Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
|Year Of Production||1970|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (50:24)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Russ Meyer|
Twentieth Century Fox
John La Zar
The Strawberry Alarmclock
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I'm hesitant to guess what ignited my interest in the films of renowned sleaze master and independent film guru Russ Meyer. I recall that while dabbling in alternate cinema and tape trading many years ago I came across Meyer's cult classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and was instantly mesmerised. So sleazy. So corny. So bad, but so brilliant! I quickly went on to discover many of his other masterpieces and fell in love with the unashamed campiness, the soft-core and raw B-grade attitude that made each of his films so uniquely hilarious. The films of Russ Meyer certainly aren't for everyone, but if you appreciate the kind of cinema that is so bad it's great then his entire catalogue of trash is undoubtedly for you.
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls bears absolutely no relationship to The Valley Of The Dolls, even though Fox has released these two films simultaneously on DVD. In fact it surprises me that they haven't tried to pass the two off as a box set. The subject matter of the films is slightly similar, in that they both deal with the pressures of fame and the drug culture within high society but that is where the similarities end.
At its time, this was Russ Meyer's feature debut for a major studio, and it was to be his last. The screenplay was written by Meyer, in a collaboration with renowned film critic Roger Ebert who has since distanced himself from the film and Meyer altogether. The dialogue of the film is side-splittingly funny because it is so dated, with lines that would make any seasoned B-grade movie viewer cringe. The film moves at a frenetic pace - until recently there were several lines of dialogue that I had never deciphered, but this was made easier with the aid of subtitles. Most notable is a scene at a party in which most of the screen time is spent with grabs of conversations from around the room, altogether confusing, hilarious and overloading.
Z-Man: "This is my happening and it freaks me out!" Kelly: "It's a stone gas, man!"
Our story follows an all-girl three piece band called The Kelly Affair who have found some mild success but are looking for that elusive big break. The group makes the big trip to L.A. in search of stardom and a recent inheritance from a deceased relative when they are introduced to Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell, a complete nutcase that sprouts Shakespeare-like prose and re-christens the band The Carrie Nations, yay verily he helps them cut a gold record. With success comes drugs and with drugs comes pills and booze and misery, while their relationships dissolve and what was once their dream becomes a real-life rendition of a Jerry Springer episode. Tensions build and jealousy rages as a catastrophe looms and the events of one day force everyone to reconsider the values of their lives. If this sounds like a complicated plot have no fear - all is explained in a revealing and detailed prologue.
There are several notable cameos to be found here, including a very young Pam Grier and Charles Napier, who got his start in the movie industry when he escorted a girlfriend to an audition for a Meyer film, only to be offered a part himself.
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls might be an acquired taste, but it's a film that works amazingly well as a period piece and is one that I have loved for many years. I dearly hope that one day we may see more of Russ Meyer's vast catalogue of films released in Region 4 - fingers crossed.
After experiencing this film on a distorted Pan and Scan VHS tape for years it is so refreshing to finally see a widescreen print of the film, even if it is not 16x9 enhanced.
I was generally surprised by the quality of this transfer, which despite its slight lack of resolution managed to maintain a good degree of sharpness and detail. Black levels appeared consistent for a film of this age and exhibited good shadow detail. There is no low level noise present in the transfer.
The colour palette appeared slightly muted, but not overly washed out. Skin tones had a slightly golden appearance, but this may have been the intention of the director, or the Californian sunshine! I didn't notice any colour bleeding or oversaturation in the transfer.
There weren't any obvious MPEG compression issues, thanks in part because the film is lovingly spread over a dual layered disc. I noticed a few minor instances of aliasing, such as on the hood of a car at 67:33 and regularly on shots of buildings. Film artefacts were very well controlled and were present in the transfer only to the very smallest degree.
There are subtitles available on this disc, but they are placed in the bottom black bar of the image which is a little frustrating if you plan to zoom in on the image with a 16x9 monitor. The stream omits some of the non-crucial dialogue in order to keep up with the very fast pace and does a good job at it. In fact, as touched on above, I was grateful to finally have a subtitle stream because there have been lines in this film I have been puzzling over for years and now I know with certainty what is being said! The English subtitles do not transcribe the song lyrics.
The layer transition on this dual-layered disc is well located (50:24) in a silent moment that only briefly pauses some movement on screen.
There are three audio options on the disc; English Dolby Digital 2.0 and dubbed French and Italian tracks. All three are mono soundtracks.
As I have already mentioned, the dialogue is sometimes delivered at a head-spinning pace and must have been a nightmare to edit. I only recently managed to decipher some more difficult lines from the film, so not all of the spoken word is easy to pick up on the first viewing.
There are a number of minor audio sync issues, one of which has cracked me up every time since I first watched the film. See the drummer trying to mime along with the backing music at 3:07 and you can laugh too.
A slight pitch error occurs at 43:47 in which the background score noticeably sways out of key for some reason. I cannot be certain, but when listening to this error on a-b repeat I have a suspicion that this transfer may be sourced from a very good analogue master tape.
The soundtrack music is absolutely brilliant and features none other than psychedelic kings The Strawberry Alarmclock who were recently featured in an Austin Powers film score. The music of the Carrie Nations is just as good and features many memorable tunes composed by Stu Phillips.
The stereo soundtrack is the original mono mix spread over two channels and does a good job, albeit with a limited dynamic range.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are no extras, but the static menu is strangely 16x9 enhanced while the film itself is not.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video transfer is good, but 16x9 enhancement could have made it great.
The audio transfer is simply the original mono spread over two channels.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-525, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|