A sequel in name only to the popular 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's novel, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is director Russ Meyer's ultra-campy project for Fox, who thought Meyer could be a good fit to helm the picture after his low-budget "Vixen" went on to become a big hit for the time. Fox needed a hit and ended up taking a gamble on the picture, giving Meyer creative freedom and the biggest budget he'd worked with.
After the opening credits, the film focuses on a young, all-girl rock band fronted by Kelly (Dolly Read, a former Playboy Playmate), Casey (Cynthia Myers, also a former Playmate), and Pet (Marcia McBroom). The three head out to Los Angeles with their manager Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) seeking fame and fortune (Kelly is seeking out a family inheritance) and end up finding sex, drugs, and some rock and/or roll as the re-named Carrie Nations.
They also find a new manager in the form of promoter Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John Lazar), whose dialogue is always Shakespearian. Harris, separated from the band, is quickly snatched up by actress Ashley St. Ives (Edy Williams). Casey is sought after by lesbian Roxanne (Erica Gavin) and Pet hooks up with Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page). The three lead actresses seem to be picked more for their chest size than their acting ability, but they're not terrible and they manage to hit the right tone for the material.
The picture works as well as it does because the actors largely play it seriously. Whether it be goofy dance sequences, bedroom romps, violent moments or fights, "Valley" is involving because it often treats these moments in a straightforward, weighty manner, which results in a lot of sleazy, trashy laughs. The more seriously the movie takes its melodrama, the more hilarious it becomes. Had the picture been played in a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" fashion it wouldn't have been remotely as successful. Also adding to the picture is its look: despite being a B-movie, "Beyond" is an awfully good-looking one, with solid production values, great songs and attractive 'scope cinematography. Ebert's dialogue is also quite quotable, as it includes the timeless, “This is my happening and it freaks me out!”
"Valley" is a certainly a B-movie, but it's a good B-flick that certainly deserves its cult status and remains a lot of fun.
VIDEO: "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a beautiful presentation of the flick that, while not without a few minor issues, is pretty remarkable. Sharpness and detail are not entirely consistent, but the majority of the flick looked crisp and well-defined.
The film did display the occasional speck, mark or other issue on the print, but the majority of the picture looked surprisingly clean and clear. The film is a little over 35-years-old at this point, but - despite the loud, dated fashions - you wouldn't know it otherwise from looking at this presentation. No edge enhancement or artifacting was seen. The film's vibrant color palette was presented quite well, with nice saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Beyond" is presented in mono here and that's perfectly fine. A new 5.1 presentation may have enhanced the music and some other elements of the soundtrack, but the mono mix is surprisingly crisp and clear, sounding quite good for a movie from this era.
EXTRAS: Plenty of supplemental features are included, starting off with a commentary from writer Roger Ebert. The second commentary is from actors Harrison Page, Dolly Read, John La Zar, Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin. Ebert's commentary is as terrific as the others that the film critic has done, as he provides an excellent discussion of the film's development and production, working with Meyer, the reaction to the movie and more. The cast commentary provides some laughs as the actors have a lot of fun chatting about the film after all these years and bouncing ideas off one another.
An intro from La Zar opens the second disc, which offers a series of featurettes discussing the production and the cult status of the picture. They are: "Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy", "Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of Dolls", "The Best of Beyond", "Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Times, Baby!", "Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene". We also get screen tests and photo galleries.
Final Thoughts: "Beyond" remains a fun B-picture that deserves its cult status. Fox's Special Edition is terrific, with excellent supplemental features and very good audio/video quality. Recommended for fans.
The Film B