Sunday, June 16, 2019

Lilith Likes to Watch - Beyond the Valley of the Dolls



Title: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Year: 1970
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom
Director: Russ Meyer, Written by Roger Ebert
Synopsis: Three girls come to Hollywood to make it big, but find only sex, drugs and sleaze. - Via IMDB
Why it is Notable: It was written by seminal movie critic Roger Ebert.
"Come into my den, said the spider, etcetera..."

This Tuesday, influential film critic Roger Ebert would have be 77 years old. If I might be so bold, every single one of us internet reviewers, critics, bloggers and hot-takers owe Ebert a debt of thanks. He paved the way for all of us, no matter if we write take downs, rants or think pieces. He, and his compatriots like Gene Siskel and Leonard Maltin proved that critique is a valid form of writing and discussion.

A lot of critique is met with "Well, I'd like to see you make a book/movie/art/clothes.", and yet still many people counter with "You don't have to make a thing to critique it.", which, yes, is true.

But...

Bitch, Roger Ebert wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls!

So, does it get a thumbs up, or thumbs down?

We begin with an opening text that tells us that this is not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. Which is good, because I've never seen Valley of the Dolls.

This movie is about several people who have their own personal issues and adventures. There's the three girls in an all-girl's singing group. We'll call them Singer, Bassist and Drummer. Then there's their manager who has a thing for the Singer.

7 minutes in and we're treated to our second song. Is this a musical? Not exactly, there are break for the band to sing songs and the movie basically becomes a very dry music video, filled with super-imposed images.

Singer finds out from her aunt Sarah that she's owed an inheritance, and some guy named Rocky tries to manipulate her into asking for more, so Singer tried to manipulate Sarah's financial adviser.

Meanwhile, they get more famous and the manager boyfriend gets all pissy. He falls in with a skeevy porn star. Porn Star dumps him, and he fights Rocky, then goes to Bassist's house and they get high. They wake up together in bed, obviously having slept together. She kicks him out.

Bassist catches the eye of another woman, a fashion designer. Bassist tells fashion designer that she's pregnant. Bassist goes for an abortion, takes one look and the stirrups on the bed and screams. We cut to a shot of custard or soup or something and I think she got the abortion but I'm not sure.

Drummer meets a nice law student, cheats on him, and the dude she cheats with is a violent dick who breaks into their house and Drummer has to threaten him with a knife to get him to leave.

Manager boyfriend who doesn't know what a manager's job is, tries to kill himself on live television. He ends up in a wheelchair.

Bassist, Fashion Designer, Rocky go to Z-Man's place, and then they all dress up in Superhero costumes and take peyote while the Sorcerer's Apprentice song plays. I think Z-Man fucks Rocky but it's unclear. Then, Bassist and Fashion Designer go all soft-core. Z-Man, calling himself Superwoman, tries to proposition Rocky. Things escalate and Z-Man goes on a murder spree.

It's fine, though because, with death comes life and Manager Boyfriend can walk again!

The film ends with a voice over full of victim blaming and slut-shaming and pretty gross views on same-sex relations.

Boy, this was a tough one, folks. I’m lost as to what this movie was trying to say or achieve. It has gained a reputation as being sleezy but its so dull. I was expecting a 70's version of Showgirls or something. Something gritty and some sort of wrong but I just got a bunch of rich people at various parties.

I really think something was lost in development. The plot is all over the place, there's no through line, terrible flow, confusing editing and scenes just fucking end.

I won't be so dramatic as to say this throws all of Ebert's reviews into question, he just wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the story. Anyone in Hollywood can tell you the writer has the least say in the final product.

This is one of the worst films I've had to sit through. 1.5 stars because I did go "heh" once or twice. There are a few nice costumes, and one really lovely shot of Fashion Designer in a lace robe, silhouetted against gauzy window dressings.

I want to say I'm not mad at it, I'm just tired, but then I remember the last few minutes of the movie and yeah, I get a little peeved.

LILITH'S SCORE: 1.5/5

NEXT TIME: Save me from the banality, Zebedy Colt! Next week, Sex Wish for real this time.






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