April 7, 2014

Movies At Dog Farm III - Guilty Pleasures, Now 100% Guilt Free - Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970)

     The term "guilty pleasure" should be stricken from the language.  If you derive pleasure from something - a pass-time, a vice, a movie - you should step up and loudly proclaim your appreciation to the world.  Don't feel obliged to offer the self-effacing preemptive apology implied by the application of the term guilty pleasure.  Chances are, someone else appreciates the same weird, esoteric bullshit as you.  You're probably not alone.

     On that note, I've decided to build the program for Movies At Dog Farm III (being graciously hosted this May as a component of  Phil Neff's Dog Farm Spring Event 2014) around a clutch of movies that I unashamedly adore, in the hopes of introducing some of that weird, esoteric bullshit to the uninitiated.  Chances are, someone else will appreciate it.  If not - well, there's no accounting for taste (or a lack thereof).  Though I've yet to program the entire event, I've decided that the centerpiece around which the program will be constructed this year is a slick, funky little number that chronicles the rise and fall of the fictional all-girl band The Carrie Nations entitled Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970).  It is not a sequel to the the 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley Of The Dolls.  Although that was the initial intent, it's makers had other ideas.  I believe everyone should be exposed to this weird, wonderful gem of a movie at least once, and let me tell you why . . .

Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert
     Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is one of only three films ever co-written by the late Roger Ebert.  Yes, that Roger Ebert - the first and only film critic ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Ebert, probably one of the most well known and respected film critics who ever lived, wrote the screenplay for one of the most gloriously tacky and bizarre X-rated exploitation flicks ever released by a major studio.  If you have a hard time wrapping your head around that, just wait until you actually see BVD.  And I'll go ahead and save you the trip to IMDB - Ebert's other two screenwriting credits were Up! (1976) and Beneath The Valley Of The Ultra-Vixens (1979), also both Russ Meyer productions.

     Who's Russ Meyer, you may ask?  Well, Russ Meyer was a filmmaker known primarily for making soft-core movies starring women with big boobs.  Ebert - understandably, I guess - was a fan of his work.  You can check out his review of Vixen (1969) to get a feel for Ebert's enthusiastic appreciation of Meyer's films.  Ebert, being one of the only movie critics to recognize  Meyer's work as being a cut above the typical skin flick, ultimately developed a lifelong friendship with Meyer.  The rest is weird cinematic history, some of which - as described by Ebert himself - you can read about here

     So is the unusual pedigree the only reason to see BVD?  Ebert once wrote that Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls seemed "like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum."  Conceived as a parody of the hugely successful but critically reviled Valley Of The Dolls (1967), BVD is a movie unlike any other - at once satiric, melodramatic, cliched, and extreme.  When first confronted with the news that BVD had been awarded an X rating, Meyer's response was to attempt to re-edit the film in order to add more sex and nudity.  20th Century Fox declined to afford him the opportunity, but BVD's initial cut was already far bawdier than most major studio productions. 

The Carrie Nations
     Although hugely succesful in its initial theatrical run, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is undoubtedly a movie destined to divide audiences.  Many first time viewers will see only a tacky, offensive exploitation movie.  For those tuned into it's satiric underpinnings and over-the-top execution, though, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls will be an unparalleled treat.  As one of BVD's taglines proudly declared, "This is not a sequel - there has never been anything like it."  So true.

     Regardless of how one feels about the movie itself, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is a fascinating snapshot of one fleeting moment in history when a major studio hired a movie critic and a soft-core filmmaker to make an X-rated exploitation movie for major theatrical release.  That warrants a watch, doesn't it?  Of course it does.  There's no need to feel guilty about it, either.


  1. B-Dog likes to raise some controversy. Very cool! Anyway to simulcast the event so my virtual presence can attend?

    1. I'd already planned to post from the event, but I don't know of a good way to simulcast without blatantly infringing copyrights. Truth be told, I'll be surprised if there's ever more than a dozen people watching at any given time. I'm very much the "sideshow" at this event - pay a nickel and see the geek watch obscure movies by himself under the pretense of providing entertainment for the straights. lol I'm pretty sure Phil only invites me to program movies for these events because it forces me to leave the house a couple of times a year. Still, if I only introduce one person to one good movie, my work hasn't been for naught. It keeps me off the streets.

  2. I have never seen the original Valley of The Dolls and I most likely never will because it won't be a crazy or as fun as this one. I really enjoyed the hell out of this flick and have a much greater respect for the late Roger Ebert that he wrote it.

    1. I've never seen the original Valley Of The Dolls either, and I couldn't care less. This was a sequel in name only anyway. If you have an interest in Roger Ebert himself, the documentary Life Itself was pretty damn interesting.


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