Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. It was never just another Russ Myer film for me. It was a bucket list movie. While I have extensive knowledge of film, and indeed seen my fair share of film, there will be a handful of titles that will escape me. And these are films I consider ‘must-sees’ for one reason or another. If I am to consider myself a lover of film, there’s a staple of selections I need to partake in, yet they’re those elusive pieces of celluloid that for whatever the reason I missed. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is one of those movies.
The first time I remember becoming aware of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was probably as a teenager thumbing through the movie section of The Boston Globe. The X rating next to the title at some triple drive-in bill was what caught my attention. There was a fascination I had with these films like Alice in Wonderland, and Flesh Gordon, films that sounded like they might be for family audiences if not for a creative vowel change or the tell-tale X next to the title. ‘What was going on in these movies,’ I wondered. Occasionally I snuck a viewing of some soft-core exploitation courtesy of Cinemax, which I know sounds like a cliche at this point, but it was the truth. In the mid-80s, Cinemax, which my parents subscribed to for a few years, showed such tawdry fare as Lady Chatterley and Felicity. And trust me, I watched them.
A day or two before I boarded a plane and flew across the country to attend my freshman year of college at USC, my friend’s Robert and Pat, and my girlfriend, Paula, went to the Somerville, Davis Square cinema for a two-hour schlock movie trailer event. In the middle of these hilarious movie-trailers was my favorite–the one for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. By now, I knew film critic Roger Ebert was involved with the screenplay. I’d heard the many digs Siskel provided whenever he needed to try and bring Roger down. But I didn’t know anything about the movie. Somewhere between that trailer, and now I saw the original Valley of the Dolls and found nothing in it to remember. But Beyond the Valley of the Dolls? That one eluded me.
Russ Myer’s films don’t exactly play the cable circuit. With midnight movies limited to only a few markets across the country, I never found an opportunity to catch Beyond the Valley of the Dolls at any revival screening.
Flash forward to August 2020. There it was in all its trashy splendor. Hulu was showing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. I immediately knew what I had to do. After waiting thirty plus years to see the film, did the movie meet my expectations? Let’s say; it went beyond them in ways I did not foresee.
I guess I was always an admirer of film camp. As this episode’s guest, Bill Muir, points out. Outrageous satire, when done right, is simply something that tickles me. Movies that scream ‘audience participation’ are for me what the cinema-going experience is all about. So, after seeing this fantastic piece of pop camp explosion, I wanted to talk about it.
This episode is partially devoted to film camp, and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is discussed. But to get there, Bill insisted I tell another of my cinema-going stories from my days in NYC. In many ways, this story fits perfectly as a lead into Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. XXX? No. But maybe X if it were the 70s, and now I’d say I give the story an R rating. And not to be outdone, Bill may have an R-rated tale of his own to tell.
Wrapping things up on this week’s episode is a little chat about the Trip film series with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. If you’ve listened along most of the summer to the several episodes with guest Bill, you’ll know we have a bit of a teasing relationship, and one filled with taunts and screen impressions. So, we thought it would only be fitting to include a bit on these road trip movies where the films’ main purpose appears to be a good excuse for Steve and Rob to make fun of each other.
Enjoy this episode, dear listener, as much as I enjoyed taping it.