Meyer and they decided to make a film written by the film critic that will direct.
At first, it was planned to be a follow-up to Valley of the Dolls but ended as a pastiche of comedy and a schlock satire of Hollywood and the lifestyle of high life Californians of the late 1960’s early 1970’s. Overplayed and packed with lots of female nudity it is at first a teenager’s wet dream and at the same time a quirky melodrama illustrating the life of drugs, sex, and rock and rolls. See what I did here!
BVD is not afraid to step on the tacky Tate murders path and the way that a leader helped with psychedelic substance can break many moral codes of the Puritanism of America. More interesting in all of this is how this movie was made before the wide spreading of pornography into the mainstream media and how easy and free the filmmakers seem to go with the sexuality. Unlike Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, BVD gets a little too much everywhere and I kind of think that it is a bit too much to handle. It is quite fun though and despite some lower moments it is entertaining as hell. Some lines are hilarious and this is one of the best part from Faster Pussycat… too, the many levels of the dialogues and the crude way women are talking. It is however, clear that they are written by men. Who am I to refuse to watch a film filled with big breasted women with lines like : I’d like to strap you on!
After having watched Life Itself, on the life of Roger Ebert, I was curious to watch BVD just to know what it was and especially since it’s on They Shoot Pictures’ 1000 Greatest Films list. With all my respect to Ebert I think it is really funny and entertaining but I’m not sure that it is that great. It’s a nice satire and a great pastiche of Hollywood genres but I think that its purpose to schock and revolutionize was not that successful. It is a great cult film that helps to understand the thinking of the time and might seem light at first but it dresses, or undresses, a portrait of a society that should not be watched at the first level.