Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970): Russ Meyer Exploitation Flick, Written bt Critic Roger Ebert

One of the strangest films to be ever financed by a major Hollywood studio (Fox), Russ Meyer’s “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” is a consciously made cult movie, cashing in on the unanticipated success of “Valley of the Dolls.”

Movies deliberately made with an eye to the cult and/or midnight market usually don’t work–and this one only semi-works. Scripted by the then young Chicago critic Roger Ebert, the film is based on a story conceived by him and Meyer.
“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” has not aged well, and what might have been outrageously funny and psychedelic in 1970, seems outdated several decades later, liker a time capsule.

The yarn centers on three young women eager to break into the big time as an all-girl band. Kelly McNamara (Dolly Reed), Cynthia Myers (Casey Anderson), and Petronella Danforth, nicknamed Pet (Marcia McBroom) head for La La Land, accompanied by manager Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), who’s also Kelly’s lover. Kelly’s aunt introduces the women to record producer Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell (John LaZar), who turns them into stars.

Melodrama kicks in as soon as they become rich and famous. Kelly abandons Harris for playboy Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett), Harris is seduced by a porn star, and Pet falls in love for a law student. Then Casey, who gets addicted to pills and alcohol, finds herself attracted to the lesbian employee of Kelly’s aunt.

In one of the film’s climaxes, Lance and the band members attend a party at LaZar’s house, whereupon he attacks his guests, dressed as a super-heroine named “Superwoman.”

Director Russ Meyer established a name for himself with low-budget exploitation flicks, and this one was no different, considering its budget (just over $1 million). This was not only Meyer’s first studio film, but also one that he shot in widescreen.

The cast includes former Playboy models and other non-professional actors. The dialogue is sharply uneven, and some of the lines are preposterous by design, such as “You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance.”

As expected of a Meyer flick, this movie includes orgies, drug parties, Nazi butlers, and a gruesome Manson-like massacre, enough to merit the movie X-rating (ironically for violence, not sex).