We all think we know Russ Meyer or at least his legendary fascination with actresses of a certain stature. He delivered some undeniable cult classics such as Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill along with comedy erotica at the acceptable end of soft porn such as Vixen and Up!
Here, with the surprising assistance of leading film critic, Roger Ebert he delivered a smart satire on the late-60’s teen dream taking swipes at young and old in a land where the moral compass got lost somewhere between Haight-Ashbury and Saigon. The dream was almost over and this film gives it a kicking that seems to mature with age.
|Casey, Pet and Kelly: The Carrie Nations!|
On the surface there are many traditional Meyer elements which would suggest that pornography was on the agenda: two of the leads where Playmates of the Month: Dolly Read (in 1966) and Cynthia Myers (1968) and it’s pretty clear why… There’s an excess of sexual and pharmaceutical activity in the orgy of self-indulgence forming the upper limits of most characters’ ambitions.
|Duncan McLeod and Cynthia Myers|
The film follows the progress of an all-girl rock band as they progress from high school dances to the major leagues with the inevitable consequences…
|Aunt Susan who's only vice is being "too good"...|
|The girls join The Strawberry Alarm Clock on stage|
Meanwhile Pet meets a smart young waiter/legal trainee Emerson Thorne (Harrison Page)… whilst quiet Casey – daughter of a Senator – meets Roxanne (Erica Gavin) who can barely disguise her delight as her eyes dart approvingly over the younger woman: “I’d like to design for you”, she says thinking more of the contents than the clothes…
|The gang survey Z-Man's awesome party scene|
|Edy Williams cuts a rug...|
Z-Man easily outmanoeuvres Harris to take control of the band and nudges Kelly in the direction of Lance in order to break her link with the hapless ex-manager... Despairing, Harris succumbs to Miss St. Ives’s charms falling into a life of self-prescribed numb submission; helpless to stop Kelly’ s drift into success.
|Playmate of the Month, May 1966...|
Pet romances the studious Emerson yet falls for a one-night stand with heavyweight boxing champion Randy Black (James Iglehart) who almost runs the young lawyer over and beats him up for good measure.
|Edy on the beach|
He survives, just about – will this be a turning point for him and even for Kelly?
|Superwoman and a disapproving Jungle Boy|
But, whilst the Dynamic Duo enjoy a night of passion – tastefully documented by Meyer, lingering longer than over any other coupling – Jungle Boy is not quite so interested in playing his role… Superwoman becomes displeased and… let’s just say; heads will roll...
|Torn between two managers|
The girls in the band are all hyper pretty and the ex-playmate who delivers in the acting stakes is Cynthia Myers who manages to inject the right amount of uncertain vulnerability into a character who is lost even before the nightmares of success begin... she eventually finds herself more convincingly than the others who follow more prosaic paths to self-realisation...
The ending strikes now as opportunist and unnecessarily cruel and the coda showing Kelly and Harris driving a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray into a summer-sunny valley doesn't wipe away the bad taste. Was there a serious point here or cheap-shot moralising: the film apologising for reveling in its own exploitation?
|Kelly's classic Chevrolet Corvette Stingray|
Writing later, Ebert, who's critical faculties made him one of the greatest of film reviewers, said: "It's an anthology of stock situations, characters, dialogue, clichés and stereotypes, set to music and manipulated to work as exposition and satire at the same time; it's cause and effect, a wind-up machine to generate emotions, pure movie without message..."
Those causes still have effect and if you haven't seen it I'd recommend Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. It's available at very reasonable prices from Amazon... as is the groovy soundtrack.
|Ashley St. Ives readies herself in the Rolls...|