181 - Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls - 4 stars
I first encountered this film when I wrote a film course for the cinema on cult movies called Total Cult. It was filed heavily under CAMP. This film is as camp as a field of pink tents at a festival of campness.
The Carrie Nations - an all-girl rock group - head to Hollywood to make it big, only to get sucked into the drug and sex-fuelled decadence of the L.A. lifestyle.
While it has the sex, drugs, rock n roll and trashy feel of Meyer's other films, it also works as a dark satire of show-business.
If there was one scene that sums up the feel of the movie then it would be the party at Z-Man's house. It contains the line "This is my happening and it freaks me out" which is an obvious inspiration for Austin Powers.
The character of Z-Man is one of the greats of the exploitation genre. Apparently influenced by Phil Spector, in his velvet suits and Shakespearean way of talking Z-Man is a force of nature and steals every scene he is in.
The initial highs of the success and parties fall away to reveal shattering lows in the form of drug addiction, attempted suicide, abortion, adultery before descending into a over-the-top murder rampage featuring Superwoman, Tarzan, a Nazi, Batman and Robin. Best just to watch in order to understand.
One girl hilariously blames her boyfriend when he walks in on her with another man by repeatedly crying "you said you were going to study. you said you were going to study".
The film ends with a little epilogue that feels like it could appear at the end of an episode of Scrubs, as the narrator of the film gives us the moral of each person's individual story.As a cautionary tale about the dark side of Hollywood, it is up there with the likes of Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive. Yes you read that correctly. I am comparing Russ Meyer's trashy, campy movie to two classics and I feel justified.
The thing that might shock most people when they watch it is not the final scene, but when they see that the writer of the film is none other than Roger Ebert, one of the world's most famous and well-respected film critics and current Twitter obsessive!
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