Starring: Dolly Read, John Lazar, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom
Director: Russ Meyer
Watching the saccharine, faux moralistic epilogue of this absolutely out-of-control film, you can’t help but wonder how on earth it ever got made? It’s so outrageously twisted, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it slipped under the radar of studio system at Twentieth Century Fox. But slip, it did and we can only praise the Goddess of Fun because this film surely sets the benchmark for camp.
Co-written in what appears to have been a drug-fuelled fun fest by film critic Roger Ebert and breast obsessed director Russ Meyer, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is the story of a all-girl, three-piece rock band who head for Los Angeles to crack the big time. Within hours of their arrival in La La Land, they’re performing at an A-list party hosted by big time producer Z Man (a scene-stealing John Lazar).
Lead singer Kelly (Dolly Read) looks like a brunette Barbie doll but punches out a song like Grace Slick (thanks to vocalist Lynn Carey) and Z Man is instantly smitten.. in a purely artistic sense, mind you. He introduces her to the cast of characters gyrating to the groovy sounds of resident band, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, and proudly declares; “This is my happening and it’s freaking me out!”. Meanwhile, Kelly’s boyfriend and erstwhile manager, Harris (David Gurian) is being pursued by a feline nymphomaniac called Ashley (sex star Edy Williams) who refuses to take no for an answer.
A superimposed shot of Harris watching Z Man watching Kelly and the gang rocking their way to stardom says it all. Harris is history. And when the girls do their first live television performance, he reveals exactly how he feels about that by flinging himself from the rafters to land, a paraplegic at their feet. Things get even more bizarre when Z Man starts having delusions that he’s Super Woman and starts killing everyone in sight.
It’s pure lunacy but directed with such a deft touch that it makes for riotous entertainment. Producer Al Clarke screened a big colourful print of it at the recent Sydney Film Festival and it had the audience in stitches. With blatantly gratuitous shots of nude women bouncing around in the foreground whenever possible, this hilarious parody of the 1967 screen adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls will not appeal to all. But for others, it’s nothing short of pure gold.