Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hang Cool Teddybear: On Watching The Japanese 2-DVD Edition Of Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls In Hong Kong

I made my way to The Sino Centre yesterday and I picked up a 2-DVD set of the greatest movie ever made, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970).

The Japanese edition is more or less the same as the US one from a few years ago, though it seemed like there were more photo galleries on this one. On the special features of this set, the Japanese subtitles are burned on, but on the film itself they are removable.

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970), as always, remains a weird and wild masterpiece.

I had read about the film, and director Russ Meyer, prior to finally seeing the film but none of that prepared me for the surreal charm of the thing. Sometime in spring or summer of 1994, I was supposed to go to work the next morning (a Saturday) and I also had tickets to see The Auteurs at the old 9:30 Club in D.C. the next night.

But I stumbled upon Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) on Cinemax in the middle of the night and was entranced. The film was like a bad dream. Frankly, being half asleep made the film seem like even more of a strange masterpiece. I had to watch the film again as soon as possible just to convince myself that I had not imagined that shit in some half-sleep stupor.

It's almost like someone went back in time and made a satire of the era from a more modern perspective. Part camp, part straight drama, part comedy, part exploitation picture, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) is every bit as funny as any of those Mike Myers Austin Powers pictures -- the first one quotes from this one, by the way!

Still, silly and campy bits aside, the film is a marvel of tight editing and sharp cinematography. There's an expert use of montage here as well as some witty musical cues.

But the effect of Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) is really just one that inspires awe. It's so wholly unlike anything else I've ever seen.

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed with the other Russ Meyer titles I watched after this one got me interested in the guy. They are so cartoon-y where this one is campy, so unsubtle where this one is mildly suggestive.

Yes, there are 2 Playboy Playmates in this (Dolly Read and Cynthia Myers) but the film is remarkably tame when viewed today. But, somehow, that makes it a nice reminder of an era where sexy could be conveyed with a bit of wit and a lot of cleavage. Somewhere between the antics of TV's "Laugh-In" and a Benny Hill bit, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) is a throwback thrill to an era when women had curves and looked somehow more natural and less contrived, even if impossibly proportioned as Meyer preferred.

Endlessly quotable -- that epilogue! -- and always a string of visual delights, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) rarely fails to charm. It's not the sort of film that I can watch portions of. It always feels like I've got to sit through the whole thing.

But those nearly 2 hours of time are always time well spent. Easily the best thing ever written by Roger Ebert, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls (1970) is just pure camp joy and high gloss pop pleasure from an era sadly gone.

"This is my happening and it freaks me out!"

Indeed, Z-Man, indeed.