Dec 24, 2017
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Beefcake and Homophobia in the Worst Movie Ever Made
I've known about this movie for years, as a conundrum: how does a film critic produce such a bomb? But last night I watched it for the first time.
And probably the last time.
It really is a horror, full of pretentious dialogue, ponderous moralizing, jerky jump-cuts, an infinite number of characters who look and sound alike, and a lot of homophobia.
Oh, and it's a Russ Meyer movie, so there are women nonchalantly walking around naked all the time, and closeups of their breasts instead of their faces when they talk.
They all go to California to stay with lead singer Kelly's rich aunt Susan, in spite of the objections of their manager, Harris Allsworth (David Gurian) -- he thinks there are too many "perverts and fruits" in L.A.
They begin playing at the wild Laugh-In-style parties of the indescribably wealthy, ultra-flamboyant, ridiculously theatrical Z-Man (John LaZar). There are both gay and straight couples hooking up in the various rooms of his mansion.
Z-Man becomes the group's new manager and pushes them into fame. I think. It looks like the same party, but I think time passes.
Everybody starts hooking up, in hetero-sex scenes with the naked woman atop the man, so most of his body is hidden.
1. Kelly starts dating hustler Lance Rocke (Michael Blodgett).
2. Harris is seduced by an aggressive female porn star, who calls him "gay" when he is unable to perform adequately. He tries to commit suicide, and becomes paraplegic. Kelly dumps Lance to devote herself to caring for him.
4. Somebody else gets pregnant and starts a lesbian affair.
There's also some generation-gap pontificating and a muddled plotline about Kelly's inheritance.
Lance still rejects him, so he kills everyone in the house in a psychotic rage.
Including his servant, who has become a Nazi, for some reason.
The three conventional heterosexual couples rush over and subdue Z-Man -- a little too late, but it took time to get Harris's wheelchair into the Scooby-Mobile..
Then there's a long, pretentious, moralistic voice-over about what was wrong with each character, including the minor ones, followed by a triple wedding (Aunt Susan-old flame, Harris-Kelly, the two black characters).
Got all that?
Ebert hadn't originally intended this as a standard "transvestite killer" movie, with the twist that it's a female transvestite. He thought of it at the last minute, after the filming was over -- the actors themselves had no idea. I guess he wanted to get in one last homophobic dig.
This is by no means the most homophobic movie ever made -- that honor goes to Chuck and Buck. But it's an interesting example of the homophobia that formed an ongoing backdrop to Ebert's reviews throughout his career.