"VALLEY OF THE DOLLS: SPECIAL EDITION"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Barbara Parkins as ANNE WELLES
Patty Duke as NEELY O’HARA
Paul Burke as LYON BURKE
Sharon Tate as JENNIFER NORTH POLAR
Tony Scotti as TONY POLAR
Martin Milner as MEL ANDERSON
Charles Drake as KEVIN GILMORE
Alex Davion as TED CASABLANCA
Lee Grant as MIRIAM POLAR
Susan Hayward as HELEN LAWSON
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Mark Robson
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I was too young to see “Valley of the Dolls” when if first came out in the theaters. Come to think of it, I wasn’t even to be conceived until three years later. So, not even existing at this time, I’m at a loss to understand the era of the 60s.
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Even as a film buff, I fail to get the 60s at times. Show me any film from any other era and, while I may or may not like it, I can at least digest and understand it. However, the 60s is an enigma to me. There are some films that are great. Some that are not so great. But the 60s offers films to me that I just don’t understand. Examples of these quintessential films with 60s sensibilities include the original “Casino Royale” and “In Like Flint.”
After finally seeing “Valley of the Dolls,” I add it to this list.
“Valley of the Dolls” wasn’t just a theatrical hit, but a literary hit as well. It’s still one of the best selling books of all time, and it titillated a generation. The film, while reviled by author Jacqueline Susann, touched the people of the time.
I, however, just didn’t get it.
That’s probably because I grew up in an age when Hollywood starlets were constantly found embroiled in a world of sex and drugs. It’s because the subject matter of the film is not longer scandalous. Indeed, the scandals can sometimes be parlayed into positive marketing of a personality if it’s done by the right publicist.
“Valley of the Dolls” tells the story of three young, pretty and mostly unspoiled women who seek their dreams in the world of entertainment. Barbara Parkins is Anne Welles, a nice girl from New England who ends up one of the top fashion models. Patty Duke is Neely O’Hara, a cute girl from Pittsburgh who becomes a singing and acting sensation. Sharon Tate plays the doomed Jennifer, a beauty who knows she only has a body to her credit, and no talent. All three girls end up achieving their dreams, but falling into a downward spiral of drugs, scandal and sex.
It’s an okay premise, but it still is weighted down with so much of the 60s that I find it hard to relate. Vegas style lounge bars, live performances on telethons and Broadway shows with songs about planting trees make this film outside of my standard tastes.
The DVD double-disc set actually offers more interesting material than the film itself. The extended documentary “Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls And Showtunes” spends more time explaining the appeal to the film to drag queens and gay men (which leads me to believe my straightness may be the reason I didn’t like the movie) than talking about the film itself. Ultimately, I found this to be the most fascinating part of the show.
The two discs offer plenty of special features, including a pop-up trivia track and commentary by Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca. There’s god-awfully boring 60s television shows about the film and book, as well as multiple modern featurettes on the second disc. Other features include still galleries, a karaoke soundtrack and rare screen tests.
Throughout the special features, there’s some talk about remaking the movie for a modern audience. However, this is a crazy idea. The remake angle has been tried several times, most notably a TV movie in the 80s and a late-night soap in the 90s. Both resulted in absolute disasters.
My advice to 20th Century Fox is to leave well enough along. It’s a slice of 60s camp that is being sent up fine by the folks at Theater A-Go-Go and drag queens’ DVD players around the country. “Valley of the Dolls” is a film that reeks of the 60s, that belongs in the 60s. It won’t necessarily translate into the modern age outside of a spoof like “The Brady Bunch Movie” more than ten years ago.
Specifications: Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Spanish language track. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.