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Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Year: 1970
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Russ Meyer
Producer: Russ Meyer
Writer: Russ Meyer/Roger Ebert
Cast: Dolly Read, Cyntha Myers
This is the first Russ Meyer film I've seen, and I was surprised by how much it's actually about the hippie ethos rather than tits and soft-core sex. The fashions, music and characters' attitudes are a perfect document of an era, despite the story.

It concerns a band led by the young, buxom Kelly (Playboy model Read) who comes to Hollywood to make it big courtesy of the patronage of Kelly's rich, sassy aunt. They're managed by Kelly's boyfriend Randy and no sooner arrive than are taken under the wing of sleazy, Shakespeare-talking music producer Z Man.

Whether screenwriter Roger Ebert and Meyer intended or not, I actually saw it as a story about how the free love of the era ran counter to the human nature of the pair bond - when the doe-eyed, big-haired and pendulous-breasted heroines fall into bed with various Hollywood sleazebags, jealousy that ranges from quiet to violent ensues. What else is the cheesy song sequence with close-ups of Z Man and Randy superimposed over a singing Kelly, eyeing each other maliciously?

The narrative descends into faux-thriller farce after being a winding road of sexual cheating and high life, and then we're treated to a short pre-end credits dissertation on each character no matter how minor and how the absence of love and peace has threatened to destroy their soul.

It's unintentionally funny and high in style, but not as titillating as you've been led to believe.

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