Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DVDs WE LOVE: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Release: 2006

Availability: In print

Legacy: Before its release under Fox's Cinema Classics Collection label, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was only available as a bare bones Region 2 disc -- which made the lavish treatment it got for its Region 1 debut all the more surprising. One of the strongest all-around releases of the year, Beyond stretches the cult classic's psychedelic theme inside and out, and is bursting at the seams with extras (another common theme of the movie). Inside the blue snapcase is a DVD with perhaps my favorite animated menu of all time -- a few select scenes from the movie pop up in succession, eventually forming a sort-of photo mosaic of the title, and a Carrie Nations riff takes us through any menu selection. The movie itself bounces off the screen with a beautiful transfer, and when The Strawberry Alarm Clock busts out the tunes at Z-Man's party, it makes you want to grab your honey and start shaking. Nearly outshining the stars on screen are two discs loaded with extras, highlighted by a commentary track from the screenwriter -- one Roger Ebert! Always one of the better commentary participants, Ebert's turn on Beyond is unique in that he's critiquing the movie and also giving stories of what it was like to work with Russ Meyer and all the assorted starring beauties. The story of how Ebert came to work with Meyer seems like something out of a movie, and Ebert seems delighted to tell the tale, as well as many others stemming from his young film career. A second commentary track features many of the cast members -- but not the recently departed Michael Blodgett (who played Lance "Jungle Lad" Rock). The second disc features lots of interviews, with the best being a short conversation between Erica Gavin (Roxanne) and Cynthia Meyers (Casey) about their love scene late in the movie. It's obvious neither is sober, and their recollections of the steamy scene has the awkward erotic tone of an old married couple laughing about their first date.

Personal: DVDs like this give hope to those of us who dream of some day seeing a special edition of Leonard 6 or a Shannon Tweed box set. The Cinema Classics version of Beyond is that much of a dream come true for fans of the film, since it gives you more than you ever could have imagined. After watching Beyond many times on DVD, I can't imagine having to see it in pan-and-scan on VHS, since Meyer's wide screen lens is always filled to the edges with eye candy -- especially during Z-Man's parties. "This is my happening DVD, and it freaks me out!"

Availability: $19.99 at Amazon.


Anonymous said...

Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow...This movie was one of the first I reviewed when I hosted a video review program on cable back in college (the student producers had such a sense of humor). It was verrry hard to keep a straight face while detailing the picture's most outstanding features. I'd love to hear Ebert's commentary. I may have to alter my x-mas list to include this guilty pleasure DVD.

Anonymous said...

Bought this one recently, but have yet to watch it. Actually, I've never seen the film at all (Gasp!!). Looking forward to checking it out.

Adam Ross said...

That would be a tough debut, Thom -- it's hard enough to keep a straight face just talking about what the movie is about. Ebert's commentary is great as always, and he has plenty to say.

CG -- by all means pop it in, if only for the menus!