Well. Firstly…spoiler alerts, so if that’s gonna be a problem, take a U-turn.
Now. Before I delve into the campy schlockfest that is Roger Ebert’s, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, let me just say that if you’re looking for a film that has everything…really, everything you can think of (girl groups, musical numbers, murderous transsexuals, nymphomaniac porn stars, girl-on-girl action, boy-on-boy action, sex scenes, drug usage, legal battles, assault and battery, infidelity, paraplegics, attempted vehicular manslaughter, superheroes, occult references, gory violence, T&A, A&T, and a host of other acronyms)…then this is it. About the only thing you won’t find is any reference to the original Valley Of The Dolls, as some legal issues arose and forced the directors to change the character of Anne Welles (the original’s protagonist) to Susan Lake who assumed the position of main character, Kelly,’s aunt, thus obliterating any potential link to Jacqueline Susann’s story.
Now that you know THIS IS NOT A SEQUEL, prepare to be taken on a journey that will leave you reeking of cheap, sexually-transmitted aftershave and “marijuana cigarettes.”
The barest of plots centers around Kelly Mac Namara, a plucky stoner who enjoys singing with her rock band, the “Kelly Affair,” which consists of her two friends, sassy Petronella “Pet” Danforth and introverted Casey Anderson. They’re managed by her boyfriend, Harris, who’s charming in a stoned-schoolboy kind of way. Anyway, they decide to take a road trip to L.A. Why? I can’t remember. “To make it big,” I suppose. Oh! And to meet Kelly’s aunt Susan whom she’s never met and is extremely wealthy and plans to include her in an inheritance of some sort.
So, the main creeper of the film is Porter Hall, Susan’s square financial advisor. He hates the group because…well, I guess he hates hippies since he’s square, his motives are never made too clear but presumably he wants the piece of Susan’s inheritance that she’s decided to give to Kelly. Anyway, Susan shuts him down and encourages her young niece to become a success. She introduces them to the second creeper of the film (and to be considered a creeper in this film, let me tell you…is a rare distinction), Z-Man, who’s based on Phil Spector and is nearly as off-putting. Anyway, these girls are at a swingin’ party full of booze, boobs and bizarre guests (including a toothless senior and a man whose head, I recall thinking, resembles a gourd of some kind). What really stuck out to me though were the fashions, the hair, the make-up…all of it, taken over-the-top and I must tell you…I did NOT want it to come back down. That, coupled with the bubbly musical number by the suddenly re-named “Carrie Nations” (formerly known as “The Kelly Affair”) combined to form a richly resplendent retrospective of the 70’s.
We also meet nympho Ashley who develops a crush on the alienated Harris and some man-whore named Lance Rocke who Kelly becomes involved with. Also, Pet meets Emerson, a waiter who’s working his way through law school and is probably one of the most (or only) decent characters in the whole film. Casey has words with Porter, but also meets Roxanne, the slightly shady lesbian fashion designer who complements her figure and practically eye-rapes her.
So…then Kelly smokes some weed and has casual sex with people. Harris experiences doubts about his sexuality after an (apparently) disappointing stint as Ashley’s personal man-dildo, and feels even MORE alienated. Pet “makes it” with some prize fighter with roid-rage who assaults Emerson with his car and Casey…sleeps through everything thanks to the titular “dolls” of the film, uppers and downers.
Towards the film’s end, we see a rather quickly strewn-about cornucopia of increasingly improbable situations and equally improbable (albeit hilarious) dialogue. We see Harris’ failed suicide attempt which leaves him a whiny paraplegic, instead of just whiny. We see Casey getting preggers but taking care of it real quick as the following scene of a cracked egg in a frying pan so brilliantly illustrates. We see Pet growing a pair and telling the prize fighter to stop before she “cuts him.” Next, in no particular order, we see Z-Man’s boobs, a laughable action scene, Harris struggling to not be paralyzed and then half the cast dies. No seriously.
During the gory ending I couldn’t help but think that whoever thought up this screenplay. *Ahem* ROGER EBERT, must have been in the throes of a rather sexy fever-dream or hopped up on INSANE amounts of illegal substances. Either way, I was absolutely enamored by the whole thing and can understand why this film’s done as well as it has, becoming a cult classic and garnering ten times its budget. I laughed, I cried…well not really…I did furrow my brow in confusion a few times though, and that’s nearly the same thing, so…there you go. This was a technicolor tapestry of campy, kitschy excellence. It’s like ambrosia salad or a mystery meat-laden gelatin mold…a product of its time that, despite being a tad unsettling in appearance and certainly difficult to digest, is ultimately too full of character to trash. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls never takes itself too seriously, and neither should the viewer. As a serious piece of storytelling, it’s laughable and lacks depth, but as a piece of entertainment (which is what I gather it was mostly intended to be), it shines brighter than sequins, rhinestones and all manner of tawdrily terrific tinsel.
Let’s finish with some of my personal favorite quotes…
-“You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”
-“You’re a groovy boy! I’d like to strap you on sometime!”
-“C’mon, Casey. The principal’s supposed to hit me with a coupla caps of acid.”
-“God only knows what they were up to in there… and furthermore, Susan, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that all four of them habitually smoked marijuana cigarettes… reefers.”
-“Step into my web said the spider, etcetera.”
Poetry. Sheer poetry. I expect you readers to use these quotations frequently and unapologetically in your daily interactions AND interjections…after being cut off on the highway, at the grocery store when they won’t take your coupon for kitty litter, before engaging in a drunken tryst with some random stranger…really, these can be interchangeably switched for whatever the occasion and that’s the real beauty of Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls…it’s tackily trashy timelessness.
Now get lit and go watch it!