Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 1st, 2016
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1970 (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), USA, 1971 (The Seven Minutes)
Director: Russ Meyer (Both Films)
Writers: Roger Ebert, Russ Meyer (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Richard Warren Lewis (The Seven Minutes)
Cast: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, Marcia McBroom, John Lazar, Michael Blodgett, David Gurian, Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Phyllis Elizabeth Davis, Harrison Page, Charles Napier, Lavelle Roby, Pam Grier (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Wayne Maunder, Marianne McAndrew, Philip Carey, Jay C. Flippen, Edy Williams, Lyle Bettger, John Carradine, Harold J. Stone, Tom Selleck, James Iglehart, John Sarno, Stanley Adams, Charles Napier, Wolfman Jack, Yvonne De Carlo, Uschi Digard (The Seven Minutes)
BluRay released: January 18th, 2016
Approximate running times: 110 minutes (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), 115 minutes (The Seven Minutes)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), 1.78:1 Anamorpic Widescren (The Seven Minutes)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Dolby Digital Mono English (The Seven Minutes)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Region 2 NTSC (The Seven Minutes)
Retail Price: £24.99
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Three friends form a rock band and head to Hollywood to finds fortune and fame. Somewhere along the way they lose sight of the dream and their decadent behavior nearly destroys them.
Beyond the Valleys of the Dolls was directed by Russ Meyers whose other notable films include, Vixen!, Supervixens, Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens. Key collaborators on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls include, composer Stu Phillips (‘The Monkees’, The Gay Deceivers), cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp (Patton, Billy Jack) and screenwriter Roger Ebert who is more known for his film criticism.
Throughout the history of cinema very few filmmakers have been given complete control of the films that they directed. That is unless the powers that be in Hollywood want you and at any cost. This is what happened with Russ Meyer when Fox came calling for him to make a sequel for Valley of the Dolls and what they ended up with is the most unique film to ever come out of Hollywood.
From its opening moments which play out over the credits this film quickly draws you into extraordinary satire which explores things like the entertainment industry, drugs, sex and decadent behavior. When discussing this film one of its greatest strengths are the characters which populate this film. They are well defined characters whom remain likable, despite the destruction they cause. Another strength of this film and more importantly its narrative is how the film’s concludes with voice over which explains the fate of each character.
From a production stand point there is not an area where this film does not excel and then some. Pacing is never an issue as the narrative moves along briskly from one shocking moment to the next. Visually every inch and frame is composed with the utmost care. And there is never a shortage of eye candy, with the visuals taking full advantage of the more than ample assets of the female cast members. Standout moments visually include, the love scene between Casey and Roxanne. And of course this film finale where a character named ‘Z-Man’ throws a party and things quickly go south when he has a bad trip. This scene also lingers on in one’s mind long after the film has ended because ‘Z-Man’ who is dressed up as wonder woman reveals that he has breasts.
Performance wise, the entire cast are all exceptional in their respective roles. With this film’s standout role coming from John Lazar in the role of Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell. Another performance of note is Cynthia Myers in the role of Casey. Out of three girls which make up the band The Carrie Nations, it is her character which goes through the most turmoil. Other recognizable cast members include, Phillis Elizabeth Davis (Terminal Island), Michael Blodgett (The Trip), Edy Williams (Chained Heat), Erica Gavin (Caged Heat) and Charles Napier (The Silence of the Lambs).
The Seven Minutes was directed by Russ Meyer who other notable films include, Lorna, Mudhoney, Motor Psycho and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Key collaborators on The Seven Minutes include, composer Stu Philips (‘The Monkees’, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and cinematographer Fred Mandl who worked primarily on television on shows like, ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Munsters’. The screenplay for the film was adapted from a novel of the same name that was written by Irving Wallace (The Prize).
Wanting to cash in the success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, 20th Century Fox once again re-teamed with Russ Meyers for The Seven Minutes. And where their previous collaboration allowed Meyers to create without any interference. When the time came to make his second Hollywood feature film. The powers that be decided to rein things in and the end result is the most sanitized film that Meyers ever directed.
Far too often filmmakers are judge by their previous output and when they release something that goes against what is expected from them. Case in point, Russ Meyers and The Seven Minutes a film that is long overdue for a reevaluation.
Content wise, the film actually bears many of the elements that one would want from a Russ Meyers film. Like buxom women, rapid fire editing and heaping helping of satire. Another strength of this film is its inventive cinematography. Which of course always ensures that they women in this film look amazing.
Some of this film’s more memorable moments include, a scene where a porno with a man in a gorilla is being filmed and subsequently raided by the police. Another standout moment includes a scene where Mike Barrett the lawyer representing the bookstore clerk tracks down in New York city the only person alive who has ever meet the author of The Seven Minutes, a drunken sailor named Sean O’Flanagan.
Performance wise one would be hard pressed to fault the enthusiastic performances from the entire cast. Also the cast features several recognizable faces like, Jay C. Flippen (The Killing), Yvonne De Carlo (‘The Munsters’), Edy Williams (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), Tom Selleck (Terminal Island, ‘Magnum, P.I.’) and John Carradine (Shock Waves) in the role of Sean O’Flanagan.
It is safe to say that in the hands of just about anyone but Russ Meyers that this film would have been a complete disaster. Fortunately, the good more than outweighs the bad. And the end result is a highly entertaining satire about censorship.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfer for this release was restored in 2k form a 35mm scope interpositive and a 35mm scope internegative for the textless optical sections. There are notable improvements when it comes to colors, black levels and image clarity. In motion this transfer looks amazing.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls comes with two audio options, LPCM mono mix in English and an isolated music & effects track also presented in LPCM mono. The audio sounds, clean, clear and balanced. And when it comes to the music in the film it sounds appropriately robust. Also included for this film are removable English SDH subtitles.
The Seven Minutes comes on a daul layer DVD and it is presented in an anamoprhic widescreen. The source for The Seven Minutes transfer was a 35mm print. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, details look crisp, black levels and shadow detail look consistently strong throughout. Also there are no issues with compression and edge enhancement is kept in check.
The Seven Minutes comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The audio is in very good shape as there are no issues with distortion or background noise. Also dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. And included for this film are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for disc one a dual layer Blu-Ray include, an introduction to the film with actor John Lazar (1 minute 27 seconds), a stills gallery section that is broken down into four section ‘Behind the Scenes’, ‘Cast Portraits’, ‘Film Stills’ and ‘Marketing Materials’, trailers (4 minutes 46 seconds), Screen Tests (7 minutes 36 seconds), an interview with actresses Cynthia Meyers and Erica Gavin titled ‘Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene’ (4 minutes 21 seconds), a documentary titled ‘Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley’ (30 minutes 3 seconds), a featurette titled ‘Look On UP at the Bottom’ (10 minutes 59 seconds), a featurette titled ‘Best of the Beyond’ (12 minutes 23 seconds), a featurette titled ‘Sex, Drugs. Music & Murder’ (7 minutes 35 seconds) and two audio commentaries – the first audio commentary with screenwriter / film critic Roger Ebert and the second audio commentary with ‘The Cast’ – Dolly Reed, Cynthia Meyers, Harrison Page, John Lazar and Erica Gavin.
For the extra titled ‘Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene’ Meyers and Gavin reminisce about their love scene.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley’ include, how Russ Meyer started as a photographer before making the transition directing, Meyers independence as a filmmaker, critical reaction to Meyer’s films, Meyers being approached by a major studio to make a film, Roger Ebert’s screenplay for Beyond the Valley of Dolls, the cast & the crew reminisce about working with Meyers and the initial audience reaction to the film.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Look On UP at the Bottom’ include, the music that appears in the film, the meaning behind the band’s name The Carrie Nations, preparing the actresses so they looked like they looked the part of the rock star, Lynn Carey helped in the writing of the songs and it is her voice that can be heard singing them in the film, Stu Phillips involvement with the music / film score, The Strawberry Alarm Clock and their appearance in the film and The Carrie Nations influence on female Rock bands.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Best of the Beyond’ include, favorite lines from the film, best breasts, best kiss, best death and what is was like to work with Russ Meyer.
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘Sex, Drugs. Music & Murder’ include, how subject matter like drugs and sexuality and the music from the film perfectly sums up the time when this film was made.
Topics discussed in the first audio commentary with Roger Ebert include, How this film was not a sequel to Valleys of the Dolls and why the film opens with a disclaimer about how Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is not connected to that aforementioned film, why Meyers choice him to write the screenplay, the cast, Meyers approach to making films and his cinema influences, Stu Phillips score for the film, the importance of original music in Meyers films, the state of 20th century Fox while they were making the film, Meyers quick cut editing, how Meyers was going to make a film with The Sex Pistol’s titled ‘Who Killed Bambi?’, how his films always featured strong female characters who were often predatory, the film’s finale, how the opening credits and finale are actually the same scene shot two different ways.
The second audio commentary track with the cast is a less formal discussion where they participants mostly comment on what is happening onscreen.
Extras on disc two a DVD include, a trailer The Seven Minutes (2 minutes 55 seconds) and The Sinister Image: Russ Meyer – an episode of David Del Valle’s television series (28 minutes 4 seconds).
Topics discussed in the extra titled ‘The Sinister Image: Russ Meyer’ include, Meyers work as a photographer, The Immoral Mr. Teas, Lorna, Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, Mudhoney and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible covert art option and forty-two-page booklet with cast & crew information for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and The Seven Minutes, an essay titled ‘Vixen’s at Fox’ written by Kat Ellinger, contemporary reviews for each film under the title ‘Good Bad Reviews’, Anne Billson’s interview with Russ Meyer from 1991 under the title ‘No More Spilling of the Vital Juices’, ‘I Was Glad To Do It!’ is a text piece written by David Del Valle that explains why a second episode of Sinister Image with Russ Meyer was not filmed and information the transfers. Overall another exceptional release from Arrow Video.
Note: This is a limited edition release (3000 copies only).
Screenshots from The Seven Minutes