Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

The Kelly Affair is a hip, swingin’ band just trying to make it big. But playing high school dances won’t do much to introduce the trio to fame, so they have to set their sights higher: Los Angeles.

Naturally, once the band—Kelly Mac Namara (Dolly Read, certainly cast due to her being a Playmate of the Month), Casey Anderson (Cynthia Myers, {ahem} certainly cast due to her being a Playmate of the Month) and Petronella Danforth (Marcia McBroom, a model, although she refused to posed for Playboy)—makes it to L.A. they become immersed in “the scene.” Once there, they start sniffing out the fame they so desire through a producer who goes by “Z-Man” (John LaZar, in his debut). Enter the hippies, drugs, dancing, wild parties, crazy romps and murder. Oh, and there’s plenty of skin, skin, skin!

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Written by Roger Ebert (hey, why not?), BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS has a reputation as being pure trash. It is one that is earned and one that fits much better than most of the women’s’ outfits. Even prior to seeing the movie, one would expect this judging by its promotional materials and its infamous director, Russ Meyer, the “King of the Nudies.” Meyer’s early filmography boasted titles like THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS and WILD GALS OF THE NAKED WEST, with later efforts including SUPERVIXENS and UP, which is far from subtle in its meaning.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Meyer was a legend whose works and lens favored beautiful women with large breasts, and so one can expect the expected in BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS—that is, there is plenty of bouncing and jiggling. A certain audience might be quick to write Meyer off as a scuzzy perv who took advantage of his subjects’ bodies, but they’re soooo square, man. And then there are his fans. And for them (adMyerers?), BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is one his most commendable and essential works.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Many, if not all, of Meyer’s movies can be easy to write off. But BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is actually quite well made, with terrific late-‘60s/early-’70s tunes, vibrant costumes and set design, and slick cinematography (by Fred J. Koenekamp, who also lensed PATTON that year). But really, the best thing that can be said of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is that it undoubtedly captures the era, or at least what younger audiences envisioned it as. It is a colorful and sleazy trip, one completely in tune with what is/was hip. (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is not, as may be assumed, a sequel to VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Instead—if one wishes to link it directly to Mark Robson’s over-the-top melodrama—it might be safe to say that what happens in BEYOND is what might have happened if the characters in VALLEY loosened up a bit and didn’t get paranoid.)

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is plenty excessive and supremely boisterous, but then why shouldn’t it be? This is Russ Meyer, and we have little reason to be shocked for him making a Russ Meyer movie.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This high-definition digital transfer was created in high resolution from a new 35 mm interpositive made from the 35 mm original camera negative at IVC Digital Film Center in Burbank, California. Additional restoration was performed by the Criterion Collection.”

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS looks great in this high-definition transfer, with vivid details and popping colors throughout.

Audio: English Mono. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.”

Dialogue is clear and the music comes through wonderfully.

Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Roger Ebert: In this track from 2003, Ebert offers a thorough account of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, his contributions, director Russ Meyer and much more. Ebert always gave a stellar commentary and this is no exception.

Audio commentary featuring actors Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, John LaZar and Erica Gavin: This 2006 track pales in comparison to Ebert’s but is worth a listen for fans.

Above, Beneath, & Beyond the Valley (30:01): This archival documentary looks at the career of Russ Meyer, with particular focus on BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.

Interviews: There are six helpings here: Beyond the Beyond (29:43), in which filmmaker John Waters discusses the merits of Meyer’s career; Look On Up at the Bottom (10:58), which focuses on the film’s music;  Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder (7:34), centered on some of the cultural events occurring at the time of production; The Best of Beyond (12:21), on the lasting effect of the film; Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene (4:19), focusing on just that; and Memories of Russ (8:16), with various contributors reflecting on the man himself.

Archival Programs includes two featurettes: The Incredible Strange Film Show (38:19), an episode of that show from 1988 focusing on Meyer; and a Cast and Crew Q&A (49:20) held in 1990 at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Screen Tests (7:29) for Michael Blodgett, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom and Harrison Page.

Trailers

Also included with this Criterion Collection release is a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Glenn Kenny and excerpts from a 1970 account in the ACLA Daily Bruin of a visit to the film’s set.

OVERALL 4.5
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    BLU-RAY REVIEW

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