Dec 24, 2017

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Beefcake and Homophobia in the Worst Movie Ever Made

Long before he became nationally famous with Sneak Previews and Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, back when he was still a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert collaborated with schlockmeister Russ Meyer on what is probably the worst movie of all time, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970).

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.

As best as I could make out, the nonsensical plot follows the fortunes of Josie and the Pussycats or some such teenage all-girl rock group.

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.

3. The black girl starts dating law school student Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page), then boxer Randy Black (James Inglehart).  But she dumps him when his violent temper comes out.

4. Somebody else gets pregnant and starts a lesbian affair.

5. Aunt Susan re-connects with an old flame, I think (Charles Napier, seen here as a space hippie on Star Trek)

There's also some generation-gap pontificating and a muddled plotline about Kelly's inheritance.

One night Z-Man invites Lance and two women (I don't know who) to his house for a private drug party.  The women go off to be lesbians, and Z-Man tries to seduce Lance.  When Lance rejects him, Z-Man reveals that he is actually a woman, with breast and everything!

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.


  1. I didn't watch some of these movies so, it's kinda educational...

    Well Merry Christmas, babe!! ^_^

    Hot guys

  2. It's Russ Meyer. Pretty much every Russ Meyer movie is only meant for straight or possibly bi guys. You don't watch them for the acting, plot, cinematography, or, really anything but the tits.

    Strangely enough, my friends procured a copy in high school. It wasn't even restricted to us. And I could see why. I may be bi, but it really wasn't arousing. (At this point in our lives, we hadn't even seen a skin mag. It was very difficult for rez boys to even find pornography, and everyone just assumed the women of porn were victims; no similar assumption, by the way, was made of men in gay porn. But I digress,) Mostly we just have it the "Joel and the Bots" treatment. This would be 2000? I'd just finished junior year.

  3. I always thought Charles Napier was kinda hot as a space hippie in that TOS episode. Nice hairy chest and nipples.

  4. I would think that Cruising was infamous for its homophobia. Vito wrote quite a bit about it.


No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...