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Film / Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

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"There's juice freaks, and pill freaks, and then everybody's a freak! What you need is grass or a downer or something."

A kinda sequel to Valley of the Dolls released by 20th Century Fox in 1970. Originally intended as a straight sequel to Valley of the Dolls, the film's commercial success, but critical savaging, resulted in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls instead being reworked as a satire piece and parody of the original. Directed by Russ Meyer and co-written by Meyer and movie critic Roger Ebert (who described landing the gig as an example of inmates Running the Asylum at the studio) about a musical quartet of girls who go to Hollywood to live with the lead singer's wealthy swinger aunt.

Pam Grier makes her film debut as an extra.

"Beyond the Valley of the Tropes":

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Harris is clearly repulsed by Ashley flirting with him, at least at first. The problem isn't that she's ugly (she isn't, at all), but rather how unsubtle and aggressive she is about wanting to get him in bed with her.
  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Casey gets pregnant from sleeping with Harris. She wants to keep the baby after Harris becomes paralyzed since this would be Harris' only shot at having a child, but Roxanne convinces her to have an abortion as the baby would be a Child by Rape. Casey goes along with it without really being sure and it takes an emotional toll on her. And then she dies at the end, the implication being that it is karma either for her abortion or lesbianism (or both).
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Emerson is often too busy studying to spend time with Petronella, something Randy is quite happy to lampshade as he talks her into sleeping with him.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Is Z-Man male? Female? Trans? A hermaphrodite? That's a mystery for the ages, especially as Ebert admitted the twist about Z-Man's gender is supposed to be nonsensical and shocking for its own sake.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Z-Man presents himself as a man for most of the film, but in the climax he insists on being seen as "Superwoman" and reveals a pair of feminine breasts. However, he is clearly unhinged at the time, making it difficult to tell what the truth about his gender identity is.
  • Anyone Can Die: Every character that attends Z-Man's last party becomes a mortal victim of his sudden rampage. Even Casey isn't spared despite being part of the main triad of characters.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • Randy tries to rape Pet but Emerson intervenes, allowing Pet to grab a knife and force Randy to leave.
    • Z-Man gets a bit insistent with Lance, but Lance talks him down by basically demeaning him. Lance's resistance and callousness causes things to go in a very different direction (the massacre).
  • Author Appeal: Russ Meyer loves topless buxom women.
  • Barefoot Loon: Ashley is a kooky, wild hedonist who hardly wears any clothes, which includes a lack of shoes for a lot of her screen time. At Z-Man's first party, she's only wearing a pair of gold chains around her ankles.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: Emerson arrives home to find his girlfriend Petronella in bed with Randy. Much melodrama ensues.
  • B-Movie: Averted. This was the first of two films (the other one was The Seven Minutes) Meyer made for a major studio, which was enthusiastic about it.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Z-Man kills Roxanne by putting his gun in her mouth while she sleeps and then shooting her when she wakes up. He also puts a bullet right through Casey's forehead, killing her immediately.
  • Broken Bird: Casey is a pretty sad and withdrawn person, implied to be from struggling with her sexuality.
  • Bungled Suicide: Feeling more and more distant from his friends and struggling with the possibility that he might be something else than straight, Harris tries to kill himself on live television by jumping off a high ceiling beam in the studio while the Carrie Nations are performing. He survives, but becomes paralyzed from the waist down.
  • Bury Your Gays: Lesbian couple Casey and Roxanne are killed by Z-Man, and Z-Man himself (herself?), who appeared to be a man throughout the movie but is revealed to have female breasts in the climax, dies shortly after.
  • Busman's Vocabulary: Randy, a boxer, speaks in a whole lot of boxing metaphors. This initially makes him seem philosophical, before he's revealed to be a Jerkass.
  • The Cameo: Haji, best known for playing Rosie in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, also by Russ Meyer, appears as a nude model (with flowers covering the important bits) at Aunt Susan's studio and again at Z-Man's party where Harris fights Lance and she says the line "What I see is beyond your dreaming."
  • Camp: To say the least.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Z-Man takes the costume party he throws near the end of the film too seriously, starting to believe he really is the "Superwoman" he's dressed as. The delusion eventually escalates into murderous insanity, with Z-Man killing all his guests.
  • Car Fu: When Randy drags Emerson around on the roof of his car.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Emerson smashes a chair on Randy's back to stop him from raping Pet.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Ashley tends to smile really widely with all her teeth showing, especially if she's engaging in some flirtation.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Various people are having sex in various locations at Z-Man's party (something he seems flattered by), and for the most part they don't stop when Z-Man and Kelly walk in on them; special mention goes to the couple who keep at it in a bathtub as Z-Man just casually walks in with Kelly to show her the veritable garden he keeps in his bathroom, and he pays them no attention as he caresses the plants and gets poetic about how Hollywood is a jungle.
  • Combat Stilettos: Z-Man's knee-high gold boots.
  • Cool Car: A Rolls Royce. Just ask Ashley St. Ives, who takes it to Fetish levels during Auto Erotica.
    "There's nothing like a Rolls!"
  • Crash-Into Hello: Pet meets Emerson by accidentally opening a door with him on the other side, making him drop the tray of drinks he's carrying.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: When Z-Man goes on a killing rampage dressed up as "Superwoman".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The fight between Harris and Lance is completely one-sided in Lance's favor. Harris doesn't land any hits and just gets thrashed by Lance. In fairness, Harris is drunk at the time.
  • Date Rape: Harris has sex with Casey when he was drunk and she was stoned, resulting in her getting pregnant. While Casey gets quite angry at Harris the next morning (something he's confused about), she doesn't seem to think of it as rape per se, although Roxanne (who has ulterior motives), does.
  • Disposable FiancĂ©: Baxter Wolfe is introduced midway into the film alongside his fiance. And within a minute he ditches her literally as soon as he reunites with his old flame Susan. Seeing this, the poor fiance is in dire need of a drink and drops out of the film immediately.
  • Does Not Like Men: When Roxanne remarks on Casey's less-than-pleasant run-in with Porter, Casey sums up her thoughts by uttering "Men," to which Roxanne simply replies "Ninety-nine percent." Casey makes an exception for Harris and considers him her friend, until the two sleep together while under the influence and she chases him off in the morning, saying he's just like all the rest.
  • Europeans Are Kinky: While having a conversation with Z-Man at the first party, Roxanne says she finds European women to be "more receptive and less hung-up".
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Z-Man sardonically presents law student Emerson as some kind of budding demon, although Emerson is actually a legitimate Nice Guy.
    Z-Man: Beware, fair maiden, of Emerson Thorne. Behind that friendly mask lies fermenting the unholy seed of... a lawyer.
  • Fan Disservice: Topless Z-Man revealing that he has female breasts.
  • Forceful Kiss: A drunk and despondent Harris, fresh from a nasty break-up with Ashley, goes up to Kelly and Lance while they're making out and tears Kelly away to forcefully kiss her. This leads to the fight between him and Lance.
  • Gayngst: One interpretation of what's going on with Casey throughout the movie.
  • Gender-Blender Name: "Ronnie" is a pretty ambiguous name, and the climax may make you second-guess whether it's not short for Veronica instead of Ronald. It's worth noting that Phil Spector (Ronnie's basis) was married to Ronnie Spector at the time of this movie's production and release.
  • Genre Shift: Turns into a Slasher Movie, before the term existed, for the last 25 minutes.
  • Gold Digger: Lance is a gigolo mainly motivated by dough, and dates Kelly so he can get his hands on her inheritance. When she tells him she's not that interested in the money and told her aunt to keep it all to herself, he rushes to convince her that she is at least owed something.
  • Gorn: S&M decapitation, headshots at close range, stabbing a Nazi to death with a sword at the beach.
  • Grub Tub: Ashley mentions she knows a guy named Tony who invited her to see his wading pool full of mayonnaise.
  • The Hedonist: Porn star Ashley St. Ives is introduced having the time of her life dancing wildly at a party and is always on the look-out for her next boy-toy. She's also very into luxurious cars and fucking in them.
  • Horrible Hollywood: Three girls and a guy come to Hollywood to find money and fame, but the place's decadence causes them to lose touch with their morals and make terrible choices (Kelly, Pet and Harris all have flings with jerkasses, while Casey has an accidental one-night stand with Harris that leads to an abortion).
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Ashley has a really funny one while having sex with Harris in her Rolls Royce.
    "There's nothing like a Rolls! Nothing, nothing like a Rolls! Not even a Bentley! Bentley! Bentley! Bentley! Nothing like a Rolls! A Rolls! (squealing) A ROOOOOOOOOLLS!"
  • Incompatible Orientation: Lance is the object of Z-Man's affections/lust, but it doesn't go over well. Lance is willing to sleep with Z-Man for the right price, but outside of that he rebuffs his advances without any room for doubt.
  • In Name Only: Has nothing to do with the original Valley of the Dolls novel/film, hence why it was titled Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: It's "Beyond The Valley of the Dolls" - i.e. the film is going beyond the themes and topics of the book and film.
  • Karma Houdini: Ashley gets out of the movie completely unscathed, despite the fact that her callousness led to ruin for both Harris and Casey. Even antagonistic characters that weren't caught up in the climactic massacre, such as Porter and Randy, get some sort of comeuppance for their actions, making it all the more noticeable that it's not the case for Ashley (in fairness, her worst actions still make her less evil than an attempted embezzler and an attempted rapist).
  • Kill the Cutie: Casey makes a valiant attempt at resisting the bad influences found in Los Angeles, only for an ill-conceived night with Harris to leave her pregnant. After getting an abortion, Casey becomes submissive and totally emotionally dependent on Roxanne, leading to her attending a private party of Z-Man's which she otherwise wouldn't have, and there she gets murdered by him.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: When Z-Man snaps and starts killing everybody, Casey telephones her friends for help. Z-Man picks up a phone in another room that lets him eavesdrop on their conversation and eventually interjects, startling Casey into dropping the phone and ending the call.
  • Large Ham:
    • In a movie with plenty of hammy actors, Z-Man stands above them all.
    • Ashley is probably the second hammiest character.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Roxanne and Casey act quite feminine but have a relationship with each other.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Kelly seduces Porter Hall, but much to his humiliation, he can't get it up. She makes him a deal that she won't tell as long as he stays out of the way of her getting her share of the inheritance.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Kelly is Susan's long-lost niece. Susan was apparently estranged from her sister Catherine and so had never met Kelly before. Not only does Susan immediately believe Kelly despite the lack of evidence, but this whole plot point is resolved within the first 10-ish minutes of the film before moving on to something else.
  • Made of Plasticine: Lance and Otto are dismembered pretty easily.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Ashley doesn't have a problem with trying to get lucky with Harris in her parked car. He manages to convince her to at least go to a more sheltered driveway. It seems like she gets a kick out of public sex since she later tries doing the same on a beach and an exasperated Harris enumerates other inappropriate places where they did it (phone booth, billiard table, swinging on a chandelier, standing on a canoe).
  • Mr. Exposition: When Kelly arrives at Z-Man's first party, he gives her a run-down of the secondary characters (Ashley, Roxanne, Lance, Emerson, Otto). Later Z-Man explains to Petronella who Baxter is and his history with Susan.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Every female character, except perhaps for the elderly woman with orange hair, is a gorgeous buxom babe.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Casey screams in horror at her impending abortion. Immediate cut to Petronella pouring batter into a frying pan and sharing a happy home life with Emerson.
    • Until the end, the entire movie has been an parody of the seedier side of Hollywood stardom. Then Z-Man suddenly goes nuts and massacres everyone.
    • The ending can also be see as this. Oh no! Our friends are murdered by an insane maniac, our career is ruined and we are traumatized by the dark side of stardom. Weddings for Everyone who survived.
  • Naked in Mink: At least one of the posters shows a bunch of girls laying around several fur coats.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Porter Hall, one of the main villains, is named after character actor Porter Hall, who tended to play villains or incompetent characters.
  • New Old Flame: Baxter is introduced as Susan's former love interest who tried proposing to her but was a victim of bad timing. They quickly get back together upon his return (with Baxter ditching his fiance to do so) and get married at the end.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell is a send-up of infamously unstable record producer Phil Spector.
    • Heavyweight boxing champion Randy Black was loosely based on Muhammad Ali.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Harris finds Ashley's aggressive advances on him to be off-putting. He only caves in to them once he's sufficiently depressed about Kelly no longer paying any attention to him.
  • Noodle Incident: At the first of Z-Man's parties, we get tiny bits and pieces of several conversations of the guests.
  • Off with His Head!: Z-Man decapitates Lance with an antique sword.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: English actress Dolly Read portrays American Carrie Nation member Kelly MacNamara. Her accent subtly slips in various scenes through out the movie.
  • One-Hit Wonder: invoked The girls watch Strawberry Alarm Clock play their lone hit "Incense and Peppermints."
  • On the Rebound: Harris is distraught over Kelly drifting away from him and into Lance's arms, and that's why he hooks up with Ashley, admittedly after much prodding from her. She's only looking for sex though, so she's not much comfort.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: The disclaimer in the opening credits:
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The parties thrown by Z-Man very quickly descend into people having sex in every corner of the house, most likely after plastering and/or stoning themselves.
  • Phallic Weapon: Z-Man forces a gun in Roxanne's mouth while she's sleeping before shooting her.
  • Poe's Law: Roger Ebert recorded that he and Meyer were nonplussed when they met the Sex Pistols and Johnny Rotten expressed his admiration for the film because it was so true to life.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "You beg for mercy, while the cries of six million innocents still ring in your ears? They are waiting for you!" Said by Z-Man before he kills Otto, who's dressed as a Nazi.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Downplayed, but Roxanne is so displeased with Casey's pregnancy that she browbeats and manipulates Casey into having an abortion even though Casey doesn't want to. Casey doesn't see this for what it is, instead being grateful to Roxanne for supposedly being so kind to her.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: When Ashley suggests to Harris that he might be gay. "Maybe it's not too late for you to find some nice. Tender. BOY!"
  • Recurring Character: A Nazi has appeared in a few of Russ Meyer movies, here it's Otto.
  • Rejecting the Inheritance: Kelly could demand some of Aunt Susan's inheritance, but is fine with letting her keep it all. At least until Lance convinces her she should demand her share.
  • Rhyming List: Kelly and Harris alternately list the things they adore and loathe (respectively) about Hollywood in rhyming dialogue, set to a montage, before they agree to go there.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The massacre at the end, in which Z-Man goes off the deep end and kills the guests at his party, was inspired by the Tate-LaBianca murders perpetrated by the Manson family. The film started production just a few months after the murders occurred.
  • Running Gag: After Harris is paralyzed, they poke fun at him with unintentionally funny dialogue, showing him struggling to get into a wheelchair during the climactic final battle, and the bizarre river-crossing-on-crutches scene during the ending after he regains the use of his legs.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Petronella has a bit of a sarcastic streak, especially when compared to her white bandmates.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Z-Man is very talkative and very fond of Shakespearean vocabulary.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: It's a Russ Meyer movie about a rock band in the late 1960s, and, in the original movie, "dolls" was a slang term for drugs.
  • Sex Montage:
    • Harris having sex with Ashley in her Rolls Royce is intercut with his ex-girlfriend Kelly (whom he's moping about) having sex with her new lover Lance.
    • Another montage occurs when Z-Man makes a toast to the Carrie Nations, showing the band's members having sex with their respective love interests.
  • Shout-Out: Ashley mentioning that her latest film got banned in Cincinnati is probably a reference to Russ Meyer's Vixen! (1968) getting the exact same treatment.
  • Slimeball: Porter Hall, Aunt Susan's accountant. He wants to discourage Susan from sharing her inheritance with her niece because he has designs to embezzle it himself. He holds himself as superior over the Kelly Affair/Carrie Nations, deriding them as hippies, however he sleeps with Kelly as a bribe and sexually harasses Casey practically at the same time as he calls her a freak.
  • The Sociopath: Ashley doesn't really seem to care about anyone or anything, only that she get laid, and is rather cruel to Harris when he fails to perform. The narrator sums her up thusly:
    "Ashley; men were toys for her amusement. Her total disregard for their feelings made love a stranger to her."
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Z-Man loves to talk like he's declaiming William Shakespeare, but he's also likely to pepper his speech with 60's slang like "Can you dig it?", not to mention his famous line "This is my happening and it freaks me out!"
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • While Lance is punching the lights out of Harris, a hippie rock song is playing. The lyrics go like this: "Come with the gentle people, spread love across the land..."
    • Z-Man decapitates Lance to the triumphant tune of the 20th Century Fox fanfare.
  • The Svengali: Roger Ebert used the exact term to describe Z-Man. He does things like changing the band's name from Kelly Affair to Carrie Nations without asking their opinion, and he completely excludes Harris, their first manager, from having any part in their success.
  • The Three Faces of Eve:
    • Pleasure-seeking and somewhat wily Kelly is the Seductress, shy and sweet Casey is the Child and the relatively stable and mature Petronella is the Wife.
    • The three next most important female characters also fit this quite well. Susan, who sees the good in everyone, is the Child, sex-driven Ashley is the Seductress and stoic, pragmatic Roxanne is the Wife.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Harris tries to kill himself after having drunken sex with Casey, succeeding only in losing the use of his legs. In the end, the shock of Z-Man's massacre somehow allows him to recover and walk again.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Yes, Lance, continue to taunt Z-Man about his/her breasts while he's waving around a sword. And you're tied up. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
    • Casey would have done better to run far away from Z-Man's house and seek help instead of just going in and out of the premises, trying to keep herself hidden until her friends arrive. It's a cat-and-mouse game that ends badly for her.
  • Totally Radical: Roger Ebert's attempts at replicating late 60's youth lingo were considered a bit quaint and try-hard even back then. Oft-quoted instances of this include "Hey, don't bogart the joint, friends." and "Cool, man, that's really getting it together!"
  • Twist Ending: Z-Man is a woman. Or a transgender man. Or a transgender woman who's had breast implants. It's left vague. (Roger Ebert called Z-Man a woman, but the Narrator at the end refers to said character with male pronouns.)
  • Two-Person Pool Party: At Z-Man's party, couples can be seen having sex in his large bathtub and his pool.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Z-Man reveals a pair of very feminine breasts to Lance. Lance reacts with shock, then hysterical laughter as he mocks Z-Man and calls him/her "an ugly broad". Z-Man doesn't take it well and decapitates Lance.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Randy doesn't wear a shirt at all until he gets out of jail.
  • Wall Glower: At Z-Man's first party, Casey refrains from mingling and retreats to the quieter places she can find. After that she prefers skipping Z-Man's parties altogether and staying home. When she's convinced to attend another one, it ironically proves fatal to her.
  • World of Buxom: This is a Russ Meyer movie after all.