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Sunday, June 25, 2006

DVD Review: Valley and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
reviewed by Matt Hinrichs

Valley of the Dolls and its non-sequel, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, serve as proof that good cheese ages well. One delivered its drama straight-faced and big-haired; the other was a jiggly in-joke blown up to gargantuan proportions. For their deluxe DVD editions, Fox Home Video has done an excellent job of packaging a pair of films that have had little more than a mid-level (but very enthusiastic) cult audience. Both remain unintentionally hilarious camp classics, for sure, but these DVDs also manage to place them within the context of the very different times they were made.

Take 1967's Valley of the Dolls, for instance. Jacqueline Susann's blockbuster dirty book lent itself well towards a deluxe screen adaption, a hoary old "three girls meet different fates" concept brought into the age of pills, booze and permissive sexual mores. What went wrong, then? Perhaps somebody should have told the screenwriters that passages which look good on paper don't necessarily translate well to the screen. Mark Robson's technically proficient but cold direction compounds the problem, resulting in a film that lacks emotional resonance. Issues of drug abuse, mental illness and abortion are dealt with on the same superficial terms as the chi chi fashions, sets and shellacked hairstyles. The resulting mishmash might appear dreadful, but really it's fascinatingly watchable. It might be Valley's biggest legacy that it stands as one of the few films that shows taboo situations while simultaneously being embalmed in a studio-shined veneer of its own outlandish datedness.

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:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/25/2006 Comments (0)
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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Classics Schmassics
The A.V. Club staff discusses Classic Movies Its Okay To Hate. Sadly, I've never seen The Shawshank Redemption, but at least this article makes me feel better about skipping it.
:: posted by Matt Hinrichs, 6/24/2006 Comments (0)
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

DVD Review: The Quiet Earth
The Quiet Earth is one of those movies I wasn't sure if I'd ever see on DVD. While it has somewhat of a cult following (especially in its home country of New Zealand), it has been relatively hard to find on VHS and Laserdisc and has gone largely unseen by anyone other than the most devoted science fiction film geeks. Thankfully, Anchor Bay got their hands on it and their new DVD release has exceeded my expectations Hopefully, it will cause people to rediscover the movie.

The film is one of the best last-man-on-earth movies (at least for the film's first act, more on that later) and stars Bruno Lawrence as the protaganist who awakes one day to find himself all alone, the result of a catastrophic science experiment that he had a part in (a not too subtle metaphor for nuclear armageddon).

The movie's first act is its strongest. In it, Lawrence begins to approach his dire situation reasonably, trying to determine what happened and broadcasting radio messages hoping to find other surviors. But he soon begins to descend into madness, culminating in perhaps the film's defining sequence, when he delivers a dictatorial speech to a group of cardboard cut-outs before storming in a chuch with a shot gun, promising to "shoot the kid" if God doesn't show himself.

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:: posted by Donald Melanson, 6/07/2006 Comments (2)
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Friday, June 02, 2006

Marilyn Monroe at 80

On the 80th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's birth, the San Francisco Chronicle offers some speculations on what her life may have been like had she not died young. Pretty funny. Actually, this reminded me of when Premiere magazine made a brilliant fake filmography of what Marilyn's career might have been had she continued working through the '80s. It followed a typical ex-sexpot's course, with Marilyn challenging herself with Joanne Woodward's role in The Stripper and, later on, slumming through Elizabeth Taylor's part in the Agatha Christie all-starrer The Mirror Crack'd.
:: posted by Matt Hinrichs, 6/02/2006 Comments (0)
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