Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is the stuff of legend. The flamboyant, over-the-top director finally helmed a Hollywood studio effort with this 1970 release, and the end result was something that is often claimed by many to be the most cult movie of all time. With this new release, Arrow Video has also included Meyer’s only other Hollywood effort, The Seven Minutes, as part of an overall package that’s more crammed than the brassieres of the busty beauties that the director was famed for spotlighting throughout his iconic career.
In its most simplest form, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, co-written by legendary film critic Roger Ebert, is a film focussed on an all-girl rock ‘n’ roll band dreaming of becoming superstars. That’s the simple description, but there’s a whole lot more going in on this glorious mish-mash of a movie. Like an erratic jigsaw puzzle, the film transcends genres and really, really shouldn’t work, yet it does. And wonderfully so. Combining elements of a musical, of a tense drama, of a humourous, snappy dialogue-driven effort, and dotted throughout with lashings of truly dark moments, Russ Meyer’s Hollywood debut is a glorious rollercoaster of a ride to embark on as we find ourselves attached to The Kelly Affair on the drug-riddled, sex-plagued excesses that come hand-in-hand with trying to make it in the big time. Though the initially-wholesome simple girls lose their inhibitions as they get rebranded as The Carrie Nations, their journey makes for an enthralling viewing experience as we watch events take a hectic and whirlwind turn for the dramatic.
As a film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls works just as well as it ever has. Sure, if you thought it was a ludicrous act of overindulgence from Meyer the first time out, chances are your opinion won’t have changed upon a repeat viewing. If you loved the wonderfully crazed world that Meyer crafted here, though, then you’ll adore the film even more in this crisp, high definition restoration of an all-time classic. Never has camp and crazy looked as good!
Whilst there’s a whole host of brilliant extras included in this re-release, it’s also great to see Meyer’s other Hollywood feature, The Seven Minutes, included as an accompanying piece. Not as well-revered or deemed as ‘cult’ as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seven Minutes and its tale of pornography vs. supposed decency is still an enjoyable viewing experience that is every much a typical Russ Meyer movie as anything in the director’s back catalogue.
To long-standing Meyer fans, this is a re-release firmly worth an investment. For those curious about a director heralded by many yet ridiculed by others, this stunning release is the perfect chance to see what all the fuss is about and to make your own mind up when it comes to 'The King of the Nudies'.
Special Features: Two commentaries / Introduction to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by John Lazar / Five featurettes / Interviews / Screen tests / Photo galleries / Trailers / Collectors’ booklet
BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS + THE SEVEN MINUTES / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: RUSS MEYER / SCREENPLAY: RUSS MEYER, ROGER EBERT / STARRING: DOLLY READ, CYNTHIA MYERS, JOHN LAZAR, DAVID GURIAN, MARCIA MCBROOM / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW