Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

An enjoyably bad film, of not much value beyond being a snapshot of a period, and even then it rather over-eggs the sex, drugs and rock and roll. Did people really speak like that, or is it a writer's approximation of what kids in the 70s were like? The parties are all an embellished facsimile, refracted through Russ Meyer's own camp desires.

The film's best and worst character is Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell: a flamboyant Shakespeare obsessive who loosely orchestrates the revels. He dominates every scene he is in – the ringleader of a host of grotesques that swirl around Hollywood. But the film can't help but want to punish such decadence. It reveals Barzell to be trans, and then a schizophrenic monster who cannot control his desires. The lesbian characters (although obviously leered at relentlessly) are treated better, but they wind up dead as well, leaving three married heterosexuals at the end. For all its transgressive posing, the film is less daring than it seems.

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