For Reel

Valley of the Dolls (1967)
November 21, 2016, 1:57 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mark Robson
3 Stars
valley-of-the-dollsThe longevity of Valley of the Dolls‘ status as a cult film undoubtedly has to do with its tonal incongruities—while one expects a cynical exposé about women in show-biz, the consistency with which it hurls its idiosyncrasies has a magnetic appeal. As a drama, the film is a slow, often ridiculous bore. But when Patty Duke shouts the show-stopping “It’s Impossible” number, dressed business-casual and framed by a backdrop of a cystic fibrosis telethon, the film at once revels in extravagance while humorously accompany the material with a decidedly deglamorized, ridiculous aesthetic. The effect is as startling as when, later in the film, a dramatic scene involves lines such as, “Boobies, boobies, boobies… nothin’ but boobies!” Directed by a 53-year-old and adapted for the screen by women older than that, the film is at peace with old Hollywood in its sincerity, yet the contrast between that very sincerity and the inherent discomfort of witnessing the film’s ludicrous hysterics suggests something closer to the experimental modes of storytelling to come to Hollywood in the late-60s. Valley of the Dolls is too pained and knowing to rank it alongside such naive exposés such as Reefer Madness, and yet its evocation of similar over-the-top dramatizations invites that sort of cult criticism. While many “bad” films fade away in memory, Valley of the Dolls has endured because it simultaneously plays as both heartfelt masterpiece and utter farce, ultimately too provocative to disregard as trash.

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