Tuesday, December 8, 2015

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS 1970

Not a sequel, but like Valley of the Dolls, deals with the oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business

One of the advantages of being old enough to remember a cult film before it became a cult film is that it gives you a sense of perspective. Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (referred to hereafter also as BVD) is one of the most deliriously campy, quotable, contagiously musical, visually kinetic, laugh-out-loud bad/good films EVER. A top-ranking favorite of mine, BVD is a non-sexy sex comedy that’s also a surprisingly ingenious send-up of every show business cliché mined by movies since the days of What Price Hollywood? (1932).
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a caffeinated homage to glossy Hollywood soap operas like The Oscar, The Best of Everything and, of course, BVDs rootstock and inspiration: Jacqueline Susann’s immortal Valley of the Dolls (hereafter also referred to as VOD).

Although released in the summer of 1970, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a 60s movie down to its bellbottoms and sandals. Depicting a burlesque vision of a Swinging Sixties lifestyle that only existed between the tragically unhip pages of Playboy magazine; BVD is a groovy, never-a-dull-moment laugh-riot of eye-popping 60s pop culture. Directed with a manic combination of aplomb and amateurism by budget skin-flick impresario Russ Meyer collaborating with first-time screenwriter, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert; BVD is a film so exhaustively steadfast in its desire to affront and entertain, it’s like a Tex Avery cartoon come to life.
Dolly Read as Kelly MacNamara
Marcia McBroom as Petronella Danforth
Cynthia Myers as Casey Anderson
David Gurian as Harris Allsworth
Having now fully established the extent to which I lovingly clutch this carnival-colored trash classic to my negligible-by-Russ-Meyer-standards bosom, I can elaborate on what I mean when I say that having an actual recollection of 1970 and the atmosphere in which BVD was released, allows for a sense of perspective.
When a once-dismissed film is rediscovered by a new generation of fans, it's not uncommon for history to be rewritten a bit as a means of staking an up-to-date-claim on an older work. In the years it took for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls to morph from film reviled to film reveled, a somewhat rarified legend has developed among BVD cultists. One which contends 1970 film critics raked BVD over the coals because they didn't understand that Meyer's film was a satirical comedy (i.e., intentionally terrible), and therefore never meant to be taken seriously. Well, that's not entirely true.
John Lazar as Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell. He forgot that life has many levels
Granted, a few critics may have been confounded by what to make of a film that careened at breakneck speed from musical to melodrama to comedy to ultraviolence; but Russ Meyer and his oeuvre of the outrageous was fairly well-known commodity by the time he landed his contract with Fox. Having leapt from peep-show Orson Welles to being the darling of the college film circuit, Meyer's reputation as a sex parodist was well known to any 60s film critic worth their salt. Russ Meyer had never made a conventional or serious movie in his life. If anyone was apt to misunderstand the level of built-in sex mockery in Meyer's films. it was likely to be the trenchcoat set- those who, by nature, were inclined to approach their softcore T & A with the utmost solemnity.
Edy Williams as the infamous Ashley St. Ives. Men were toys for her amusement
From what I recall of reviews at the time, those critics who failed to respond favorably to Meyer’s first studio outing didn't do so out of an inability to understand or keep up with the film's sophomoric satire; they disliked it because they honestly didn't think it was very good.
But in thinking back to the poor reception 70s critics gave Russ Meyer's first major studio release, it's of no small significance to keep in mind that a great deal of what we currently find so howlingly funny about Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is connected to how absurd we find the look and sound of the late 60s. Today we laugh at everything from the hippie-dippie rock music, to the extreme fashions, oversized hairstyles, carnival-colored decor, and hooty slang idioms. Divest these things of their nostalgic camp value and you can see how, to critics at the time, these things were only slight exaggerations of everyday 70s pop culture.
Michael Blodgett as Lance Rock. He never gave of himself
For example: Z-Man's parties were only raunchier reenactments of those "penthouse party" sequences that kicked off every episode of TVs Laugh-In since it debuted in 1967. Edy Williams' enormous mane of hair and ever-present bikini was basically Raquel Welch's standard photo-op uniform at this time in her career. And comparable variations on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls outrageous crayon palette decor and outre fashions could be found in a plethora of way-out Mod Cinema releases  (like Britain's Smashing Time -1967) as well as so-called "serious" films like Jacqueline Susann's The Love Machine (1971).
Phyllis Davis as Susan Lake
Excessive goodness can often blind us to the human failings of those less perfect
A lot of 70s film critics were predisposed to dislike Beyond the Valley of the Dolls on principle, finding abhorrent the very idea that the same studio that gave the world The Sound of Music had enlisted the services of a "nudie" director to make an X-rated exploitation film. And as the film's X-rating had as much to do with its violent finale as for its sexual content (and remember, graphic violence was still relatively new to films at the time), cries of "poor taste!" met BVD's bloody 3rd act massacre inspired by the less-than-one-year-old tragedy of Sharon Tate's death. (To make matters worse, the Manson Family murder trails began just two days before Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' July 17 release.)
Erica Gavin as the languid Roxanne
Meanwhile, serious cineaste factions, encouraged by the emergent New Hollywood and the ushering in of innovative, artistic films like Bonnie & ClydeThey Shoot Horses, Don’t They?Easy Rider, and Midnight Cowboy, felt strongly that the motion picture industry was ill-served by a film like Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. A film which many felt, like the wholesale auctioning off of studio backlot land taking place at the time, symbolized Hollywood's desperation, decline, and imminent demise. As luck would have it, these very sentiments proved near-irresistible publicity in favor of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in the anti-establishment, counterculture youth-centric marketplace of the late 60s and 70s.
Harrison Page as Emerson Thorne
Behind that friendly mask lies fermenting the unholy seed of a lawyer
The 60s were the age of the "put-on" and the "put-down."  Movies that tore down tradition and poked fun at middle-class convention were popular with the youth market (and the swiftest way for a mainstream film to appear "hip"). Young people flocked to the underground films of Andy Warhol (Flesh - 1968, Lonesome Cowboys - 1968), the gonzo cinema of John Waters (Mondo Trasho – 1968), and Russ Meyer’s own string of grindhouse “nudies” (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! – 1965, Vixen 1968). When cinema scholars and film critics began to pay attention to these films, cash-strapped Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon with mainstream attempts to capture the campy, comic book zeitgeist with films like Casino Royale  (1966), Barbarella (1968), and the popular Batman TV show (1966-1968).
The derisive send-up of pop culture grew to be such a popular mainstay, by 1970 America had fairly overdosed on irony and satire.
Duncan McLeod as Porter Hall
Used his profession to mask selfish interests...to betray the trust that should have been sacred

Released during the waning days of Psychedelic Cinema (druggy, youth-oriented films invariably made by middle-aged men), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and its sister-in-sleaze, Myra Breckinridge (twin Fox releases opening within a week of one another) were last-ditch efforts to hitch a ride on the already steamrolling Youth Culture gravy train. Both films arrived at the tail-end of a veritable onslaught of look-alike outrageous psychedelic send-ups of the Flower Power generation. Oddities like Otto Preminger's Skidoo (1968), The Big Cube (1969), Head (1968), Angel, Angel Down We Go - (1969), The Gay Deceivers (1969), and a recent personal favorite, An American Hippie in Israel (1970).
James Iglehart as Randy Black
Randy's body: A cage for an animal
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls - offering good, old-fashioned bare breasts over Myra Breckinridge's fenmdom anal rape - was the hands-down bigger hit of the two (it was also the better film); duplicating Valley of the Dolls' fate by being wildly popular with the public yet widely panned by the critics and regarded with disdain by the very studio that made it.
In 1971 when Russ Meyer tried his hand at his first straight dramatic film with the courtroom drama, The Seven Minutes, the results proved every bit as laughable and overdone as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (and in lacking bare bosoms and backsides, it was a crashing bore, to boot). The ineptitude and financial failure of The Seven Minutes (Meyer's only flop) soured Fox's relationship with the director and laid to rest further debate regarding Meyer's "intentionally" clumsy way with actors, dialog, and editing in BVD.
Henry Rowland as Otto. The man with the benign, Germanic countenance
Initially signed to a 3-picture deal, Russ Meyer was let go following the failure of The Seven Minutes (his employers, Richard Zanuck & David Brown had been ousted in 1970), leaving him free to return to independently (re)making his trademark live-action breast fetish cartoons. The ones which earned him the title, “King of the Nudies.”
Valley Girls
Jacqueline Susann is credited with coming up with the title, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, for the two (rejected) screenplays she submitted to Fox for a legitimate sequel to her hit, Valley of the Dolls.
When a disgruntled Susann sold the rights to her next book, The Love Machine to another studio, Fox (forbidden to make a sequel without her permission) kept her title and made a satire instead. Lawsuits followed

I felt compelled to contextualize Beyond the Valley of the Dolls – a miraculous mess of a movie I’ve loved since the days it was primarily known as "20th Century Fox’s embarrassment" – because the revisionist narrative ascribing canny premeditation to everything risible and inept in BVD is just too pat. The whole "They knew what they were doing" scenario doesn't pay respect to the freakish, one-of-a-kind, lightening-in-a-bottle quality BVD possesses that makes watching it for the 50th time as much of a blast as the first. No one could have foreseen that a breast-fixated, one-trick-pony director; a newbie screenwriter; and a cast of Playboy pin-ups and hysterically diverse actors would produce a film so dementedly sublime.
The Carrie Nations
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls chronicles the exploits of an all-girl rock band coping with the toxic show business cocktail of quick success, easy sex, & plentiful drugs
The making of a completely satisfying, entertaining film is a major feat in itself, and Russ Meyer achieved this miracle twice (BVD and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!), and in having the ratio of intentionally awful to inadvertently awful so well-balanced and impossible to discern, these films achieve a kind of ideal perfection. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is my idea of perfect trash art.


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM
Being that I can't think of a single thing I DON'T love about this movie, here is my Top Ten List of favorite things in BVD:

1.Nobody blinks!
On the DVD commentary, we learn that Russ Meyer's rapid-fire editing style is at least in part the result of his determined resolve not to show his actors blinking (it breaks audience concentration). Consequently, the actors all look to be in a constant state of astonishment.

2. Boobies, boobies, boobies!
Russ Meyer's concept of the feminine ideal is mired inextricably in the full-figured, breast-fixated 1950s. The lean and lanky hippie silhouette typified by Peggy Lipton on The Mod Squad is nowhere to be found in Meyer's Playboy Pictorial vision of an abundantly well-fed and curvaceous 1970.  "The-head-is-missing!" Dept: that's actress Veronica Ericson embraced by Michael Blodgett.

3. The fashions!
The 70s Peacock Revolution in men's fashion made it not only possible but acceptable for young men in their 20s to look like Norman Bates' mother.

4. The hair!
I guess those ginormous breasts have to be offset by something, so towering manes of real and synthetic Bobbie Gentry-sized hairdos abound in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

5. The cartoonish camera angles and sound effects!
Whether it be the sound of a dive-bomber accompanying a suicidal leap, the 20th Century Fox theme played over a beheading, or "Stranger in Paradise" heard during a male-on-male groping session; the sound effects, music cues, and wacky camera angles in BVD confirms Russ Meyer's claim that his films are basically "Superbly made cartoons."

6. Diversity!
Compared to what's going on in mainstream films today (I still can't get over that all-white Into the Woods), the high volume of black actors and PoC used in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is positively radical. Not only are the two most genuinely beautiful actresses in the film African-Americans - the striking Lavelle Roby (above) and Marcia McBroom - but the depiction of the intimate relationship between McBroom and Page is actually very progressive for its time.

7. That unexpectedly sweet lesbian relationship!
Gavin & Myers give two of the better performances and display the most chemistry of any couple in the film. That their scenes have a touching sweetness thoroughly absent elsewhere in the film is, by all accounts, attributable to Meyer staying out of their way.

8. The movie franchise missed opportunity!
I can never look at Russ Meyer stalwart, Charles Napier (as Baxter Wolfe), without thinking he would have made a wonderful Clutch Cargo in a series of live action features based on the 1959 cartoon TV series

9. The montages!
BVD is full of montages. Breakneck fast montages, slow-mo montages, and charmingly old-fashioned, up-the-ladder-of-success montages. This screencap from the Hollywood montage is of the very first place I lived when I moved to Los Angeles in 1978 (the brick building to the left is the Villa Elaine Apartments on Vine), and the Adm & Eve adult book store next door, the site of my very first LA job! (Stephen Sondheim collaborator, George Furth came in once and I got his autograph. As he signed he said, "This is equal parts flattering and demoralizing!")

10. That leopard-print bikini!
I don't think I need to say anything more.


PERFORMANCES
By any rational assessment, the performances in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls are not much worse than those found in (limiting the degree of awful to the Jacqueline Susann family) Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine, or Once is Not Enough. The major difference being a matter of aptitude (can’t act vs. won’t act) and energy (there’s not a single lazy performance in BVD. Indeed, Meyer’s idea of pacing seems to be pitched somewhere at “fire drill”). And in that vein, Dolly Read, David Gurian, Phyllis Davis, and Duncan McLeod are all pitch-perfect.
"What I see is beyond your dreaming."
Faster Pussycat star, Haji, whispers mystically in Z-Man's ear
Spouting an endless stream of ersatz-Shakespearean double talk, John Lazar as Phil Spector-ish music tycoon Z-Man Barzell (who looks uncannily like former husbands of both Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli) gives an unforgettable, appropriately bizarre, Frank N. Furter prototype performance. 

Edy Williams (acting with her teeth) makes Ann-Margret's thesping in Kitten With a Whip look nuanced. Although a campy, fun presence onscreen, Williams was apparently not very popular with many on the set, save for Russ Meyer, whom she later wed. And even he, according to Erica Gavin, "Couldn't stand her."

I harbored a crush on reptile-eyed Michael Blodgett for a long while, inducing me to subject myself to 1971s The Velvet Vampire (available on YouTube) because he has a few nude scenes in it.


THE STUFF OF FANTASY
As a fan of all manner of 60s music, I love the soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. As a fan of women’s prison films (Roger Corman's Swamp Women), girl’s reform school movies (Girls Town), and Andy Warhol’s BAD - a movie about an all-girl hit squad; there’s something irresistibly badass about the idea of an all-girl rock group.
"In the Long Run" & "Find It" are two songs on heavy rotation on my ipod
I was 12-years-old when Beyond the Valley of the Dolls came out, and I remember at that time television programming was chock full of rock groups. Real-life bands like The Beatles, The Jackson Five, and The Osmonds all had their own animated TV shows, and in addition, there was The Archies, Josie and Pussycats, The Groovie Goolies and The Cattanooga Cats. Live action had The Bugaloos, The Partridge Family and reruns of The Monkees. I guess rocks bands were then are what superheroes are now.
The big singing voice we hear coming out of Dolly Read's mouth belongs to Lynn Carey (shown above, right, giving grief to Tuesday Weld about her lack of cashmere sweaters in Lord Love a Duck). Carey also co-wrote two of the songs with composer Stu Phillips.

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
No tribute to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls would be complete without a list of my favorite lines of dialog:

"I’ve already seen a display of your discretion. It’s reminiscent of a meat axe!" 

"In a scene like this you get a contact high!"

"Who is it Emerson. The delivery...boy?"

"Have you ever been whipped by a willow until the blood came?"

 "You’re a groovy boy. I'd like to strap you on sometime."

"And there's someone else inside, but I - I don't know who it is...THE HEAD IS MISSING!"
"But you said you were going to study!"

"Yes, I vow it; Ere this night does wane, you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!"

"The cat swore up and down it was Acapulco Gold, so if we’re lucky, maybe it’s at least pot!"

"And how's she getting home?"

"Roxanne, will you watch out for me?" (not funny, just the sweetest line in the movie)

"Don’t Bogart the joint!"


BONUS MATERIAL
Listen to it HERE

From Z-Man to King Herod
That's Marcia McBroom behind those Foster Grants in 1973's Jesus Christ Superstar

The fey art director Haji locks in a cage in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls portrayed the mysterious Argyron Stavropoulos in Rosemary's Baby.

Although never seen onscreen, Pam Grier was cast as an extra in BVD. Marcia McBroom says she and Grier were roommates at the time, and both auditioned for the role of Petronella Danforth
Any BVD cultists or fans out there who know anything about the production stills featured on the DVD extras showing Dolly Read in old-age makeup? They accompany shots of her in a mod Union Jack outfit in a stylized church setting (there's even a shot of her in with the old-age makeup lying a coffin). 

Bad Idea Dept: Slated for 2016, Will Ferrell & Josh Gad are set to star as Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert in a film about the making of BVD titled: "Russ & Roger Go Beyond"


EricaGavin.com

Copyright © Ken Anderson

44 comments:

  1. I love this movie for all of the many reasons you have mentioned (great essay, by the way). There really is a sense that Meyer, Ebert, and company were having fun--something that can't be said for the airless VOD (which, coincidentally, I watched last night and it seemed that most of the actors were white- knuckling it through their scenes). You missed one of the great lines though--

    It's my happening, baby, and it freaks me out!

    I remember how proud Ebert was when Mike Meyers used that line in the first Austin Powers movie.

    As for the Farrell-Gad movie , all I can say is, oh dear.

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    1. Hi Deb
      I love the image that "white- knuckling it through their scenes" evokes. There is definitely a sense of fun and "pleasing themselves" (if you'll pardon the phrase) behind BVD. I can't imagine Meyer had a particular audience in mind beyond guys who were obsessed with the same things he was; women with big bosoms, men with big jaws, and sex in uncomfortable places.
      Thanks for reading the post and the kind words. But I have to point out that you missed the final screencap in the "favorite lines" list. That line is so iconic I couldn't just write it down.
      Every time I've ever seen this movie with an audience, the laughter on that line is so loud, they never hear Dolly Read's response: "It's a stone gas, man!"

      Oh! Such dialog...I love it!

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    2. I should have known you wouldn't miss that line...and I should never read without wearing 2.5 magnifiers!

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  2. I think I first saw this in New Rochelle the late 70s when distributors were looking for the nest Rocky Horror and marketed a double feature of BVD and Myra Breckenridge. I thought both were pretty bad. But when I saw BVD again at Eastman House in the 90s, it was my favorite movie by the time I left. (Haven't had the chance to see Myra again)

    The thing about Russ Meyer is that he really understood film--camerawork and editing in his movies are usually top notch, so with the resources of a major studio behind him, the thing couldn't help but look gorgeous.

    I forgot where I read/heard it, but Russ' strategy with the actors was to have them believe that he was making the movie "straight"--not parody or camp. If that's true, it paid off--any winking at the camera happened in the editing room (like the map shots or the triple exposure you show) and on the soundtrack.

    It's interesting that, for someone of his generation whose movies were typically made for people (okay, men) of the WWII generation, Meyer doesn't feel like he's coming at the material as an outsider. Compared to other 60s movies dealing with the "youth" culture that came out of the majors, there's little to cringe at. (I don't think you can discredit the songs for helping in this--they hold up pretty well.) Of course, he spent a lot of time hanging out with 20-year-olds.

    Another great write up--looking forward to when you do Faster Pussycat.

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    1. Thanks!
      I've seen BVD on a double-bill with Myra Breckinridge, too. Once I saw it with "Sextette", but the most fun was seeing it paired with "Valley of the Dolls."
      I agree that Meyer was a very cinematic director and made the most of sound, image, and editing to keep his films peppy. And I've the same thing you mention; that Meyer got the sincere performances he wanted by having the actors playing it as straight as possible. An excellent idea if you've ever seen a movie with bad actors trying very hard to be funny.
      And that's a good observation you make about Meyer's films not having that pandering feel of an older filmmaker trying to connect with the younger generation.
      I think Meyer's blessing and curse was that he really only knew how to make variations on the same film. He was so set in his obsessions/fetishes/fixations, that his films have the freshness of a man genuinely interested in and excited by what he's filming.
      Mike Sarne, the director of "Myra" was much younger than Russ Meyer, but his obvious disdain for his topic makes his film come across as though it were made by a stodgy, much older man.
      Thanks very much for the comment and visiting the site!

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  3. The cultural significance/affection was evident in 2006's "Pull Shapes" by the Pipettes, who borrow (lift wholesale?) Z-Man's party scene.

    https://youtu.be/wy7SvZQfeBM

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    1. Hi Andy
      That music video is brilliant! Someone has seen BVD a LOT of times. Like one of those Carol Burnett spoofs, it makes you smile seeing so many aspects of the film recreated. I'm sure Russ Meyer would be so flattered by such an affectionate homage. Thanks for sharing that!

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    2. You're welcome! Having seen BVD at least three times before I saw this music video made me appreciate the homage much more.

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  4. Excellently written and incredibly funny! Helped me to rember, too. (More on that later)

    Well . . . Ken, I wondered when you were going to get around to this one. And I must say, it was one of the first I searched for on your blog when I realized, stumbling on your blog the way I did, that I had arrived at "Home". ; )

    A Queer Sort of "Home" to be sure, but "Home" nonetheless. ; ) & ; )

    Two comments:

    It always amazed me how Roger Ebert (on his Siskel & Ebert show of the '80s) would get his ass all up on his shoulders speaking huffily about "those" people who insisted on making "those" films. "Those" films were quite explicitly described as being of the Sexploitation variety according to the we-are-not-amused pronouncement of Queen (ahem) Roger HERSELF (ahem, ahem). Following this was a no-less than five minute diatribe concerning the Moral Responsibility of Cinema Artistes to provide elevating movie-going experiences for the public. This was followed by some mid-1980s style "Pro-Family" crap (aka neo-1950s Fascism). Well Victoria Regina herself had spoken. From her throne on her weekly televised "Address to the Empire" and there was Consort Prince Albert (Siskel) affirmatively bobbing his balding head.

    A question: How many of Ebert's viewing public knew --- before his death --- that Ebert had covertly & nearly exclusively dated African-American women (Oprah Winfrey amongst them) followed by a nearly 20 year marriage to Chaz Hammel-Smith a successful in her own right African-American attorney?

    Interesting, how both the early screenwriting career and his inter-racial love interests were successfully "covered-up"

    Not that anything is being implied . . .

    NOW, on to the fun stuff:

    I "attended" (as opposed to "saw") a screening of BVD (LOVE that!) at the AFI/Washington DC somewhere near the end of the 1970s. Taking a shy and demure Sister of a Lesbos with me with the intent of (ahem) "opening her world a little--- W-I-D-E-R" ,we arrived at the AFI/Kennedy Center more than half-crocked. I don't remember how we got there, I don't remember walking through the door, buying tickets, or choosing our seats. In fact, because we'd had that one too many Long Island Iced Teas (ah, "The '70s") I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER THE MOVIE.

    Well, not ALL of it anyway.

    (8S)

    I do remember the Trench-coated/"London Fog"ged audience members (no doubt just arrived from a hard day at work at the Pentagon/FBI/CIA (take your pick). They were a sparse crowd "dotted" throughout the large auditorium. (Being predominantly tall men, they undoubtedly needed "leg" room.)

    Just before the lights went down my well-relaxed "Sister" queried in a loud-enough-to-be-heard voice "Am I the ONLY woman here?"

    I assured her all was fine.

    The next thing I remember is a screen full of barely covered BOOBS. They rudely woke me up somewhere in the middle of the film because they were emerging by the truckload from cantilevered brasseries. In the dark, my once demure friend shouted out at the top of her lungs "OMG !!!! LOOK AT THOSE TITS !!!!! "

    The Washington DC "Noblesse Oblige" Silence continued. There was then the squeaking of puckering "you-know-whats" here, there, and everywhere throughout and (two beats later) a chastening cough from third aisle/far left/end seat.

    We crawled out before the lights went up.

    And that's all she wrote.

    Someday, I'll sit down and actually see the film.

    Thanks, Ken.

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    1. Hi Gregory
      You're so right in concluding BVD is just the kind of movie that by rights should have appeared on this blog a long time ago. It's just that sometimes with favorite films I think are over-represented online (The Godfather, Rocky Horror, Psycho) I don't like to write anything until I can add something new.
      In this instance, my being alive and fairly cognizant of BVD when it first came out (i.e., being old) gave me a leg-up on all the youngsters who've discovered it on DVD.
      Your amusing description of Siskel & Ebert makes me wish I had actually watched their show (I liked reading him, but that TV show was more like The Bickersons). Was he really a moral watchdog and Family Values type on the show? Oh, and I knew about his wife but I never knew he dated Oprah! The things I find out in the comments section!

      I can somewhat identify with you first experience "not" seeing BVD. Sometime in 1978 or 79, uss Meyer made a personal appearance at the Vine Theater o Hollywood Blvd, where they held a special screening of BVD and Pussycat with a Q & A to follow.
      Certain that I was going to attend a camp-fest screening along the lines of Rocky Horror, to my chagrin, when I arrived I saw the entire all-male audience to be comprised of balding, middle-aged trenchcoat types.
      They were not there to laugh, they were there to look at boobs. It was surreal. I left the Q & A when a guy stood and prefaced his question with "I'm a tit man too..." Oh, brother!
      Maybe I should have had a few drinks like you and your friend.
      As funny as your half-remembered but beautifully described screening is ("Am I the only woman here?"... Ha!), it does confirm something about Russ Meyer's slow evolution to "cult" filmmaker that tends to get overlooked.
      Before his films were adopted by the hip, Midnight movie crowd, it took a very long time for him to shed his base audience of tired businessmen.

      Thanks, Gregory! I'm glad this blog of cinema curios has become a kind of Home; and I hope you do get a chance to sit down and actually see the film (see it with an audience if you can...it's a riot!)

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    2. Gregory, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with your characterization of Roger Ebert. Although he could undoubtedly be a bit abrasive (I think he was accustomed to feeling as if he was always "the smartest man in the room" and it showed), but I never saw him act the part of a moral scold. He could get angry with sloppy or lazy filmmaking, but I don't recall anytime he called filmmakers on the carpet for their morality (unlike, say, Michael Medved, who co-wrote the hilarious THE 50 WORST MOVIES OF ALL TIME AND HOW THEY GOT TO BE THAT WAY, but sadly degenerated into little more than a right-wing mouthpiece carping on talk radio about moral decline).

      I'd strongly recommend reading Ebert's final book, LIFE ITSELF, and watching the associated documentary of the same name. It's pretty much a warts-and-all picture, but Ebert's humanity and intelligence (and his overwhelming live for his wife, Chaz, shine through).

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    3. Hi DiscoDollyDeb

      I have to say I was more than a bit shocked what I witnessed of Roger Ebert which I accurately described. I actually sat with a friend and watched it on a rerun because I couldn't believe what I had seen.
      Like you I had never had reason to believe that he would have done such a thing. But he did. I saw it and heard it TWICE.
      There are other things that have come out since then to give one pause. I didn't report them because I didn't witness them myself as I did this. And I have since seen it repeated in print that he did make some effort to distance himself from his early Russ Meyer work.
      When the movie gained respected cult status he seemed to ease back into acknowledgement. This was after Quentin Tarentino made such film ventures "cool".
      At the time of the moral diatribe I reported witnessing, The States were going through a rather distressing cultural upheaval of its own. Jesse Helms was leading a campaign to eradicate the National Endowment of the Arts based on a perceived support of the homoerotic photography of Robert Mapplethorpe.
      This fanned the flames of a Moral Fervor towards the arts. Roger Ebert was only one of many to jump on the bandwagon during a "15 minutes of fame" and declaim works that didn't meet what was essentially a Puritanical Standard of content.
      Interestingly, I never again witnessed Ebert making such a strong statement again for the rest of his career. What I did witness was a increased commitment to love of the art of the film. He is to be commended for bringing to light films which were overlooked and not so well-known and he did this within an arena of mass market consumption.
      I did hear of his considerable humanity after his passing and I heard his wife's eulogy which was stunning as well.
      Perhaps as a result of his diatribe he learned a serious lesson and his life's trajectory rose on more focused terms
      ?????
      We all make mistakes and some of them at times quite serious.
      After all had I not had one too much Long Island Iced Teas, I might have been able to report on a film rather than its surrounding scandal
      ; )
      I thank you for your comments and your patience with long-winded "this".

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    4. For anyone who cares to further investigate this, the platform for Roger Ebert's moral diatribe was his disparagement of BLUE VELVET by David Lynch. While I find VELVET amongst the least of Lynch's fascinating oeuvre I don't reject it based on the clear intentions expressed here: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/blue-velvet-1986
      Interestingly, because BVD could be criticized and dismissed on the same grounds. But, thankfully these kinds of things are just too much fun!
      We're talking Hollywood, and whether we like it or not, part of that discussion is PRODUCTION or The Interaction of Commerce and Truth.
      As far as Ebert is concerned in this particular instance --- well --- I think The Lady Doth Protest Too Much.

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  5. Hi Ken, all of your magnificent wide screen caps makes the film come alive! Your review makes me want to see it again. It's so great to read your take on this film. Your own background information makes this review fascinating! It's so cool that you saw the film when it was new, that you know what people thought and expected from Russ Meyer at the time and that you worked in that bookstore (too funny!)! I'm intrigued about what you write about how unhip Playboy was, how cartoony and Tex Avery-like the film is, the Orson Welles comparison and how America had overdosed on pop culture by the time the film was released.

    I remember the lines of dialog and the amazing clothes. I am amazed how quickly the fashion trends came and went during that time. From what I remember there are very few mini scirts in the film and all the more unflattering pant suits. Maybe Russ Meyer wasn't a leg man?

    It's been a while since I saw it. What I remember most are the ADHD-editing (the no blinking rule is so strange!), the colourful "acting", the breasts and the rather downer ending. I think it's the last scenes in the mansion that for me are just too terrifying and really unpleasant, compared to all the bright fun and music that goes before. It's too sad that the lesbian couple could not get a happy end.

    What I really love in the film are the actors Michael Blodgett, Edy Williams and John Lazar. They give their ALL! I really wish Michael and John could have better and longer careers. Edy is just too much for one movie! She should have been Myra B. Maybe no one wanted to hire them much after BVD?

    Thanks for the review. I would LOVE to read Jaqueline Susann's version of the sequel. They should print it. Had it been filmed att FOX I think it must have been better than the filmed version of "The Love Machine".
    -Wille

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    1. Hi Wille

      Thanks! I get such a kick out of picking the screencaps for these posts. I get to play God and stop time at my favorite moments in my favorite movies.
      Most of what I recall about the time BVD was released are from a pre-teen, film geeks view. I used to read every movie magazine I could get hold of, and read the LA trade papers at the library.
      My sense of Playboy being so suburban and square has a lot to do with growing up in San Francisco and being at the voyeuristic side of the sexual revolution. No one I knew adult or teen, ever seemed to think those wholesome, plastic-looking Playboy models were sexy (my father might beg to differ, since I used to look through the Playboy magazines he “hid” under my parent’s bed); and that cornball “swinger” lifestyle Hugh Hefner promoted just seemed so middle-aged (have you ever seen episodes of the TV show, Playboy After Dark? They’re up on YouTube. It looks just like Z-man’s parties).

      The one thing I think is true then as it is now, if anything is really hip, by the time Hollywood catches on to it, you can bet it’s on its way out.

      I love your observation about all those hideous pantsuits in BND! I never thought about how bereft this film is of leg, and overdosed on cleavage! What a cool thing to take note of! Some of the actresses on the DVD commentary mention how they didn’t like some of their “Sears” wardrobe.

      If there’s anything about BVD that the passing of time helped the most with, I think it’s that downer of an ending you mentioned. The whole Charles Manson thing was so unprecedented and scary (especially in the peace & love atmosphere of the late 60s), that asking people to go straight from laughing at the camp melodrama of the movie, to finding anything amusing about a VERY violent massacre that evoked many sad memories…well, that may have been too much.

      By the late 70s I think audiences were less inclined to be offended by it.

      As for the actors you mentioned liking, they are all ideal for this, aren’t they? Poor Edy Williams pretty much BECAME Ashley St. Ives (She and Raquel Welch were under contract at the same time, I wonder what they thought of each other …if they did), Blodgett gave up acting and became a writer, and Lazar seems to harbor a fondness for this movie that masks a twinge of bitterness over the way he was perhaps SO good in this, his first film role, no one could see him as anything else.
      In interviews these days, none of the cast members ever seem to want to say/admit that appearing in BVD had any detrimental effect on their careers. But I wonder.

      Oh, and I too would LOVE to see what Susann's screenplay for her VOD sequel was like!

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    2. Hi Ken, I hope 2016 will be good for you.

      I'm reading Grace Jones autobiography and she writes that she was Marcia McBrooms roommate in New York in the 70s and that Marcia got all the parts that Grace auditioned for. The book is great fun to read and very interesting!
      -Wille

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    3. Happy New Year, Wille
      That Grace Jones book is one my read list for this year. it sounds terrific! Also, as big a fan as I am, I hardly know anything about her. The Marcia McBroom connection is great! Thanks for sharing it!

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  6. Hi Ken,

    Dropping you a line or two from Denmark to say thank you for an absolutely amazing blog! I've taken to reading it religiously (and that's saying something for an agnostic) and you've got yourself one faithful reader here: )

    I tip my (imaginary) hat to you for turning me on to gems such as The Last of Sheila and Lord Love a Duck and as a fellow fan of '60s and '70s cinema your blog is such a treasure trove to me. To channel Roger Ebert for a moment, it gets two huge thumbs up from my corner of the world: )

    Born in 1981, I came too late to the party and I didn't get to enjoy Beyond the Valley of the Dolls until waaaay after the fact. I must have been a young, rosy-cheeked girl in my early twenties, when I saw the movie for the first time and I've loved it ever since. The party scene is a delight (I'd like to strap you on sometime), the fashion is deliriously delicious, the music is amazing (like you, I have several of the tracks on my playlist) and I remember having a little bit of a crush on Z-Man at the time. As an English major, I blame his penchant for faux Shakepearean prose and the hair. And perhaps the mutton chops although theey could quite frankly do to be a lot bigger. But then again my taste in men has always veered ... ahem ... left of center.

    As always, I loved to read your essay and I think it's time to dust off the old DVD and give the movie another whirl.

    Thnak you so much for a terrific blog, Ken!

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    1. Hello Didde
      Demark! Wow! Is everyone there as nice as you? If Trump wins the presidency I'll be in the market for another place to live.
      Thank you very much…it’s thrilling to hear from another 60s/70s movie fan, and I’m flattered as all getout if my ravings have inspired you to check out a film or two (you picked a coupla good ones)!

      Your comments to me are so complimentary I’m going to overlook the knot I felt in my stomach when I read you were BORN in 1981. I was on my 12th pair of legwarmers by then.
      It’s heartening to know that BVD can hold so much appeal to one so young, proving there to be a certain timelessness to well-done camp. That you can connect with the way-out fashions, hairdos, music (such a really great score this movie has, I even like The Sandpipers’ theme – which I hope was done in the same tongue-in-cheek vein as the film).
      My partner actually shares your feeling that Z-Man is actually very handsome and/or striking. That shows discernment and just the kind of off-kilter good taste it takes to really appreciate 70s cinema.
      My fondness for Blodgett is about as bland as you can get (I would often get him mixed up with beach party movie actor Aron Kinkaid, another crush).

      Anyhow, lovely to meet another kindred spirit in the realm of the good and bad that the 60s and 70s had to offer. Thanks for your very kind comments, and I hope to hear from you again!

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    2. Hi Ken!
      We're a pretty nice bunch (well, most of us), and you're more than welcome to join us: )However, should the worst occur and Trump wins the election, I think the safer bet for all of us would be to hightail it off the planet altogether. In that scenario surely even the terraforming colony from Aliens would seem more inviting.

      Glad to hear you won't hold my age against me. That just goes to show you that great movies, camp or otherwise, are like a Chanel suit, they never go out of style. Right now I'd much rather have a couple of legwarmers than a Chanel suit, though. it's freezing around these parts. But I digress.

      I have to say I'm happy to hear that I'm not the only one who can see the appeal of Z-Man. Your partner has good taste in men, but that goes without saying, of course: )
      I remember my introduction to Blodgett in The Carey Treatment where he plays a dodgy massage therapist/red herring (I have a real thing for thrillers set in or around hospitals, LOVE Coma). When it came to his movie roles, he sure had some doozys. Almost bizarre to think that he was co-screenwriter on Turner & Hooch!

      Anyway, next I'm going to try to track down Looking for Mr Goodbar, to really get me into the spirit of the season: ) Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible for me to get my hands on, but I'll keep trying until I get there. I struck gold on YouTube, but alas the movie was taken down before I had the chance to see it. Another version is up with German dubbing, but I don't fancy spending a couple of days on the film, what with having to hit the pause button every five seconds to check my dictionary.

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    3. Hello Didde
      I like your exodus plan, only I wish there were a way to ship Trump off to another planet.

      It goes without saying that I genuine feel the 60s and 70s produced some of the most interesting films ever, but a younger person's perspective is appreciated because mine is so very intermingled with nostalgia and that kind of adolescent sense of "discovery I cling to when I see films even today.

      Although John Lazar continued to work, its a shame he never had another equally showy role to better ascertain whether his Z-Man is just a flash in the pan of perfect role-perfect actor, or if he indeed had the ability to "be" anything else.
      For a time in my youth (although I never saw "The Carey Treatment") Blodgett seemed to be everywhere. He always played the same male-starlet role, so it's great he knew wen to sack it in and move on to other things (he apparently went to law school before BVD).

      I know what you mean about "Goodbar". What a terrific film with such a frustrating lack of visibility. it seems to pop up occasionally online, but like you say, before you can hunker down to watch it, it's removed. I caught lightening in a bottle when i wrote my essay, but I honestly thought it would have had a DD release by now.
      Maybe in the meantime you can satisfy yourself with Elizabeth Taylor in "The Driver's Seat" (1974) have you ever seen it? Loopy isn't the word! It's on YouTube now. I want to write about it someday. Great odd film.

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    4. Hi Ken,
      Of course, you're right. Packing Trump off to a distant planet would be much more practical, not to mention less of a logistical nightmare: )My mind tends to take the roundabout route, of possible: )

      By the way, I live in the hope that you'll one day do a write-up on Phantom of the Paradise, which, along with The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was my gateway drug to camp cinema.

      I can definitely relate to the kind of adolescent sense of discovery you speak of. However, the movies that stand out the most from my childhood are decidedly 80's. My absolute favourite movies as a kid were Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Neverending Story and, the movie that pretty much defined my childhood and sparked a lifelong love affair with David Bowie, the unbeatable Labyrinth. They just don't make "kids movies" like these anymore.
      Later on, I felt the same sense of excitement when I first discovered the movies of Powell and Pressburger. Black Narcissus features some of the most striking cinematography I've ever seen, Jack Cardiff really was a true genius.
      Also, if you haven't seen it, I can definitely recommend Thorold Dickinson's The Queen of Spades from 1949. A hallucinatory little gem of a fantasy-horror movie based on a short story by Alexander Pushkin and starring Powell and Pressburger fave Anton Walbrook. Fun fact. Dickinson also directed the original British movie version of Gaslight in 1940 (also starring Walbrook as the scheming husband), which earned him an invitation to Hollywood from Selznick. He declined. Later on, MGM would buy the rights to the play from British National, make the Bergman + Boyer version and destroy all prints of the Dickinson version. Luckily, one print was saved and the original film can be enjoyed today. In my opinion, they're both good movies and it's interesting to compare and contrast, as there are some differences between them.

      And thanks for the tip! I haven't seen The Driver's Seat, but it's now on my must see list and I'll be sure to catch it as soon as possible - just in case that too gets removed by the powers that be at YouTube: )

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    5. Hello Didde
      Both Rocky Horror and Phantom of the Paradise are big favorites of mine as well. I have such fond memories of the former because I saw it the day it opened In San Francisco, the theater was nearly empty, and afterward I had to practically go on a one-man crusade to convince friends of mine that it was an amazing movie. (we old folks tend to gloat when we catch a fad before it becomes a fad).
      Of your childhood favorites, I have only seen Raiders...and then only once.
      I think because I was starting my career as a dancer in the early 80s, I really missed a lot of 80s films. In my mind (imagination?) I tend to think of the 80s and 90s as my least favorite era in films.
      You sound as though you have an impressively broad appreciation of film, one which speak to your tastes, no matter when they were made.
      I've never heard of Queen of Spades, but I see that the 1940 Gaslight in on YouTube...so I'd better act quickly! (Love the info about the dueling Gaslights, I hadn't heard any of that before!)
      I've never seen Black Narcissus, but I've always marveled at the beauty of stills from the film. High time I checked that one out, too. Thanks for sharing/recommending some of your favorites!

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  7. I have to say, when I first saw this I was only around 15 (our local theater was very lax about ratings) and I wasn't sure if I was laughing with it or at it.

    How could something be both corny and like nothing I'd ever seen before? Was I supposed to be embarrassed for David Gurian and his pinched expressions? I remember the whole theater laughing when he propped up his big feet and Jesus sandals. It also didn't help that I found him weirdly sexy even with his Mrs. Bates hair (I love that comparison, Ken!).

    And Michael Blodgett stirred something in me that few Michaels had since Michael Parks.

    Needless to say I couldn't wait to see it again and again and to this day it still astonishes me. Great piece, Ken!

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    1. Hi Max
      Sounds like reaction to this movie at 15-years of age were pretty much on point with why this film holds such a weird fascination. As Ebert once said, (paraphrasing) the curious quality of BVD is that at all times, the actors and material seem to be at cross purposes with one another. Tones shift, performances are uneven, and you’re never quite sure if what you find so riotously funny was intended to be so.

      I like your audience’s reaction to Gurian’s Jesus Sandals (Ha! ). It reminds me of how every time I’ve ever seen this movie with an audience, I always discover something hilarious I hadn’t even paid attention to before. It’s great that you got to see the movie at such a young age, too. Before the conscious camp-awareness gene could kick in. This movie is really fun to see when you’re not exactly sure what the hell it is you’re watching.

      And a Michael Parks reference! Boy, I saw him in “The Happening” when I was ten, and I was hooked.
      Thanks, Max!

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    2. Ken,
      So of course I had to watch it again and really, really had to know whatever became of David Gurian. I thought you might be interested...

      He looks very good. Sadly, it's a mug shot. But no doubt it's him.

      http://mugshots.com/US-Counties/Utah/Salt-Lake-County-UT/David-Murray-Gurian.5749952.html

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    3. Max! (I sound like Barbara Feldon) what a sleuth you are! That is indeed him (all those BVD people aged remarkably well) and what a way to discover him...in a mug shot for god knows what.
      I applaud you, because I visited site after site of BVD fans and could not come up with anything on his whereabouts. Done deal, Lance!

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  8. Happy holidays, Ken, what a wonderful essay on a film that is so often listed on critic's "all-time worst" lists--erroneously, because this film is smart, wry, hip, visually stunning and full of great music, to boot. Roger Ebert always joked that he was embarrassed by his association with it, but he needn't have been, it's got some truly epigrammatic dialogue.

    I watched BVD again recently, not having seen it for many years, and I had a mini realization, that one of my own beloved favorite films, Showgirls, is in large part an homage to the style of Russ Meyer. (I have really come to appreciate all the films of Verhoeven more and more...)

    Interesting compare-and-contrast of BVD to one of my other guilty pleasures, Myra Breckinridge...BVD is satire while Myra is pure camp...but both films have their assets and drawbacks. Both suffer from narrative problems and an episodic nature, but both feature so many iconic moments that are emblazoned on the pop culture consciousness...

    Thank you for your always informative, entertaining and stimulating essays and discussions!! I think I'll go listen to some Strawberry Alarm Clock now--or maybe, Mae West's "You Gotta Taste All the Fruit..."!
    -Chris

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    1. Happy Holidays to you too, Chris!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this "classic"!
      I especially like your connecting the style if "Showgirls" to BVD (They really would make a good double bill)!
      As watchable, quotable films go, BVD, Myra, and Dolls make an art out of imperfection. Most cinema fans would prefer this kind of gonzo enthusiasm and ingenuity over play-it-safe, market-researched franchises any day.

      Funny you should mention the music of "Myra". For the longest time I'd been on the lookout for the complete versions of Mae West's edited numbers in that film. Of course, I find them on YouTube. Just makes me smile listening to them.
      One day someone's got to write and essay on why heterosexual directors make the best gay films.
      Thanks for the compliments and contribution, Chris

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  9. I was waiting for you to deal with 'BVD' Ken. lol.
    I love the movie and remember it as one of the first major cult films of the 1970s. Within a few months of it opening in mainstream theaters it quickly became a staple at urban and college town art houses (there's a scene in Paul Mazursky's "Willie & Phil" in which the main characters attend a screening at the old Elgin Theater in New York - which also launched the "El Topo" cult).
    I saw it in State College, Pa. in late 1970 with a student crowd that loved the sheer dementia of the picture.
    Years later, I interviewed Michael Blodgett, who had become a novelist and screenwriter (his credits included "Turner & Hooch," believe it or not). He spoke fondly of the BVD shoot. He had an interesting background before he started acting as the host of one of those local rock TV dance party shows in LA. He was a lot of fun to talk to and seemed like a genuinely nice guy. Sadly, he died fairly young.
    Once again, Ken, thanks for striking so many wonderful nostalgic chords.

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    1. Hi Joe
      indeed, this movie has my name all over it, but there were just soooo many sites devoted to this little gem, I wasn't sure I had anything to add.
      Your memories of its quick adoption by the college crowd gives credence to Raquel Welch's (hopeful) assertion that she felt the college kids would "get" Myra Breckinridge and make it a hit. Seems like they bypassed her film for Meyer's far more good-natured (and definitely more pleasing to the ear) entry.
      I have never seen "Willie and Phil" but just the idea that a BVD screening shows up makes me want to (like Ali macGraw 7 Richard Benjamin going to see Rosemary's baby in "Goodbye Columbus").

      I see that you already covered BVD on your site, and I'm of course jealous that you got to interview Blodgett! Very cool to learn of his screenwriting career. In researching this, I found a YouTube clip of that TV dance show you speak of. Even found he released a pop single in the 60s. I tell you, that YouTube is a wealth of research info. Including a cast reunion from the late 90s where its the last time anybody seems to have seen David Gurian.
      Thanks, Joe! I'm sure your memories of this time are a great deal more interesting than mine, but I'm glad if this piece stirred them a little.

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  10. Just rewatched this and it reminded me that I meant to ask: have you ever seen Anna Biller's movie Viva? It's a very good re-creation of the times and culture BVD satirizes, but not nearly as consistently entertaining.

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    1. I did. And you're right about it being a good recreation of the time and culture of BVD. Sort of reminded me of Radley Metzger's "Score". I unfortunately found it more trying than entertaining. It reminded of hipster girls in LA who into period clothing: they imitate the look, but it's too self-aware and the contrivance shows.

      After watching "Viva" I felt that if Russ Meyer had any genius in him at all, it was in knowing that the actors in BVD had to approach the material in a way that was not "above" it. They had to be sincere in their performances, respect the material by now winking to the audience, and treat it seriously.
      Before "Viva" I don't think I appreciated that about Meyer before.

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  11. Difficult to say anything of value about BVD so I'll say this: as a non-English speaker, it is one of those rare movies that completely have me at a loss, dialogue-wise. Between the 'hip' lingo and the mock Shakespeare, it's like catching extra-terrestrial signals most of the time.

    It's a very rare movie that, however many times I watch it, I get the sense I only understand 30% of it.

    Bonus round: I only approached my best friend of 20 years because she looked exactly like 'Kelly MacNamara', down to the bouffant. It was very exciting to get to talk to one of your on-screen crushes, if only by proxy.

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  12. I took a glance at the stills and noticed one Lavelle Roby highlighted above. In something completely unrelated, just a short time after leaving the page, I tried to find out why Phylicia Rashad replaced Sylvia Meals as Mary Anne Creed (wife of Apollo Creed) in the new film CREED. An online article alerted me to the fact that the aforementioned Lavelle Roby, not Sylvia Meals, was the original Mrs Creed, appearing in the role uncredited in the original ROCKY movie (Meals appeared as the character in ROCKY II and ROCKY IV). I scrambled through my DVD collection and...sure enough...there's a barely-recognisable Lavelle Roby as Mrs Creed alongside Apollo (Carl Weathers)on a television set with a really bad-looking picture, being watching by Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) in a bar! So there you have it--Lavelle Roby was in the original ROCKY--only for a few seconds, but she was there! Strange how I stumbled over this piece of information just after visiting you page!

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    1. Hi Mark
      Wow, I've only seen Rocky once (back when it came out) but I love finding out that Russ Meyer favorite Lavelle Roby had a small role in it! She's so striking in this movie, I can't take my eyes off of her.
      I'm loathe to see "Rocky" again, but I'll bet some readers will be checking it out to see the original Mrs. Apollo Creed.
      Thanks for this!

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  13. Yet another quiet admirer emerging from the shadows of internet anonymity...

    I absolutely adore your blog and have spent hours reading your insightful and often hilarious reviews, so I was especially excited to read this post about BVD, since it's one of my favorite films. As always, you did not disappoint.

    I was only five when BVD was originally released (don't feel old, we've both got quite a bit on our young friend Didde! BTW, Danish people are awesome! Those who like Powell and Pressburger even more so!) but when I finally saw it sometime in the 90's, it was absolute love at first screening--particularly where Z-Man was concerned. I even ended up renting Attack of the 60-Ft. Centerfold just because Lazar was in it! While I was initially taken aback at how much he had changed in the 25 years since BVD--time is eventually unkind to us all--there was a later point in the film when he smiled and the look was pure Z-Man. *cue fangirl flaily arms of squee*

    Mystery Science Theatre 3000 has featured several other films you have mentioned, such as Girls Town, Kitten With A Whip and Swamp Diamonds, and as well, they riffed the 1967 Tommy Kirk vehicle Catalina Caper, in which Michael Blodgett has a minor role. Every time I see him, I can't help shaking my head and thinking, "Poor Lance..." Sure, he was a jerk, but no-one deserves such a gruesome demise! (Except perhaps certain Presidential candidates mentioned herein.) I mourned Blodgett's real-life demise in 2007, along with the passing of Cynthia Myers and Phyllis Davis, both of whom sadly succumbed to cancer in 2011.

    I'm shuddering in horror at the very thought of Will Ferrell as Russ Meyer OR Roger Ebert! At this point, the mere mention of Ferrell's name with any forthcoming film seems to guarantee it will be execrable, though I would be happy to be proven wrong about this. Much better viewing, as already mentioned, is Ebert's film Life Itself. It is difficult to watch at times, but one emerges from it with a palpable sense of his humanity and courage...or at least I did, anyway, and it made my husband cry.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog, and for not only introducing me to so many obscure films but also providing such entertaining reviews of movies I already know and love. I promise far more brevity in my next comment! But...

    PS: I too have always thought that Tim Curry must have taken some cues from John Lazar's performance!

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    1. Hi Liliana (Lili...Lilian?)
      Such very flattering comments, thank you!
      You sound a true BVD fan and connoisseur of cult films, to boot. Anyone who knows of "Girls Town" and "Kitten With a Whip" is pretty on the ball, in my book.
      I've neither seen nor heard of "Attack of the 60-ft Centerfold" but as an opportunity to see Lazar in another film would be great (he does look "different" tome on the BVD DVD. Ihope he didn't shave off a bit of that heroic nose of his. It is (was?) one of his most attractive features).
      The passing away of so many of the stars you mentioned from BVD is unusually sad. I don't know why, but everybody in the cast seemed awfully sweet in real life, didn't they?

      I'm with you on Will Ferrell's track record. I'm convinced there's some kind of SNL curse: the funnier the person is on the show, the worse films they are destined to make. Also, I generally think it's a bad idea to try to touch intentional camp, although Tim Burton did a masterful job with his film about Ed Wood.

      that Roger Ebert documentary is on my Netflix list. It sounds wonderful. How lucky are you to have a husband that can be moved to tears by a film?

      Thank you for coming out of the shadows and saying hello in such a nice way. I don't know what I'm doing here half the time, but I must be doing something right to attract so many knowledgeable and kind film enthusiasts. And please don't worry about brevity, sometimes a little longer comment is merely a sign of enthusiasm and a lot on one's mind. On that score you came to the right place!

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    2. My name is actually Lila--after my aunt, who was named after the silent film star Lila Lee!--but given how often my name is massacred into Leela/Lisa/Lilia/etc (remember ‘Lilias, Yoga & You’?), I adopted 'Liliana’ as part of a silly online pseudonym.

      Lazar’s nose didn’t look any different to me, and having had my own proboscis tweaked slightly, I’m very attuned to such things. (As a big fan of Mexican novelas, I’ve been horrified at some of their actresses who have seemingly amputated half their noses away, á la the Jackson family!) My personal theory about Lazar’s relative lack of success post-BVD is that he simply was too charismatic to be cast in most other roles; for me, he certainly dominates every one of his scenes in BVD! I’ve always wanted to see Supervixens just for his performance therein, and this discussion has prompted me to finally watch it. Alas, Lazar is only in it for about five minutes, but he looks utterly numptious and convincingly butches it up into the bargain.

      Agreed re: intentional camp (Burton’s brilliance is all the more reason no-one else should attempt it!) and the sweetness of the BVD cast. Since most of them were relative unknowns--other than Charles Napier and Henry Rowland--and as this was the biggest role many of them ever got, none of them seem to have become the sort of self-centered divas Hollywood so often produces (exemplified by Faye Dunaway in your latest Mommie Dearest post!)...with the possible exception of Edy Williams, who I just feel sorry for at this point, insulting as she might find that.

      Re: my husband crying--well, he IS quite the teary boy, to the extent that I’ve wondered what kind of Cyborg Ice Queen I must be, since he both laughs and cries much more easily than I do. I am incredibly lucky to have him, no argument there, and I say this a whole 2½ months since the wedding! :)

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    3. Hi Lila
      A newlywed!! Well, although we're not married, I've been with my partner for 19 years, and I wish for you and your husband the same joy and discovery we've found. Both my partner and I are huge believers is the redemptive powers of having a good cry at the movies. You are indeed lucky having a bloke with a sensitive heart.
      I have to check out Supervixens again sometime, I think I must have fast forwarded my way through it, as i don't recall Lazar at all. I think you're right about a certain kind of screen persona that doesn't lend itself easily to "ordinary" casting. John Lazar is a bit too charismatic to just play a regular guy.
      Thanks for becoming a member of my blog, and I am flattered you find something of interest in these posts and comments. You're certainly a welcome addition!

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  14. Hi Ken, instead of enduring the "very long wait" status of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, I found it in the Internet Archives! https://archive.org/details/BeyondTheValleyOfTheDolls

    Isn't amazing that 20th Century Fox made this AND Myra Breckinridge the same year?

    I have never watched so many bizarre segues and heard so many non sequiturs--the tackiest was the one character's reaction to the abortion office, followed by a scene of eggs being scrambled. Yikes!

    The desperation of Hollywood studios in the late '60s to reach young audiences produced some very strange and highly entertaining movies!

    PS-- Edy Williams' mimicking Marilyn Monroe's undulating mouth mannerisms frightened me!

    Cheers, Rick

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    1. Hi Rick
      That's a brilliant discovery...thanks for passing it on! I had no idea that archive existed.
      And yes, it is totally strange that 20th Century Fox released both of these movies within months of one another.
      The desperation Hollywood was going through at the time must have been something to behold. can't think of anything comparable I've lived through in my adult years save for televisions losing its mind when reality shows first became popular. For a while there it looked like scripted shows were a thing of the past.

      I think that weird panic and period of transition period is precisely why I like 70s films so much. As you note, they produced some very strange movies.
      Back to back, "Myra" and BVD are like the motion picture industry having a nervous breakdown.

      And Edy Williams not only reminded me of Monroe with that overacted mouth, but her predatory idea of sexy was like really bad Ann-Margret.
      Thanks, Rick!

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  15. PS Ken!
    Hopefully that Will Ferrell "Russ Meyer" project will never happen...shades of Mike Myers as Steve Rubell in "54"! I'm sure James Franco is green with envy that he didn't think of it first!
    Rick

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    1. I seriously hope so. It's often the death knell for cult films when mainstream "frat boy" humor picks it up. It nearly happened when the Beverly Hills sorority types tried to hijack "Valley of the Dolls".

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