Matt Coker doesn't get Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. When I pitched this highly anticipated collector's set of Russ Meyer's notorious sex- and drug-crazed non-sequel, I was met with an "Okay, but . . . [shrug]" sort of response—which, I have to admit, I can sympathize with. Personally, I never "got" the original Valley of the Dolls either—outside of Patty Duke's fiery performance, those pill-poppin' gals . . . well, I guess they're okay [shrug]. The chesty, hard-rockin', big-tokin' babes in Beyond, however, were and are quite ceaselessly entertaining.
Part of Beyond's appeal—the follow-up was commissioned by Fox, though Meyer's involvement and the decidedly dirtier content prompted Jacqueline Susann to demand a disclaimer divorcing it from her novel and the original film—is that you're never quite sure what the hell it is you're watching. Part sex comedy, part musical, even part neo-Guignol horror (the Manson killings are evoked very late in the game), the story of three gorgeous gals whose rock group takes Hollywood by storm is so loaded with big hair, bigger boobs and pricelessly corny lines that, as Newsweek's David Ansen deftly notes in the accompanying documentaries, it blurs your perception of what defines a good vs. a bad movie. Rarely is it so much fun to be this confused. (Roger Ebert, who penned the screenplay—yes, for all five people who don't know by now, that Roger Ebert—also appears on camera and in a commentary, a wealth of information though he never really 'fesses up as to how in-on-the-joke he and Meyer were while making the film.)
This Beyond set's extras, meanwhile, are sublime: multiple documentaries include most of the surviving cast members (who also recorded a commentary—dig the reliably trippy intro from the one and only John "Z-Man" Lazar), plus pop-culture gurus, critics, musician fans including members of Pansy Division and Redd Kross, and more.
Also recommended this week: Cemetery Man; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; L.A. Story: Special Edition; Monterey Pop (Criterion); Neil Young: Heart of Gold; Valley of the Dolls: Collector's Edition.