Beyond the Valley of the Dolls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite the movie’s age, the transfer made it look terrific.
Sharpness was quite strong. Only the slightest sliver of softness ever interfered. The vast majority of the film appeared crisp and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared absent. I also failed to find any source flaws. The print was quite clean and never demonstrated concerns.
With its lively party setting, Beyond went with a broad palette that came across well. The colors were dynamic and full. Blacks seemed deep and dark, and except for a couple slightly thick day-for-night shots, shadows were clean and smooth. This was a consistently solid image.
Unfortunately, the stereo soundtrack of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was much less effective. The soundfield displayed little sense of spatial accuracy. Instead, all audio elements came from a vague place that simply spread the material across the front speakers. Speech tended to be loose and bled to the sides. Dialogue, effects and music created an auditory mush that floated around the center. This was a flabby extension of the mono source.
Audio quality faltered as well. Speech tended to be rough and edgy, which meant the lines could be tough to understand. Effects showed little range and also presented some distortion. Music was less problematic but didn’t demonstrate real strengths. The score and songs were flat and without much dimensionality. This was a consistently flawed mix.
At least the DVD rebounds when we move to its extras. On DVD One, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first features screenwriter/film critic Roger Ebert. He provides a running, screen-specific discussion. Ebert provides a pretty informative and entertaining chat. He lets us know how he got the job as screenwriter and discusses the film’s development. He tells us a lot about Russ Meyer and divulges notes about the director’s style and personality. We learn about the cast and crew along with studio notes, cuts, technical issues, and some fun anecdotes. Ebert aptly combines the film historian side of things with his personal experiences.
Ebert does run out of steam somewhat as he progresses. He seems to lack much to say about Dolls and tells other stories about Meyer. This means some good tales like how the pair almost made a flick with the Sex Pistols, but he does lose track of Dolls. In any case, there’s more than enough good material here to make this a fun and informative discussion.
For the second track, we hear from actors Harrison Page, John La Zar, Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers and Erica Gavin. All of them sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion. Don’t expect much from this rambling, ineffective chat.
The participants present little in the way of concrete info. We find a few decent stories from the set but don’t learn much. Instead, the speakers usually just say “Look at that!” or “I love that!” Page focuses on how young he looked and obsesses over the lesbian love scene. He gets annoying.
Compared to the exceedingly obnoxious La Zar, though, Page is a treat. La Zar bitches about not getting enough money and whines that he doesn’t know why he’s at the session. He makes some other odd comments and behaves in a generally antagonistic manner toward the others. This commentary would be simply boring without La Zar. His presence makes it actively unpleasant since he comes across as such a jerk.
We get more from the actor when we start on DVD Two. An Introduction with John La Zar lasts one minute, 26 seconds. It provides him with florid dialogue ala his movie character. It’s pretty annoying.
Heading to meatier extras, we start with a documentary called Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The Making of a Musical-Horror-Sex-Comedy. The half-hour show melds movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We find notes from Ebert, La Zar, Gavin, Read, Myers, Page, Russ Meyer’s production assistant Stan Berkowitz, Meyer’s assistant Manny Diez, biographer Jimmy McDonough, editor Dann Cahn, critic David Ansen, Onion writer Nathan Rabin, critic Michael Musto, actors Marcia McBroom and Michael Blodgett, and cinematographer Fred Koenekamp.
“Beneath” looks at how Russ Meyer got into movies and developed as a filmmaker. From there, we learn about aspects of his style, the status of Fox in the late Sixties, the evolution of Dolls, cast and crew, how Meyer worked with the participants, various production notes, ratings issues, and the flick’s reception. It acts as a basic “making of” piece and does this well. It lacks as much depth and detail as I’d like, and a moderate amount of material repeats from the commentaries, but it serves as a nice overview.
Next comes Look On Up at the Bottom: The Music of Dolls. This 10-minute and 58-second piece includes notes from Ebert, Read, McBroom, Myers, composer Stu Phillips, singer Lynn Carey, musicians Jeff McDonald, Paul Marshall, Steven McDonald, and Christopher Freeman, filmmaker Dave Markey, Pulp Fiction music supervisor Chuck Kelley, and music supervisor Igo Kantor. As expected, they talk about the flick’s tunes. They get into the actors’ portrayals of musicians, writing and recording the songs, the score, and thoughts about the work.
“Bottom” acts more as an appreciation of the music than a look at its creation. Though we get some decent notes, there’s a lot of gushing praise for the elements. I find that hard to take, partially because it makes little sense – did anyone really think McBroom looked like an actual drummer? Anyway, there’s still enough good material to make the piece worth a look.
When we go to the 12-minute and 21-second The Best of Beyond, we hear from Musto, Read, Gavin, La Zar, Blodgett, McBroom, Kelley, Page, Myers, Ebert, Rabin, artist Coop, and film distributor Fred Beiersdorf. They discuss their favorite lines, breasts, kisses, and deaths. They also relate their memories of Meyer. We get a couple of decent stories here, but otherwise it’s a pretty fluffy piece that lacks much to interest us.
Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Times, Baby! runs seven minutes, 34 seconds. It features La Zar, Read, Rabin, Marshall, Carey, Page, Gavin, and UCLA history professor Mary Corey. “Signs” looks at aspects of the era in which Dolls was made. The participants chat about music, drugs, sex, and other topics from that period.
If anyone needs this DVD to tell them that sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were a big deal in the late Sixties, they shouldn’t be allowed to watch this movie. “Signs” acts as a superficial recap of what everyone should already know about the period.
For the final featurette, we get the four-minute and 19-second Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene. It includes statements from Myers and Gavin as they reminisce about their big sequence. They toss out a few notes but not anything new or memorable.
Three Trailers appear: two theatrical and one teaser. We also find some Screen Tests. These come for “Michael Blodgett and Cynthia Myers” plus “Harrison Page and Marcia McBroom”. Both pairs do the same scene: the one in which Lance tells Kelly she deserves lots of the family fortune. Since only Blodgett plays the same role he does in the film, that makes it fun to see. It’s also interesting to note that Aunt Susan was originally called “Anne Welles”, which would have created a much more direct connection to the original Valley of the Dolls.
Six Still Galleries finish off DVD Two. These include “Swingers, Freaks, Sexpots and Studs” (25), “The Chesty Chartbusters” (33), “Flings That Go Bump in the Night” (145), “It’s My Party and I’ll Kill If I Want To” (64), “Russ’ Relics and Rarities” (41) and “Dolls & Walls” (10). Some good shots appear here, though it’s too bad they didn’t feature more nudity. Isn’t that really all we want from Dolls stills?
Stuck in the DVD’s packaging, we find some paper materials. A booklet throws out a few production notes, and an envelope presents four reproductions of Lobby Cards. These flesh out the set in a classy manner.
Too bad the movie doesn’t deserve that level of attention. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls attempts to spoof its predecessor but it fails as parody, comedy, and pretty much everything else. The movie doesn’t look like a spoof of a bad flick; it just looks like a bad flick. Though the DVD comes with problematic audio, it boasts excellent picture quality and some good extras. Fans will embrace this generally good DVD, but I can’t recommend this dreadful movie to others.