Above and Beyond the Valley
File it under the Kitsch A-Go-Go department: 20th Century Fox recently sent me their deluxe DVDs of Valley of the Dolls and its non-sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I’ll be posting a more complete review of these at Mindjack Film pretty soon, but overall I think Fox did an excellent job for a pair of films that have had little more than a mid-level (but very enthusiastic) cult audience. The movies are both unintentionally hilarious camp classics, for sure, but these DVDs also manage to place them within the context of the very different times they were made. Say what you will about Valley‘s horrid script and leaden direction, the movie remains totally watchable (and re-watchable) due to its swanky ’60s aesthetics. I love all the fashions, the crazy-cheesy musical numbers and montages, the kickass furniture (including a George Nelson coconut chair and a Bertoia diamond chair upholstered in fire engine red). I almost forgot how unbelievably lousy Patty Duke was as Neely O’Hara, but Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate both give surprisingly decent performances as, respectively, starchy Anne Wells and sexy Jennifer North. The picture quality was pretty nice, although I noticed a little dust on the screen. And I loved seeing the widescreen image of Susan Hayward lip-synching “I’ll Plant My Own Tree” inside a crazy-ass spinning mobile.
As nice as the extras on Valley were, the overall package on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls winds up being even more impressive. The producers managed to snag not only most of the cast members, but screenwriter Roger Ebert also chimes in for the DVD’s requisite making-of docs. All involved have fond memories of working with boob-obsessed director Russ Meyer on his first big budget studio film, which is nice since I gathered that the original Valley wasn’t too pleasant an experience. Where Valley trafficked in a more upscale look, Beyond goes all out for a wild and wooly “hippies gone crazy” feeling that practically screams 1970. Even the slow spots are fun. Though the film is very dated with Ebert’s slang-heavy script and the storyline of a girl rock group trio, it actually holds up pretty well thanks to Meyer’s rapid-fire pacing and an energetic cast of unknowns. One thing I never noticed before is how actress Dolly Read’s British accent occasionally peeks through her performance — especially in scenes where she’s supposed to be angry. Also, the decor in this film has to be seen to be believed. I loved the different styles in the main trio’s apartments: Kelly (Read) has a way-out pad filled with plastic furnishings and op-art colors, while Casey (Cynthia Myers) lives in a relatively subdued abode of gold and Asian accents, and the home of “soul sister” Pet (Marcia McBroom) sports a pukey neo-Colonial look which might have been pilfered from the set of Bewitched. Yuck. I haven’t even mentioned The Carrie Nations’ weird and wonderful musical performances. Anyways — good DVDs, look out for the more complete reviews coming soon.