Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

I woke up slowly and saw Roberta Gonzales on the news talking about how the days were getting shorter.  I went over to the office and got a little bit of work done.  I had a salad for lunch.  I watched into the record store and bought the Blu-ray edition of “Funny Girl.”  I thought a film by William Wyler should look pretty good in high definition.  I had a discussion about vacation hours and continued with work.  I stopped at Bongo Burger and watched an inning of the Dodgers and Cubs.  I had earlier watched “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” the cult classic directed by Russ Meyer written by Roger Ebert.  I lot of people didn’t know that the movie was supposed to be funny, including I think some of the actors in it.  The characters who had some basis in real-life people were Z-Man and Randy, who had some resemblance to Phil Spector and Muhammad Ali, respectively.  There is a rock band called the Strawberry Alarm Clock that makes an appearance, a few years too late, and not truly exciting because their only hit was “Incense and Peppermints.”  It had some ties to “Valley of the Dolls” in the way that three young women move to the big city to make it in show business and see how rotten it is.  The map that showed their cross country trip seemed to stay on the screen forever.  Russ Meyer didn’t realize that his movie would get an X rating instead of the R that was his goal, and if he’d known it, he would have added more nudity and sex.  It sounds like he was my kind of director.  Give the audience what it wants.  Using Playboy Playmates was a good idea.  Meyer did this fifteen years before Andy Sidaris did.  I thought Dolly Read and Cynthia Myers were very good up there on the screen.  Meyer photographed the movie very well for the most part.  I like seeing things in focus with bright colors.  I think Meyer should have chosen a different screenwriter, though.  The movie should have been funnier, even though John Waters thinks that it’s the funniest movie ever made.  I don’t see the point of doing a parody of a movie that already seemed like a parody in the first place.  The one idea that I really hated was the revelation about Z-Man.  There was no reason during the rest of the film to think it would be true, so it was a big surprise that seemed just rude towards the audience.  I thought it was a terrible idea that would occur to an amateur, and I’m surprised that Meyer went for it.  The positive things were that this movie went into areas that the original film was timid in showing, like the lesbian sex.  Also, the black characters seemed like normal human beings, or relatively normal in the context of a Russ Meyer film.  I think that “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” is the only Russ Meyer film that I’ve ever seen.  Would I be wrong to say that this is his Citizen Kane?  Meyer seemed to put everything into it.  I liked his approach to putting sex appeal into his work, trying to be an entertainer.  I hate the self-centered approach to filmmaking and film direction.  If I were to become a director myself, I would try to do some of the things he did.  Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize, and he had a screenwriting credit for “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”  I don’t know which is the bigger accomplishment, at least to the public.  Meyer worked on an autobiography called “A Clean Breast,” which was printed in 2000, but he would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he died on September 18, 2004 at age 82.  I see that it is still possible to buy a copy of “A Clean Breast” for about $200.  I think his fans want to see his films in the Blu-ray format.  Some of the people who died on October 20 include Anne Sullivan (1936), Herbert Hoover (1964), Ronnie Van Zandt (1977), Joel McCrea (1990), Anthony Quayle (1990), Burt Lancaster (1994), and Jane Wyatt (2006).  Today is a birthday for Viggo Mortensen (58) and Tom Petty (66).  According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for October 20, the Number One song in 1962 was “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers.  In 1989, the Paul Newman movie “Fat Man and Little Boy” was released.  In 1995, “Get Shorty,” starring John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Danny DeVito, was released.

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