Some cultural crimes have left wounds that won’t heal. The success of “Cats.” The film career of Madonna. But one of the festering injustices of our time — the unavailability of “Valley of the Dolls” on DVD — has at last been corrected. Atoning for the extended wait, Fox, which has had a remake in the works for years, has issued both the 1967 campathon and Russ Meyer’s orgiastic 1970 faux-sequel, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” in lavishly stuffed two-disc sets, ironically included in the Cinema Classics Collection.
Many would make a case for “Mommie Dearest,” but Mark Robson’s overwrought screen version of Jacqueline Susann’s scandal tome about three starlets who found despair and addiction on the path to fame is probably the most inadvertently hilarious film ever made. . The big difference between Robson’s lurid inside-showbiz saga and Meyer’s demented odyssey of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll is that the latter — scripted by film critic Roger Ebert — was in on the joke and intended as satire.
The weak link in the “VoD” package is the witless commentary by star Barbara Parkins and E! gossipmonger Ted Casablanca, who owes his nom de plume to Susann. Parkins’ dismissive assessments of her director and several co-stars are amusing, but Casablanca’s contributions run from “Sharon (Tate) was so beautiful” to “This is awesome” to “So what are the secrets of your beauty, Barbara?”
While they include some choice clips (Judy Garland’s press conference when her abortive casting as Helen Lawson was announced), the new featurettes are a standard-issue VH1-style mix of fast cuts and talking-head insights from the usual suspects (Michael Musto, Bruce Vilanch, more Casablanca).
But the set delivers real treasures in the archival material, including the priceless original trailer, which intones: “Dolls… the instant turn-on, for instant love, instant excitement, ultimate hell.”
Even better are two extended 1967 docu-specials.
Co-hosted by Variety‘s Army Archerd, “A World Premiere Voyage” chronicles the film’s multiple international preems aboard the S.S. Princess Italia. Highlights include star Tony Scotti stiffly lip-synching the theme song (while smoking) on a gondola in Venice. A docu on Susann sheds light on the author and on the pre-tabloid hunger for celebrity dirt.
And Parkins’ take on the “Sparkle, Neely, sparkle” scene in her screen test for the Patty Duke role hints at a whole other kind of bad.