Oh man, we’re going deep down the rabbit hole of 1970’s independent movies that staddled the chasm between drive-in exploitation and grindhouse art-film. I’m talking, of course, about Russ Meyer’s “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”Wow. Where do even I start? I guess with Roger Ebert’s script.Yeah, that’s right. Roger Ebert. And it’s fucking good. Like, really good.
This is one of those films that seems to have been made in a parallel universe, kind of like the one you live in but with different rules. It looks like a Hollywood movie circa 1970, but no self-respecting theater chain would screen something so bizarrely entertaining. It certainly wasn’t porn, but the sexual subtext and highly stylized nudity, combined with grotesquely cartoonish violence, ultimately earned it an X Rating.
Russ was a WWII veteran who went on to a successful career as a photographer for, among other things, Playboy magazine. He wasn’t a young man when he made this movie, so his viewpoint on youth culture is always a little “off.” But it was striking to rewatch it and see real LGBTQ characters in the film – not for novelty, they were the main characters, with distinct voices and plot lines. And not just one, but several black characters, also used as an integral part of the story.
Then there was his depiction of women. Always in charge, always more powerful than men. WTF!? Who else was doing this shit in a 1970 exploitation flick?
And finally, the main character is transgender and speaks the entire film in Shakespearean dialogue. No, you didn’t read that wrong.
I love shit that’s so personal it doesn’t fit into any box
Russ Meyer made his own goddamn box.