Thursday, 7 April 2016

Interlude: Russ Meyer at Fox (1970-1971)

Don't worry, my next Russ Meyer review is on the way.

But first, some history.

After the blockbuster success of Vixen!, Meyer was offered a contract with Twentieth Century Fox. The big studio was in big trouble, and on the point of collapse.

Meyer came in, hired Roger Ebert(!) to write a script and together they came up with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). 

An insane 'sequel'/parody of Mark Robson's 1967 hit Valley of the Dolls,  Beyond made $20 million in the US alone and gained Meyer new critical flavour.

Meyer was at the height of his powers. And then he made The Seven Minutes (1971). 

A court room drama about censorship, The Seven Minutes was a big flop which saw Meyer leave Hollywood under a cloud. I have not seen The Seven Minutes in its entirety. It's very hard to find, but there are some extremely shoddy clips floating around Youtube. 

On the hand, I have seen Beyond, and it is one of the best comedies about Hollywood I have ever seen. 

It is the story of the Carrie Nations, an all-girl band who come to California seeking fame and fortune. Instead, they meet Z-Man (John LaZar), a Phil Spector-ish music producer, who takes over their lives and comes very close to destroying them. I have written about Z-Man before, but it is worth re-iterating just how awesome he is.

Bear in mind that have not even scratched the surface of the multitude of plot lines and characters the movie introduces (including rogue Nazi Martin Bormann as Z-Man's butler), BUT it is a testament to LaZar's performance that he manages to stand out. He is one of the highlights of the movie, and one of the most memorable characters in the Meyer rogues gallery.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls out on Blu-ray, if you want to check it out. I highly recommend it.

Postscript: The story of Russ Meyer's work and friendship with Roger Ebert will shortly (if reports are true) be turned into a feature film starring Will Ferrell as Meyer and Josh Gad (Frozen) as Ebert.

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