Thursday, December 01, 2016

Valley of the Dolls 1967

Valley Of The Dolls 1967

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Criterion has restored this camp crap which I saw the other night. Maybe they got a grant from someone? Is there a Patty Duke foundation? How else to explain the time and money that went into putting out this dud double disc that comes with a 32 full color booklet no less. The plot is ridiculous and stupid and is based on Jacqueline Susann’s ridiculous and stupid best seller. I suppose one can say that it’s a portrait of America as it was and looked in the middle of the 20th century, a time capsule of poop culture, but is that really enough.
                Here we have the cliché ridden story of 3 young women who want to make it big in show biz (a plot device and a staple of movies that has been around since the 1920’s) and in a matter of minutes they rise like a soufflé that will soon fall. It’s a brassy tale that is so rotten and tarnished that I sat there in shock and awe over what I was actually seeing parade and prance before me.
             Made by 20th Century Fox in their not so glory days with a cast that is more miss than hit and even though big bucks were spent it looks cheesy and cheap. Yes we can chuckle at the outlandish hair do’s and clothes, the art direction and decor and the garish color. The girls are played by Patty Duke who is channeling Judy Garland, more about that poor lady later, Barbara Parkins, dark haired and solemn who begins as a secretary in a law firm specializing in show biz, and who in a matter of minutes throws away her legal pad and becomes a top cosmetic company model, and Sharon Tate who is the looker showgirl with the boobies but without any talent who goes to Paris to make nudie movies.               
           Their romances are as troubled as they are, and bubble and burst quickly but there is a long running dull affair between Parkins and one of the partners of the law firm played by Paul Burke who is a bargain basement William Holden who’s first name is Lyon (lion) and their affair is the steady one in the film as if anyone cared including them. 
          Patty who is addled, addicted and troubled is as I said modeled after Garland who was actually cast in one of the leading roles as a tough Broadway musical star (think Ethel Merman) stayed around for about two minutes before she was fired taking all of her costumes with her that she wore in her final Broadway comeback at the Palace. Good for her.
             The extras have some very painful to watch out takes and costume tests in which Judy looks frail and sick. Susan Hayward took over the role and gave it her best bitch self, and does a Broadway number (Margaret Whiting does the actual singing) of a dreadful song called “I’ll Plant My Own Tree”, that has to be seen and heard to be believed and in what might be the most memorable and famous scene not only in this film but in all of campdom Susie tangles with Patty in the ladies room where Patty rips off her red wig and tosses it in the toilet. Classy.  
             Meanwhile drug and alcohol addicted Patty in what might be the worse performance in the history of cinema, has numerous breakdowns and outbursts with her final blast taking place at the end of the film where she grovels on the sidewalk in a back theatre alley screaming out curses and pleas to God that made my teeth hurt. Oh don’t worry there are many other cringe worthy stuff and nonsense to go around. It’s a richness of embarrassments, a perfect fuck you from Criterion and just in time for the holidays. Badly directed by Mark Robson who did some of the great Val Lewton RKO horror treats but then went on to Peyton Place and this deep valley of despair and dreck.  It does move I will give him that, but it’s also sloppy (Every time Barbara Parkins goes back home to her Norman Rockwell New England town its winter with snow making everything so picture perfect, what happened to spring?, and no one ages even though it is suppose to take place over years. There is also a sadness that hangs over the film because of the participation of the tragic Sharon Tate and what we know is waiting for her a few years later. The cinematography is by the great William Daniels who was Greta Garbo’s favorite cinematographer and is reduced to this, and there is the good theme song sung by the great Dionne Warwick. Cold comfort indeed.   The film is also homophobic with fag and queer slurs dropped all over the place which adds to the ugliness of the film but is still a favorite camp fest for gays and lesbians. Look for Richard Drefuss who  has a small uncredited role as a Broadway stage hand, also in the cast is Lee Grant looking embarrassed and cameos by Joey Bishop and George Jessel who looks like he had just died and was dug up for this appearance.  One of the ten worst films of the year, and maybe of all time. Oh the horror.   


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter