Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

What happens when you put a B-movie director, famous for his buxom vixens with a screenwriter who's destined to become the most famous film critic in America. You get Beyond the Valley of the Dolls the l970 collaboration between Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert (currently in revival at the Quad as part of their Rated X series). The movie should not really be deemed a sequel as a meta version of the l967 movie based on the Jacqueline Suzanne novel in that it’s a monumental gargoyle, which would earn prime billing in any museum of kitsch. You have all the usual Russ Meyer vixens  including one in man’s dress Ronnie (Z-Man) Barzell (John LaZar) who changes the name of the all-girl band at the center of the plot to The Carrie Nations. Of course, the girls and the whole movie rather than beating their drum for temperance exemplify the kind of intemperate indulgence that might have characterized an orgy sequence from another notorious bit of erotica for which Gore Vidal wrote the script, Caligula (1979). Subliminally, the film does convey the sentiment of the age in which it was made, ie that sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll would be a source of salvation—which is another aspect of both its quaintness and yes innocence. No other movie in the history of cinema begins with a sex scene in which the barrel of a gun is suggestively pushed into a sleeping woman’s mouth and ends with her head being blown off. Last Tango in Paris, which was made 2 years later, was supposed to test the limits, but places a distant second with its stick of butter.

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