Thursday, 12 May 2016

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (4 Stars)

"Take away the guilt, who'd ever want to get laid?"

There's something very true about that statement. Guilty sex is the best sex. It's not so much sex as an ongoing act, it's the orgasm itself. An orgasm is the most intense and satisfying when you have the feeling that you're doing something wrong. That's why extramarital affairs feel so good that men are willing to risk a happy marriage for moments of pleasure. I shan't go into this in more detail because it's only a minor aspect of the film, but I encourage comments from my readers on this fascinating subject.

This film was a dream come true for Russ Meyer as a director. He was used to making films on a shoestring budget. He came to the attention of the big studios after the success of "Vixen" in 1968, which was made with a budget of $20,000 but earned $26 million at the box office. 20th Century Fox had recently lost money invested in big budget pictures, so they thought that if they hired Russ Meyer they could make it back. They gave him a budget of $2 million to work with. Russ picked his friend Roger Ebert to write the screenplay. Yes, that's Roger Ebert the film critic.

The film is about a female rock group that moves to Los Angeles when the uncle of the lead singer hears of her uncle's death and goes to collect her share of the inheritance. The girls get caught up in the never ending scene of wild parties with sex and drugs. However, there are negative undercurrents, and not everyone is as happy as they seem on the surface.

This was an ode to the swinging sixties. It could be called a deconstruction of the sixties. Everyone is cool and hip and anti-establishment, but as soon as money is involved greed sets in. Free love is upheld as a way of life, but there's also jealousy. "Free love is cool, but not with my girl". Nevertheless, the most impressive scenes in the film are the parties where the strangest of characters are dancing with wild abandon.

The incredible Charles Napier plays a small but significant part in the film. He's the squarest of the square. He stands in the middle of the hippies dressed in a suit and tie with his tidily combed hair.

The limited edition Blu-ray release is amazing. Apart from the film itself being remastered, the extra features are all new. The interviews and commentaries were all made after Russ Meyer's death, so the actors often digress into emotional eulogies when they talk about Russ. He was a great man, though I don't consider this to be his greatest film. Roger Ebert sees it differently. He claims that "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is the favourite film of many people. That might be the case, but I far prefer "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill" and "Supervixens".

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