Beyond the Valley of the Dolls(Fox Home Entertainment, 6.13.2006)
Valley of the Dolls was not a tough act to follow, which may explain why this oddity from 1970 managed to establish itself as an instant cult classic. It would have been hard to make an inferior sequel to Valley of the Dolls, but screenwriter Roger Ebert and director Russ Meyer didn't even bother trying. Instead, they made a skewed sex comedy satire that shares more in common with Meyer's earlier films -- though on a much bigger scale -- than Valley of the Dolls.
With an endless supply of style, imagination, and ridiculous one-liners ("this is my happening and it freaks me out!"), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls makes for a great trailer. It also sounds great on paper. But the truth is, lively and entertaining as it sometimes is, Beyond the Valley of Dolls strains a little too hard to achieve its one-note aims. Just a little more sincerity, nuance or reality and this cartoonishly enjoyable movie might have really been the masterpiece that Richard Corliss says it is. Of course, it's still a great way to spend 109 minutes.
With a flawless DVD audio commentary track record thus far, Roger Ebert has proven himself one of the masters of the form. His commentary here is particularly strong, partly because he wrote the script and had privileged access to all stages of the production, but also because this is such a ridiculous film and it brings out his sense of humor (which is a big part of the film's appeal). As enlightening as Ebert's commentaries are on Casablanca, Floating Weeds, and Citizen Kane, after listening to his commentary here, I'm really anxious to hear what he has to say about more of his guilty pleasures. Personally, I've always found that critics are at their best when defending films that most other critics dismiss, not canonical classics.
In addition to the Ebert commentary, this terrific 2-disc set features an entertaining cast commentary and several extremely thorough featurettes, dealing with everything from the music to Casey and Roxanne's love scene (actors Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin really sound like they enjoyed themselves). While I'd prefer a less campy approach, let's be honest: that's what most fans like about this film. Finally, photo buffs should be pleased with the six photo galleries included, as well as a little envelope in the case that contains four additional stills in lobby card form. -- Jonathan Doyle