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Mark Robson
Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Paul Burke, Sharon Tate, Tony Scotti, Martin Milner, Charles Drake, Alexander Davion
Writing Credits:
Helen Deutsch, Dorothy Kingsley, Jacqueline Susann (also novel)

The nation's most startling and hotly discussed best-seller now on the screen with every shock and sensation intact.

Film adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's melodramatic, bestselling potboiler. The story tracks the lives of three women - naive New Englander Anne Welles, aspiring singer Neely O'Hara, and buxom beauty Jennifer North - as they attempt to achieve fame and fortune in Hollywood. But as each starlet either rises to the top or falls to the bottom, she discovers that Hollywood is full of pitfalls and heartbreak. Instead of the happiness they seek, the trio finds only alcoholism, wild sexcapades, tantrums, porno roles, suicide, marital woes, wigs in the toilet, and a dependence on "dolls" - slang for pills. Which of these ingenues will survive her "trip" through Hollywood?

Box Office:
$5 million.
Domestic Gross
$44.432 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Stereo
English Monaural
Spanish Monaural

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 6/13/2006

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Actress Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca
• “Trivia Overdose: A Pill-Popping Guide to Valley of the Dolls
• “Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls and Showtunes”
• Documentary
• Still Galleries
Disc Two
• “The Divine Ms. Susann” Featurette
• “The Dish On Dolls” Featurette
• “Hollywood Backstories: Valley of the Dolls” Featurette
• World Premiere Footage
• “Jacqueline Susann and the Valley of the Dolls” Clip
• Screen Tests
• TV Spots
• Trailers
• “You’ve Got Talent” Karaoke
• Musical Numbers from the Valley of the Dolls Soundtrack

• Booklet
• Lobby Cards


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Valley Of The Dolls: Special Edition (Cinema Classics Collection) (1967)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 9, 2006)

What’s with all the campy flicks hitting DVD right now? Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Mommie Dearest made the shelves recently, and now Fox provides a twofer: 1967’s Valley of the Dolls and its 1970 sequel.

I’ll discuss the latter another time, but right now I’ll look at the film an American Movie Classics quote on the box calls “a classic tale of backstabbing [and] infighting!” Dolls introduces us to Anne Welles (Barbara Parkins), a babe from a small New England town. She leaves her provincial life to work in New York City.

Anne grabs a job as an assistant to a theatrical lawyer named Bellamy (Robert H. Harris). After she encounters a vicious old performer named Helen Lawson (Susan Hayward), she decides the theatrical game isn’t for her. However, a glimpse of Bellamy’s hunky younger partner Lyon Burke (Paul Burke) changes her mind. They slowly dig into a romantic relationship.

As Anne becomes involved in the city’s scene, she meets other single young women. These include rising singer Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke) and showgirl Jennifer North (Sharon Tate). As we learn about those women, we also see their romantic entanglements. Neely’s engaged to stable Mel Anderson (Martin Milner), while Jennifer uses her looks to snare a succession of rich old men. However, more serious romance hits her when nightclub singer Tony Polar (Tony Scotti) heads her way.

Matters complicate as the movie progresses. We watch the careers and relationships of the three women unfold and grow with all their ups and downs. Jennifer struggles, but Neely becomes a huge star, and Anne turns into a very successful model. We also see them get involved in self-destructive behavior like booze and pills.

Soap opera also has an audience, I suppose, though it seems like we don’t see as many films of that sort as in the past. Maybe we still get as many soap opera flicks these days but they just don’t stand out to me in the same way. Efforts like Peyton Place and Dolls wear their origins on their sleeves and tattoo us with their soap opera themes.

That makes them age poorly, since they tend toward overly theatrical characters and performances. Actually, of the three main women, only Duke flies into the land of the excessively emotive. Hoo boy, does she go over the top! Duke’s performance doesn’t quite compare with Faye Dunaway’s wild turn in Mommie Dearest, but it approaches the same nutty levels. “Bigger and louder!” seem to be the only directions she received for the character.

On the other hand, Tate and Parkins barely register in their roles. Tate remains stiff and flat throughout the film. She brings absolutely no spark to the part as she mumbles her line and meanders through the scenes.

Parkins seems no more convincing or vivid. She feels very unnatural as an actor. For instance, when she’s supposed to be nervous, she looks like someone consciously pretending to be nervous. Parkins presents such a lightweight performance that she barely sticks to the screen. In fact, I found it tough to even remember her character’s name since Parkins makes so little impact.

The story packs in all the usual soap opera conventions. There’s little to differentiate Dolls from other efforts in the genre. It includes sickness, sex, mental illness, abortion and all the other usual tawdriness. It takes a position daring for the era, which makes it look stale almost 40 years later.

And silly, for that matter. I can see why Dolls has become a cult classic, as it lacks any form of believability or reality. The first half comes chock full of superfluous musical numbers that slow it to a crawl. The tawdriness elevates during the second half, though it doesn’t make things much more interesting.

Only unintentional comedy allows Dolls to be even remotely watchable. From the absurd performances to silly situations to inane dialogue, this thing’s a howler. How could actors read lines like “At night, all cats are gray”?

I just don’t have enough of an affection for camp to enjoy Valley of the Dolls. Poorly acted, badly written and generally absurd, the movie suffers from many more flaws than positives. It’s a goofy flick that merits derision.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus A

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. Though it showed its age at times, the transfer usually looked very good.

Only minor problems affected sharpness. A little edge enhancement occasionally made wide shots appear a bit soft. Otherwise the movie exhibited solid delineation and detail. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but print flaws became a distraction. The grainy, messy opening credits looked the worst. The rest of the flick was cleaner than that, but I still saw a moderate amount of specks and marks.

Colors acted as a highlight of the presentation. Dolls went with a splashy palette that showed up well. The hues were consistently vibrant and dynamic. Blacks seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots offered good clarity and visibility. I almost went with a “B+” here but thought the source defects were too prominent. Nonetheless, the transfer easily merited a “B”.

I found the stereo soundtrack of Valley of the Dolls to be flawed but satisfactory. The soundfield opened up reasonably well. Music showed fair stereo delineation, and some effects spread to the sides too. There wasn’t much definition to the localization or stereo presence, however, and some dialogue tended to appear unfocused. Speech occasionally bled to the sides and the track lacked much more than a broad sense of place.

Quality was up and down. Speech lacked edginess and remained intelligible though somewhat stiff. Music seemed inconsistent. At times the score and songs could be surprisingly rich and full, but other segments made them appear thin and dull. Effects were acceptably clean and accurate, though they also lacked range. Overall, this ended up as an average track for its era.

Part of Fox’s “Cinema Classics Collection”, this two-disc set packs a lot of extras. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary from actor Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion. Casablanca mainly acts as fan and interviewer. He tosses out his own thoughts about the movie as well as his namesake, but Parkins handles most of the informational duties.

And she does quite well in this surprisingly candid chat. Parkins discusses how she get her part, her career at the time, working with the director and actors, relationships off the set, wardrobe, hair and costumes, sets and locations, changes from the book, and other production topics.

Parkins tosses out many nice insights. We learn of Judy Garland’s abortive involvement in the project, and Parkins even goes into her reactions to Sharon Tate’s death at the hands of the Manson family. Casablanca performs the interviewer role well, as he asks good questions and keeps things moving. He also makes sure they get gossipy, so we hear their debate about which men were hot and which weren’t. I admit I didn’t much look forward to this commentary, and it occasionally dragged, but the overall result satisfied.

A text commentary follows. Trivia Overdose: A Pill-Popping Guide to Valley of the Dolls covers the usual issues. It looks at the book and compares the novel to the movie. We also find info about cast and crew, music, sets and locations, and other production areas. These prove useful – when they appear. Unfortunately, the text shows up awfully infrequently. That makes “Overdose” slow going.

DVD One also presents a documentary entitled Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls and Showtunes. This 48-minute and 17-second show features movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Casablanca, Parkins, author Alonso Duralde, columnist Michael Murto, comedian/writer Bruce Vilanch, Jacqueline Susann’s friend Penny Bigelow, Theatre-a-Go-Go’s director Tom Booker and actors Eliza Coyle, Kate Flannery, and Jackie Beat, publicist Howard Bragman, and actor Illeana Douglas. The piece looks at the showbiz world in the late Sixties, the cast and performances, the Theatre-a-Go-Go version of Dolls and some other public exhibitions, the flick’s appeal to gay audiences, the movie’s clothes and music, and favorite sequences.

Though “Showtunes” involves some facets of the movie’s production, it really acts as an appreciation of the flick’s campy glories. This is the sort of show that runs on VH1 all the time. It mixes the occasional fact with lots of catty comments. It’s vaguely interesting but not a substantial look at the film.

Under the banner of Still Galleries, we get six collections of shots. These include “Anne Welles” (63 photos), “Neela O’Hara” (103), “Jennifer North Polar” (74), “Costume Design” (131), “Production Snapshots” (64) and “Sets & Locations” (44). I was surprised to find such an extensive collection of shots, and we get many nice images here.

Heading to DVD Two, we begin with a collection of three featurettes. The Divine Ms. Susann examines the novel’s author. The 14-minute and 13-second show presents notes from Bigelow, Duralde, Vilanch, Flannery, Musto, Casablanca, Bragman, Coyle, Parkins, biographer Barbara Seaman, and author/friend Helen Gurley Brown.

As one might expect, “Divine” provides a biography of the author. We learn about her career and how she became an author. We find out how cancer affected her, relationships, and her work as a writer. We also hear about her personal style, her promotional leanings, the success of Dolls, and her career after it.

“Divine” acts as a tight little featurette. It touches on the highlights of Susann’s life and career and delivers them in a concise manner. Even though it uses many of the same participants, it leaves out the superfluous moments of DVD One’s documentary. This allows it to be useful and engaging.

For the five-minute and 31-second The Dish on Dolls, we find notes from Duralde and Musto. “Dish” divulges goofs that made the flick, cameos, and shows us shots from subsequent attempts at Dolls. Those are the best parts and make me want to see the projects in their entirety – something Fox may do, since they list a website we can visit if we want them to release those programs. This is a fun little piece.

Finally, Hollywood Backstories: Valley of the Dolls fills 23 minutes, 28 seconds. It presents comments from Musto, Gurley Brown, Parkins, actors Patty Duke, Robert Viharo and Michele Lee, Ethel Merman’s friend Tony Cointreau, and choreographer Robert Sidney. “Backstories” takes us through a mix of aspects of the production. It looks at the origins of the book, its inspirations and its path to the screen. It also examines the crew and cast, censorship concerns, clashes behind the scenes, and the movie’s reception and afterlife.

Various scandalous elements appear here like Susann’s obsession with Merman and Judy Garland’s problems. The best parts of “Backstories” show clips with Garland as well as a Patty Duke screen test not found elsewhere on this disc. It’s also good to hear from Duke since she doesn’t pop up during the commentary. “Backstories” repeats some information heard elsewhere, but it mixes things together in a satisfying way.

“From the Medicine Chest” promises archival footage. Valley of the Dolls: A World Premiere Voyage presents a 48-minute and eight-second piece from 1967. This shows elements of the cruise voyage on which the movie debuted. Hosted by Bill Burrud and Army Archerd, they take us from the voyage’s launch in Italy and follow aspects of the premiere. They also talk to folks like Parkins, Susann, Duke, Tony Scotti, Susan Hayward, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke and Mark Robson.

Though firmly promotional in nature, it never seems terribly sure what it attempts to promote. More travelogue than movie-related program, “Premiere” occasionally looks at the flick, but it spends more time on the local sights. We’re also subjected to some badly lip-synched numbers from Scotti. It’s surprisingly boring, though it’s nice to have for historical reasons.

Next comes the 50-minute and 31-second Jacqueline Susann and the Valley of the Dolls. Another show from 1967, it features comments from Susann, her husband Irving Mansfield, some participants in the film, a few other authors, and various readers. As implied by the title, it focuses on the author and her efforts. It covers her career and issues related to Dolls as both a book and a movie.

And it does so in a rather interesting manner. Unlike the dull “Premiere”, “Susann” proves to be open and frank. It delves into various controversies, and we even find segments of a Susann interview with a radio host who attacks the book as smutty. I like all the comments from Susann and her husband, as they provide good notes about her promotional work and other topics. We also get a little more from Judy Garland, a factor that’s useful. This is a very solid program.

Under Screen Tests, we get four sections. We find snippets with “Sharon Tate and Tony Scotti” (four minutes, 57 seconds), “Sharon Tate” (2:05), “Tony Scotti Serenading” (3:19) and “Barbara Parkins as Neely O’Hara” (7:24). All are fun to see, though obviously the Parkins clip is the most intriguing.

In addition to two trailers, we find two TV Spots. From there we move to a Karaoke area called You’ve Got Talent. This lets you sing along with three tunes: “Theme from Valley of the Dolls”, “It’s Impossible” and “I’ll Plant My Own Tree”. I don’t want to croon along with these numbers, but if that appeals to you, have a blast!

11 Musical Numbers finish off DVD Two. These come from the movie’s soundtrack, so they don’t simply duplicate the scenes from the film. That’ll make them particularly valuable for fans.

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.

While lovers of camp embrace Valley of the Dolls, it offers nothing else. If you don’t adore so-bad-it’s-good flicks, you’ll get absolutely no enjoyment from this moronic affair. The DVD presents good picture with adequate audio and a strong roster of extras. Despite my disdain for the movie itself, the Dolls DVD is a quality piece of work.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8421 Stars Number of Votes: 19
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main