Since the dawn of DVD, there has been one major cult film produced at a major Hollywood studio that has eluded the format, despite fans begging and pleading for the ultimate edition: BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. The film’s history with its studio, 20th-Century Fox, is a rocky one, one of embarrassment and nausea. Though Russ Meyer’s first big-studio feature helped to save the studio from bankruptcy brought on from big-budget, out-of-date disasters like HELLO DOLLY!, STAR!, and DR. DOLITTLE, BVD incurred the wrath of upper-crust critics and was frowned upon by all of Hollywood. But when Fox saw fit to release a special edition of MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, a universally loathed film, as well as a financial and critical failure, there emerged a glimmer of hope that BVD would be given its due. Years later, after rumors that a barebones edition would be released, or the sole extra would be the Roger Ebert commentary recorded for a previously-scheduled Criterion release, Fox fulfills every fan’s wildest wish for a special edition of Russ Meyer’s biggest and best film.
Meet The Kelly Affair, composed of three rockin’ lovelies making the rounds at high school proms: Kelly McNamara, a red headed siren with a hungry sexual appetite; Casey Anderson, a senator’s daughter with big hair and a frigid reception to male advances; and Pet Danforth, the “soul sister” who drums like a mother. Together with their youthful manager Harris Allsworth, they trek to L.A. to cash in on Kelly’s Aunt Susan’s recent inheritance. Susan’s connections as a top fashion editor include Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell, a boy genius record producer who sees potential in the Kelly Affair, transforms them into the Carrie Nations, and makes them instant celebrities! However, the vices of Hollywood come knocking as Kelly ditches Harris for studly gigolo Lance Rocke, who sniffs out her rich aunt and demands she embezzle thousands from her trusting relative, Pet finds love with law student Emerson Thorne but is soon bedded by heavyweight champ Randy Black, Casey becomes addicted to pills, gets knocked up, and gives in to her Sapphic tendencies with fashion designer Roxanne, and Harris becomes involved with sex starlet Ashley St. Ives, who drives him to drink like a fish before leading him to ponder his sexuality. Will any of these poor innocent souls escape with their lives??
From the cryptic foreshadowing of the opening credits sequence, the viewer is hooked. Why is there a woman in a see-thru negligee hiding in a beach house? Who is she watching being brutally murdered on the beach? Who is grabbing a gun and stalking through the house to find her, but along the way, gives a slow semi-blowjob to a topless brunette with his 45-caliber? For the next 90 minutes and some change, be prepared to experience the ultimate trip into the sexadelic world of Russ Meyer, circa 1970, at his very best, with the full backing of a failing Hollywood studio. The director obsessed with breasts was on a crest of success with his releases of VIXEN!, CHERRY HARRY AND RAQUEL, and FINDERS KEEPERS LOVERS WEEPERS, all made for low budgets and raking in many times their cost at the box office. Meyer’s recipe for success was concocted with his trusty ingredients of fast-paced editing, exciting action, square-jawed heroes, and of course the ultimate Meyer trademark, an avalanche of double-D demigoddesses the likes of which the screen had never seen before, or since. Fox not only wanted some of that successful formula to make their own money, but needed a hit to reach the growing young population that weren’t interested in their hoity-toity old-fashioned extravaganzas. The independent EASY RIDER’s successful release in 1969 had ensured that the old studio system was going to be dying very soon. BVD became as an official sequel to Jacqueline Susann’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, even going so far as to include that film’s heroine Anne Wells as a character, but Susann’s outrage at the audacity of Fox hiring a smut peddler and a fat critic from Chicago to write a suitable replacement for her discarded script led the film to be labeled by the tagline “This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it.” The only remaining traces of the original VALLEY OF THE DOLLS are the references to “dolls” (Casey’s pills) and of course the character “Aunt Susan”, an obvious jab at Jacqueline Susann. But the distancing of BVD from the original VALLEY didn’t stop Susann from suing Fox in a lawsuit that continued even after her death, resulting in a payment of over $1 million to her estate. Where VALLEY is an incredibly dated warning to young girls against leaving their small towns and coming to Hollywood, and is a hilarious movie in its own right, BVD disguises itself as a celebration of the Love Generation when in actuality it is a complete destruction of the youth of the era. As mentioned in many analyses of the film and scriptwriter Ebert’s own admission, the notorious Manson Murders of 1969 had a giant influence on the making of the film, and was considered the end of the Love Generation. However, the more socially aware artists of the time (Meyer and Ebert) knew that the hippie movement was ridiculous from the beginning, so while BVD may scream the 1960s like no other movie of the period, its primary goal seems to be to expose the plastic veneer of the counterculture and finish it all off with a violent mass murder, obliterating innocence once and for all. Meyer’s peculiar morality, usually present in voiceover or text scrolls, appears at the finale to explain everyone’s fates, but permeated throughout the film is the message that the young are careening out of control with no knowledge of the consequences of their actions. Kind of heavy stuff for a Russ Meyer sex-comedy-horror-musical.
Besides the overlying purpose of BVD is the never-ending cascade of sights and sounds that make this an unforgettable experience. Meyer’s fast-paced editing is in full force, from the very beginning montage of random shots illustrating Kelly and Harris’ pondering a move to L.A. Shots of airplanes, cracked eggs, Hollywood monuments, wild characters dancing, flash-forwards to future debauchery in the film, an overflowing beer bottle, a topless Phyllis Davis running in slo-mo, and traffic lights are inter-cut to create a free-flowing debate between the liberal and the conservative. MTV owes a great debt of gratitude of Russ Meyer, as he creates some of the first music videos with each individual performance of the Carrie Nations. With gel lighting, unique camera angles, montages and split-second editing, these would still be considered great music videos if released today with slightly edgier hairdos and clothing.
In addition to the music, Meyer and Ebert fill each character’s mouths with deliciously dated dialogue, using slang that was old-hat even by 1970 standards. The most quoted lines of the film are without a doubt “This is my happening and it freaks me out!”, recycled by Mike Myers in an AUSTIN POWERS film, and “You’re a groovy boy, I’d love to strap you on sometime.” But there are tons more favorites to be had: “You’ve turned me into a whore”, “And you love it you little freak!”; “But you said you were going to study! You said you were going to study!”; “You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”; “Hang cool, teddy bear”; “I’m the ballsiest cat you ever did meet”; “Keep your $50,000, loverrrr!”; “There’s nothing like a Rolls! Not even a Bentley! Bentley! Bentley!”; the list could go on.
Casting a cavalcade of beautiful women was nothing new to Meyer, but he really hit paydirt with one of his most memorable female ensembles. Dolly Read, a Playboy Playmate of 1966, was a young British lovely whose only previous screen role was co-starring with another Meyer starlet, Susan Bernard, in the lesbian drama THAT TENDER TOUCH. She does a capable job as Kelly McNamara, and is cute as a button throughout, but her marriage to Hollywood bigshot Dick Martin (of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In”) ensured she would never have to work again. Indeed, she would rarely be seen on-camera again except on game shows with hubby. Marcia McBroom had been a popular black New York fashion model before making her big screen splash in BVD. Of the three actresses, she’s probably the least successful in terms of line delivery and characterization, though she is gorgeous and seems to be having a great time. She would develop as an actress, appearing in bit parts in blaxploitation relics like WILLIE DYNAMITE and LEGEND OF NIGGER CHARLEY before proving her talents in the much later NEW YORK NIGHTS, a precursor to her work on the stage in New York. Cynthia Myers is generally regarded as the most beautiful and talented of the Carrie Nations, conveying a soft sensuality and delivering her lines smoothly. Somehow her career didn’t take off, her only other film being MOLLY AND LAWLESS JOHN. This 1968 Playboy Playmate remains one of the top five most popular centerfolds in the magazine’s history, appearing in the December issue of that year and becoming a sex symbol overnight. Her voluptuous figure isn’t given full exposure, as Meyer was shooting for an R rating with BVD, but she is still one of the most eye-catching beauties ever captured on film.
Phyllis Davis and Edy Williams had both been active in Hollywood for several years when they were cast in BVD. Davis, who would later gain cult film immortality for her turns in TERMINAL ISLAND and SWEET SUGAR and is just lovely in her rather thankless role as “Aunt Susan”, would also have the most lucrative career of the leading ladies, with a long run on the TV show “Vega$.” Williams would go in the complete opposite direction, going nowhere but down after her wild turn in BVD as the oversexed starlet Ashley St. Ives. After appearing in Meyer’s second feature for Fox, the 1971 flop THE SEVEN MINUTES, her next star role would be 1975’s DR. MINX, a disappointing Howard Avedis drive-in vehicle, before she hit rock bottom in 1983’s LADY LUST, a sleazy hardcore outing from Ron Dorfman. Hollywood wouldn’t take her back after such a messy move, resulting in throwaway bit parts in exploitation like CHAINED HEAT, HELLHOLE, and HOLLYWOOD HOT TUBS. Today she refuses to discuss her Russ Meyer days, largely because of her notorious marriage to Meyer, but looking at the rest of her career, there is little left to talk about in seriousness. It’s a shame, too, because her turn in BVD should have been a career-making performance! She growls her dialogue through quivering lips and sharpened fangs, oozing sexual innuendo with lascivious glances at the men in her path, spouting ludicrous pick-up lines, and whipping her lion’s-mane of a hairdo wildly as she dances to The Strawberry Alarm Clock and jumps atop her male victims, a complete sexual animal and always commanding attention when on-screen. Williams’ character was never meant to be a scene-stealer, but thanks to her relationship with Meyer, was beefed up and given several more scenes in the finished film. I could imagine an entire film of Ashley St. Ives, and that would have been a great spin-off if Meyer and Williams had remained together!
In addition to the leading ladies, there are a few ladies in the background that provide some memorable moments. Popular Meyer actress Haji appears in several sequences, first as a topless woman in feathers at a photo shoot and then dressed all in black in chains at one of Z-Man’s parties. She has one line, but it’s once again a good sign that Meyer brought her with him to Fox. Her alluring cat eyes and mischievous personality are a nice addition to the supporting cast. Ebony beauty Lavelle Roby was one of the female leads in FINDERS KEEPERS LOVERS WEEPERS, and looks fantastic here with wild glittery eyes. MUDHONEY’s Princess Livingston, a toothless old woman, makes an impression as one of Z-Man’s party guests. Busty blonde Veronica Ericson had worked with Meyer previously in his Albert Zugsmith misfire FANNY HILL in 1964, and packs a wallop as one of Lance’s dates. And believe it or not, Pam Grier is somewhere in the crowds at Z-Man’s party; no, she’s not the black woman with a flower in her hair.
The most off-the-wall character, with the most memorable dialogue and wildest performance…well, besides Edy Williams’ “Ashley St. Ives”, is the indescribably odd Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell, played by up-and-coming actor John Lazar. In a role that most actors would either kill for or run screaming from, Lazar simply was too far ahead of his time to be taken seriously, and BVD basically killed his career. He didn’t work again until Meyer cast him as Sharon Kelly’s violent boyfriend in SUPERVIXENS, and still has yet to find another project worthy of his talents. Combining Shakespearean excess with the wild abandon of an actor desperate to make his mark in cinema history, Lazar succeeds in spades and creates one of the most original and unpredictable characters on celluloid, transforming from Phil Spector womanizing producer to homosexual predator to SuperWoman.
Harrison Page proved in his screen debut in VIXEN! that he was an incredible black actor with the range and power of Sidney Poitier, so it’s a real shame he would toil in supporting roles and TV guest appearances through most of his career. He’s not a really memorable part of the BVD stew, virtually outshone by the unstoppable John Lazar, but it’s great that Meyer gave him a shot at the big time by casting him here. Michael Blodgett built his career on playing pretty boys in beach movies and teenie-bopper epics, and was reportedly the closest to his character of the male cast members, obsessing over his looks and playing the gigolo to the hilt, sleeping with any woman who moved. He is the perfect stud of the era, with deep eyes and an impeccable figure seen in its almost full beauty as he appears in a Tarzan loincloth during the finale. One-shot wonder David Gurian is actually really good as Harris, the doomed manager of the Kelly Affair, but the film seems to foreshadow his disappearance from Hollywood. Maybe he wasn’t cut out for the cutthroat world of show business, because no one has managed to find him all these years after his only movie. Duncan McLeod, who had worked with Meyer earlier in FINDERS KEEPERS LOVERS WEEPERS and would make a career in playing sleazeballs in low-budget 1970s drive-in flicks, is the ultimate dirty old man as Porter Hall, the slimy legal advisor seduced and tossed aside by the money-hungry Kelly. His scene of learning to smoke pot is priceless, as are his reactions as Kelly awkwardly attempts to make love to him while her music blares from a turntable! Meyer favorite Charles Napier makes a bid for the big time as Aunt Susan’s love interest, a thankless role, and Henry Rowland makes the first of his many Meyer appearances as Nazi officer Martin Borrmann, masquerading as Z-Man’s butler Otto. Future blaxploitation star James Inglehart plays the Mohammad Ali copycat Randy Black, Stan Ross (the tattoo artist in WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA) pops up at Z-Man’s party, and look fast for Coleman Francis (one of the worst directors of all time, as a drunk), Russ Meyer as a TV cameraman, VIXEN! co-star Garth Pillsbury as an extra with a newspaper, and FINDERS KEEPERS LOVERS WEEPERS star Gordon Westcourt as a Johnny Carson impersonator!
The Carrie Nations should have been a real band! Even if one hasn’t seen the feature film, the would-be soundtrack album (though it doesn’t feature the original vocals of Lynn Carey) is one of the best never-was records of the new decade of the 1970’s. Make sense? Composer Stu Phillips’ five rock songs, “Find It”, “Come With the Gentle People”, “Sweet Talking Candy Man”, “In the Long Run”, and “Look On Up At the Bottom”, could easily have stormed the charts in 1970 if released as singles, and today have a special cult following aside from the film itself. The lead singer of unsung rock group Mama Lion, Carey possessed infectiously raucous vocals, a perfect blend of Janis Joplin and Mariska Veres with a hint of Judy Garland vulnerability. On-screen, Dolly Read lip-synchs like a pro, tearing into the songs with a passion, as if she herself is belting the lyrics, Marcia McBroom tries her damndest to play those drums, and Cynthia Myers actually looks like a professional guitarist, having learned the chords for authenticity’s sake. Everything about the Carrie Nations works, so it’s unfortunate that when the soundtrack album came out, Carey was replaced by session singer Amii Rushes. Thankfully a recent CD release restores all but one of Carey’s original vocal performances (“In the Long Run” is still missing).
For the first official DVD release of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, there is not one damn thing wrong with the audio/video quality here. Apparently the anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 transfer was culled from the original film negative, so colors are bold and brassy, especially during the gel-lit beauty of SuperWoman’s pot party. Skintones are accurate, there is absolutely no grain or print damage whatsoever, blacks are solid and deep, and every color jumps off the screen. The two English audio options (mono or stereo) deliver all of the quotable dialogue splendidly and the exceptional soundtrack whirls around you like a whirling dervish. Trying not to sound too sentimental or over-the-top, I was so overjoyed watching this perfect presentation of my favorite film of all time that tears welled up in my eyes as I blasted “Look On Up at the Bottom” through my television set, as Meyer’s pre-MTV editing, contrasting Z-Man and Harris’ scowling expressions with the Carrie Nations rocking out, in crystal clarity, was projected on the screen. I had feared the day would never come that BVD would appear this way for the fans to treasure for years to come. There will never be a better home video version of BVD, so lay back and soak it all in. It’s a real stone gas! The disc menus themselves are worthy of note, animated and using clips from the film paired with the bloody brilliant harpsichord piece from Ashley’s stalking of Harris, and reflective of the delirious joy found in the feature.
The first disc, containing the movie in all its digitally remastered glory, also houses two wildly different audio commentaries. Screenwriter Roger Ebert recorded the first commentary a couple of years ago in anticipation of a DVD release by the Criterion Collection, as Internet rumor had it. He discusses his introduction to Russ Meyer, how he came into contact with him via Ebert’s positive newspaper reviews, the genesis of the project that would become BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and how it started as an official sequel to the original VALLEY, working with Meyer and being a part of his creative process, memories of the casting, influences on the script and leftover elements from Jacqueline Susann’s abandoned script, the actors not being let on that the film is a comedy, and plenty of great stories about Fox and its strange behavior towards Meyer and Co. Ebert also remembers to add context to the importance of an exploitation filmmaker being given carte blanche by a major Hollywood studio, adding background of the sexploitation genre Meyer helped pioneer and his influence on future filmmakers. Like his excellent commentary on CITIZEN KANE, Ebert’s commentary is culled from extensive prepared notes and sounds almost recited, so those anticipating a spontaneous reaction to the on-screen shenanigans will be disappointed, but it is refreshing to hear a professional approach and appreciation of the film from its second key creator. BVD may be the only exploitation film written by a future Pulitzer Prize winner, and while Ebert has been lambasted by many people who consider the film a “skeleton in his closet”, including his long-time TV co-host Gene Siskel, he has never displayed any shame over his first film script. He has hailed his Russ Meyer freak flag for years and discusses his work on this film with great pride.
The second commentary reunites cast members Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Erica Gavin, Harrison Page, and John Lazar. Not a lot of technical information to be gleaned here, but juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits like who was sleeping with whom, rehearsing the musical scenes, and Meyer’s directorial style mix well with musing about favorite lines, the whereabouts of the rest of the cast, and marveling over the visual appeal of the film. In addition to the BVD discussion, Read and Myers both recall their days in Playboy magazine and Gavin discusses how she met Meyer and Page joins her in remembering tidbits about the shooting of VIXEN! Marcia McBroom, originally scheduled to join her co-stars, was grounded in New York City by a blizzard, unfortunately, but the five actors present more than make up for her absence. The only participant who sounds almost petulant to be there is John Lazar, actively goading his fellow commentators and basically being outspoken and given a hard time by Page and Gavin. In fact, Page asks at one point in complete seriousness, “Are you on drugs??” Could they be joking…? He does come around and gel with the rest of the group after about an hour, but until then, it’s kind of uncomfortable… Lazar does dig up some nice dirt during a moment where Read appears on-screen wearing the late Sharon Tate’s dress on-camera, and of course there are some biting comments about the former Mrs. Meyer. In keeping with the ridiculous NC-17 rating applied to BVD, this commentary also contains some saucy language, courtesy of Lazar and Gavin. Gavin’s memory of Meyer screaming during shooting, “Don’t blink!” is especially funny, and it’s incredible to hear Read and Myers attempt to sing “Look On Up” all these years later, as well as hearing Lazar and Page try to coax Myers and Gavin re-enact their lesbian love scene. All in all it’s not the perfect cast commentary, as there are a few too many dead spots and moments of simply watching the movie, but if you want to know what it’s like to watch the movie surrounded by the film’s stars, this is a recommended listen.
Yes, Virginia, a second disc’s worth of extras commemorate this film’s debut on DVD! Beginning with a brief, campy introduction by John Lazar, in character as Z-Man, a series of five featurettes cover just about all aspects of production a fan could hope for! “Above, Beneath, and Beyond the Valley” is the meatiest of the quintet, at 30 minutes, and following an intro to the history of Russ Meyer and his singular brand of cinema, covers his introduction to the hopelessly out-of-date 20th-Century Fox desperate for a youth-oriented hit and offers insight into the many trials and tribulations in making BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. Interviews with screenwriter Roger Ebert, production assistants Stan Berkowitz and Manny Diez, Russ Meyer biographer Jimmy McDonough, editor Dann Cahn, cinematographer Fred Koenekamp, actors Harrison Page, John Lazar, Erica Gavin, Dolly Read Martin, Cynthia Myers, Michael Blodgett, and Marcia McBroom, Newsweek critic David Ansen, Village Voice critic Michael Musto, and Onion writer Nathan Rabin. All offer varying accounts of the man, each unique in providing memories or analysis of the man and his classic film. While it’s great to hear from just about all of the major cast members, some of the most valuable anecdotes come from the surviving crew members, discussing the technical flourish of the film and Meyer’s particular vision. Who would think that Oscar-winning cinematographer Fred Koenekamp would deign to discuss his work on BVD, a film he was assigned to after shooting the much higher-brow PATTON? But he’s here, and it’s invaluable to hear from the man responsible for much of the polished, slick look of the finished film. The cast will get their chance to really shine in the other featurettes, but this particular documentary offers the really juicy info for those craving stories of Meyer let loose in Hollywood and creating his masterpiece. Analysis of the film, its attack and/or spotlight on social mores (i.e., the portrayal of a black couple, the 20th-Century Fox theme over a beheading), and its being ahead of its time provides for good discussion, too.
“Look On Up At the Bottom” is dedicated to talking about the incredible music in the film, from the Carrie Nations to the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Actors Read, McBroom, and Myers return, as does screenwriter Ebert and writer Rabin, but new to the supplements are singer Lynn Carey, composer Stu Phillips, music supervisor Igo Kantor, Red Kross band members Jeff and Steve McDonald, Pansy Division band member Christopher Freeman, Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist/vocalist Paul Marshall, PULP FICTION music consultant Chuck Kelley, and DESPERATE TEENAGE LOVEDOLLS director Dave Markey (!). Red Kross did a cover version of “Look On Up at the Bottom” and drag band Pansy Division covered “Sweet Talking Candy Man”, which is why they’re here, and it’s great to see modern bands realize the excellence of the Carrie Nations. Markey is an interesting choice for an interview, and it’s obvious BVD influenced his low-budget 1980s take-off LOVEDOLLS. Kelley has the sexy geek look down perfect, and considering he worked on one of the best retro soundtracks of the 1990s, knows his stuff. Phillips discusses the strenuous schedule of rehearsing with the girls and helping them mimic the instruments and lip-synch to Carey’s vocals, as well as his musical influences on the soundtrack and producing a score to fit Meyer’s visuals. Carey reveals she was offered a part in the film but declined in favor of working on the soundtrack. The three Carrie Nations all really loved working on the musical segments of the film; Read gushes at living out one of her childhood fantasies of being a rock star, Myers waxes nostalgic on learning the chords herself for her guitar close-ups, and McBroom relates a hilarious story of bands asking her to play on drums in sets with them after the movie came out, as well as explaining who Carrie Nation was. Thankfully session singer Amii Rushes is completely glossed over, as discussion of the botched soundtrack album featuring Carey’s vocals reminds us of that tragic decision and Phillips expresses his discontent at having to train a complete unknown to copy Carey for the re-recording sessions. Not mentioned, however, is the presence of late great Peanut Butter Conspiracy songbird Sandi Robinson as one of Carey’s back-up singers, who can be heard on both the film and LP versions of the songs. There is also coverage of the underrated instrumental score to the film, filled with heavy horns and mixing classical, jazz, and muzak, and of course everyone forgets the Strawberry Alarm Clock performed two non-hit songs alongside their “Incense and Peppermints.” Interestingly, lead singer Paul Marshall didn’t even sing “Incense”, it was performed by one-time singer Chris Mumford, yet Marshall lip-synchs to it in the film. Thankfully everyone completely ignores the cheesy Sandpipers title theme song, the most dated and skip-worthy track on the soundtrack.
“Best of the Beyond” is dedicated to the actors, with Read, McBroom, Myers, Lazar, Gavin, Page, and Blodgett returning to talk about their favorite memories of the film (critic Musto and artist Coop appear to reiterate how much fun the film is, as well as Ebert to recall his surprise at the beheading). Split into segments revealing the actors’ individual memories and picks for Best Breasts, Best Line, Best Kiss, etc., it’s great to see these actors reflect on a film over 35 years old with great affection. All three of the Carrie Nations have aged beautifully, and not to slight the participation of Myers and Read, but it’s a special treat to see McBroom, long out of the public eye, discussing her memories of the film. McBroom would have the longest acting career of the trio, yet has remained the most obscure, probably because she returned to New York after braving it in Hollywood and retreated to the stage. Gavin has really gone through Hell and back, so it’s good to see her appearing on-camera, with a radiant smile and a great sense of humor. Lazar, who sounded sort of inhibited and unwelcome on the cast commentary, is really allowed to breath in featurette form, on his own and allowed to speak his mind. A whole featurette dedicated to only him would have been wonderful. Page looks maybe better than he did in the 1960s, and it’s still a damn shame that he isn’t more prominent in Hollywood. Blodgett, with long white hair, discovered a new career in writing, but it’s great to see that he can still look back on BVD without embarrassment. The only major cast members missing from the set aren’t present for good reasons: Edy Williams refuses to discuss her Russ Meyer days; Phyllis Davis is notoriously obscure, though she has made several surprise appearances at a GlamourCon or two; and good luck finding David Gurian!
“Sex, Drugs, Music and Murder” is the most meandering of the featurettes, in that it doesn’t really have a primary focus. It begins to commemorate the fairy tale world of the hippie movement (the same movement the film tears apart), then careens into macabre territory with coverage of the Manson Murders. All of the actors return to discuss how they were a part of the 1960s counterculture movement, and while discussing the Tate murders and their influence on the production, Carey tells a scary story of how she was to go out with Jay Sebring that night…! UCLA Professor Mary Corey offers historical context into the culture of the time, and Onion writer Rabin returns to offer the perspective of today’s audience. “Casey and Roxanne: The Love Scene” seems like a little love letter to the fans who affectionately recall the sensitive lesbian scenes between Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers. As Gavin eventually would discover her own sexuality and become predominantly a lesbian, looking back on the scene seems especially poignant for her, and Myers is all smiles as she sits with her co-star, revealing some chemistry between them even today. Fans should enjoy seeing the two lock lips again 35 years later. It should be noted upon watching these featurettes that the efforts of DOLLS savior Siouxzan Perry are felt completely throughout the disc. Perry has taken it upon herself to keep the memory of this gem alive, and has become the manager of most of the BVD alumni. Without her, there would have been no supplements!
The extras continue with Z-Man’s Party Favors. A 10-second teaser trailer, a frantically edited 2 ½ minute trailer, and a mouthwatering second trailer, clocking in at 2 minutes and compiled of behind-the-scenes footage from a photo session with Meyer photographing all the ladies in the cast, show how the film was advertised to 1970 audiences. Watch the photo session trailer for neat-o footage of Charles Napier dancing with the gals and real-life couple Cynthia Myers and Michael Blodgett lip-locking several times.
Unfortunately, all deleted scenes from the film have disappeared, but found in the Fox vaults were two screen tests shot before the film was cast. Screen Test #1 finds Cynthia Myers paired with Michael Blodgett, playing Kelly and Lance Rocke. Myers, who was cast as the more sensitive Casey, actually doesn’t do a bad job as Kelly, revealing a different side to her personality than Casey would allow. It’s obvious that Myers and Blodgett were an item, as they can’t keep their hands off each other. Screen Test #2 pairs Marcia McBroom and Harrison Page, also reading the same passage as the previous couple, and McBroom’s limitations as an actress are evident while Page excels as usual. A series of still galleries, heavy with behind-the-scenes photos, promotional stills, candid snapshots, posters and lobby cards, and glimpses at a few deleted sequences (including Harris raping Casey, Kelly as an old woman in a coffin, but none showing the Kelly Affair in a motel or Casey’s encounter with a lecherous producer), are the perfect eye candy and would provide for excellent desktop wallpaper. Every woman is photographed at the height of her beauty by Meyer himself! Even better, catch bonafide glimpses of Pam Grier AT THE PARTY! That’s right, the elusive blaxploitation legend who has been so hard to find in the finished film, is seen bursting from the seams of her gold macramé suit!
2006 is half-over and Fox’s lavish two-disc special edition of BVD has already stolen the title of Best DVD of the Year. Everything about this set is perfect, and not one DVD Drive-In reader should be without it. June 13, 2006 is a day that will go down in history for delivering an exceptional package of the greatest film Russ Meyer ever made, and a benchmark for any future special editions of any cult title. Mandatory!! (Casey Scott)
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