‘The ads say that this picture goes way, way beyond the Valley of the Dolls’, Motion Picture Herald usefully informed its readers on the subject of celebrated cult skinflick filmmaker Russ Meyer’s hugely compelling first (of two) films for a major (Twentieth Century-Fox) Hollywood studio. Continued the Herald, ‘This time, the ads are modest. More than just an overblown Russ Meyer ‘nudie’ film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is one of the biggest put-ons ever released.’
Improbably, the screenplay was co-written (with Meyer) by American film critic Roger Ebert. A three-girl pop group – Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers and Marcia Mcbroom – go to Hollywood with their manager David Gurian to talk Read’s aunt Phyllis Davis into sharing her fortune. Gurian, who is also Read’s lover, is forced out by weird but gifted promoter John Lazar and the girls are soon involved in the more lurid aspects of show business high life. McBroom becomes involved with law student Harrison Page but leaves him for boxer Jim Eglehart, Read leaves Gurian for gigolo Michael Blodgett and gets Davis’ crooked lawyer Duncan Mcleod high on marijuana and then shows him up as impotent under the effects of the drug in order to put pressure on him to get her share of Davis’ money. Myers teams up with lesbian designer Erica Gavin while Gurian finds solace with nymphomaniac starlet Edy Williams. And melodrama is piled upon melodrama, culminating in murder when LaZar goes berserk during a peyote-cult party…
Said Ebert of Meyer: ‘He is a surprisingly enthusiastic film buff, has seen almost every American sound film of importance, was a still photographer on location for such directors as George Stevens and has an instinctively satirical sense of the ridiculous that comes from the same ’50s sensibility that produced Bob and Ray, Lenny Bruce, Stan Freberg and Mad magazine. This became apparent to me when we began work on the original screenplay. At the time Meyer was approached by 20th Century-Fox about the project, it consisted mostly of the title, which had been purchased by Fox for a possible sequel at the time Jacqueline Susann sold them her Valley of the Dolls. At the time we began work on her screenplay, we were under the impression it would be a sequel’. In the event, however, it was not and the courts denied Susann an injunction against the film.
USA / Twentieth Century Fox / 109 minutes / 1970
Writers:Roger Ebert, Russ Meyer,
Phyllis Davis as Susan Lake
Harrison Page as Emerson Thome
Dolly Read as Kelly McNamara
Cynthia Myers as Casey Anderson
Marcia McBroom as Petronella Danforth
John Lazar as Ronnie Z-Man Barzell
Michael Blodgett as Lance Rocke
David Gurian as Harris Allsworth
Edy Williams as Ashley St. Ivens
Erica Gavin as Roxanne
Duncan McLeod as Porter Hall
James Iglehart as Randy Black
Princess Livingston as Matron
Stan Ross as Disciple
Lavelle Roby as Vanessa
Haji as Cat Woman
Karen Smith as Red Head
Sebastian Brook as Art Director
Coleman Francis as Rotund Drunk
Pam Grier as Fourth Woman (as Pamela Grier)
Russ Meyer as TV Cameraman (uncredited)
Garth Pillsbury as Man with Newspaper (uncredited)
Charles Napier as Baxter
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