Blu-Ray Review: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Director: Russ Meyer
Screenplay: Roger Ebert
Based on a Story by: Roger Ebert, Russ Meyer
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John Lazar, Michael Blodgett
Country: USA
Running Time: 109 min
Year: 1970
BBFC Certificate: 18


Russ Meyer is an unusual character in the history of American cinema. His first feature film as a director (after working as a combat cameraman in WWII) was The Immoral Mr. Teas (1959). Widely acknowledged as the first commercially viable American ‘skin flick’ (or softcore porn as the films are more commonly known these days), it grossed more than $1,500,000 in the US at the time of its release from a budget of a mere $24,000. This success spurred Meyer on to make a name for himself as the ‘king of the skin flicks’, producing dozens of successful exploitation films that always featured incredibly buxom female stars, even when his films started to mix in other genres and become wild action-packed romps.

What’s interesting and unusual about Meyer is that, despite his reputation for making what were pretty much porn films, he actually became respected as a filmmaker in many circles. One of the key reasons for this was that he showed all the traits of being a true auteur. He worked as director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer and film editor on many of his films, giving him a huge amount of control over the end product. His films had a recognisable style because of this. As well as the large-breasted stars, his films had a punchy editing style and bold, well composed cinematography. He made exploitation movies that actually looked good and were well put together, unlike many of the ‘skin flicks’ that would follow in his wake.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls represents an unusual point in Meyers career though. After Easy Rider, which was cheaply produced by a bunch of young ‘hippies’, became a huge unexpected success for Columbia Pictures, the other studios wanted in on the action. A number of the companies believed that giving money to young directors, fresh out of film school, would produce exciting counter-culture movies that the nation’s youth would flock to see (which is what kick-started the 70’s New Hollywood movement). 20th Century Fox’s plan though was to give a large budget to an already successful indie director with a reputation for making commercially successful genre films for very little money. The director they chose was Russ Meyer and the film he made was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: El Monstro Del Mar

Director: Stuart Simpson
Screenplay: Stuart Simpson
Starring: Norman Yemm, Nelli Scarlet, Kyrie Capri, Karli Madden
Producer: Fabian Pisani
Country: Australia
Running Time: 75 min
Year: 2010

An Australian entry into the wave of B-Movie homages that have been flooding in since the release of Grindhouse in 2007, El Monstro Del Mar! (a.k.a. El Monstro!) is a truly independent addition that makes it’s influences known right from the outset. Opening in black and white with three buxom beauties ‘dressed’ in rockabilly-meets-burlesque style outfits dancing to 60’s soul music blaring out of the car stereo, writer/director Stuart Simpson has some serious love for cult legend Russ Meyer.

This bunch of bad girls swiftly and brutally despatch of a couple of hapless locals who come to their assistance, then hit the road. We (vaguely) discover that they’re on the run after killing some nasty looking thugs and they end up in an isolated seaside town, where they plan to lay low for a while. After their elderly neighbour Joseph (Norman Yemm) warns them not to go in the water things start to get less sexploitation and more monster movie though as the girls awaken El Monstro Del Mar!

Once this viscous beast starts wreaking havoc it’s up to the remaining girls and the repressed virgin Hannah (Kyrie Capri), Joseph’s granddaughter, to show the tentacled bastard who really wears the trousers around here!

Would you like to know more…?

Bookmarks for November 20th

What we’ve been reading over the past week or so.

  • For Your Consideration: 25 Things The Academy Got Right In The 2000s
    As hard as it is for those prone to bitching about the Academy to admit, they don’t always get it wrong. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to find twenty-five examples of where they most certainly got it right (though mind you, it was even easier finding fifty things they got wrong). So for what it’s worth, here are my picks in descending order for your anticipatory pleasure. Unlike the 50 snubs, I opened to up to all categories, since, again, there wasn’t quite the plethora of options.
  • REEL TRUTH: Why Women Should Stay Away from Twilight
    Twilight was never supposed to get this big. It looked like it was simply meant to be a high brow straight to DVD film. Instead it turned the media world into complete chaos and because of that, females of many different ages fell into the beautiful lies Twilight created to make us believe about Bella and Edward’s intense karmic connection. Funny how so many women avoid or are completely unaware of the many flaws and bullsh*t they eat up from the series, but today is the day I am going to attempt to open their eyes to see how using Twilight as a guide book/film to dating will only bring disappointment to your love life.
  • David Lynch on Going to India to Shoot His Next Movie
    During his downtime, Lynch is working to bring meditation into schools worldwide. Vulture caught up with Lynch at the Russian Tea Room on Sunday, before his scheduled speaking engagement with the Hudson Union Society, to discuss his favorite directors, the importance of final cut, and how his next film project will take him to India.
  • Film features: The Story Behind Fight Club
    Reese Witherspoon, Sean Penn and Courtney Love might’ve starred in Fight Club? I think we’re all glad that it ended up the way it did. Here is how David Fincher brought this iconic film to realization.
  • Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage, 1973)/De Profundis (2007) (Ferdy on Films, etc.)
    Marilyn Ferdinand looks at two unusually artistic (in the sense of looking like paintings) animated films, arguing for the continuation of this art form and its peculiar emotional pull in the face of modern computer animation.
  • Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2010 New Frontier Lineup
    In the first of its announcements for its upcoming 2010 program, Sundance Institute revealed Wednesday the selection of 13 artists from six countries whose works will be presented as part of the New Frontier sidebar at Sundance Film Festival. A collection of digital art, film screenings, multimedia performances, site-specific installations and video presentations will take part in what organizers promise to be “a fully immersive media lounge” for festival goers to experience throughout the event.
  • Up and Up!
    Last week, Disney/Pixar released to the home-viewing market Up, their CGI-animated colorfest that just happens to share a name with a 1976 fuckfest by Russ Meyer (the latter adds an exclamation mark just to convey how excited it is to exist). It would seem that an animated film about a man who saves his life from the shadows of the twilight years by attaching thousands of balloons to his house, sailing to a far-off land and saving a rare bird species from exploitation has little in common with a who-killed-Hitler murder mystery that’s a thinly veiled excuse to showcase people having (softcore but graphic) simulated sex while Kitten Natividad narrates it all as the one-woman Greek chorus. However, there are more similarities than you might think.
  • Only Eight of This Decade’s Best Picture Nominees Are Original
    You would think that there would be a huge divide between the most profitable and the most critically acclaimed films of this decade, right? You would think that while mainstream America flocks to established properties, the Academy of Motion Pictures would lean more towards rewarding originality. Not So… /Film commenter Keith points out that only 8 of the 45 Academy Award Best Picture nominees of this decade (so far) are originals.
  • ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans’ Producers Want It To Spawn A Franchise
    Producers Alan and Gabe Polsky hope to continue the “Bad Lieutenant” name as an ongoing franchise. Given the successful collaboration of Herzog and Cage, and before them Ferrara and Keitel, the Polskys admit they’d like to go further with other “interesting combos” for more stand-alone “Bad Lieutenant” installments. They specifically propose the director/actor team-ups of Darren Aronofsky and Brad Pitt and Michel Gondry and Bill Murray, which both sound like great ideas.
  • Top 10 Bad Messages From Good Movies
    Sometimes it can be hard to see the messages a movie teaches, especially if they’re unintentional. The best way to see a movie’s messages, and bad ones in particular, is to be a parent watching the movie with your kids. Suddenly you find yourself talking to your kids after you leave the theater or after the video finishes playing at home, just to see if they picked up on the bad messages. Then, if they did, you can try to do some damage control.
  • Bad Boys Grow Up
    Tarantino and Almodóvar finally make films equal to the ones they’ve always claimed as inspirations. Tarantino came to be regarded as a hyped-up pop culture junkie spritzing bloodshed and movie references in equal measure. And Almodóvar was thought of as something like the post-Franco John Waters, mixing ’50s Hollywood-style melodrama with cheerful hedonism awash in sex and drugs. At this year’s New York Film Festival, it was Almodóvar’s latest, “Broken Embraces,” that was chosen for the closing night slot. And about a month before the festival, Tarantino’s latest film, “Inglourious Basterds,” became the unlikeliest hit of the year. What links both of these films is that, for each filmmaker, they represent a point at which they demonstrate a mastery of craft equal to the Hollywood films that inspired them.