Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sparkle, Neely! Sparkle!

Following up on the
preview notice I posted last week, regarding the LONG AWAITED 'authorized' release of "Valley of the Dolls" and "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," this will be the first of two parts, focusing on the beloved (yes BELOVED!) original.

Firstly, it comes beautifully (yes, beautifully!) packaged. It is a two disc set and includes a few program notes and a set of reproductions of lobby cards. Disc one is, of course the film, which features a REALLY GOOD print! I did not see any notes regarding a restoration, so I can only assume that this may be from the laserdisc, or perhaps the print that the laserdisc was made from. There were no noticeable artifacts and the blacks were pure. There is perhaps a lack af crytstalline quality, but I believe that is due mostly to the original film stock. (I am viewing it via a InFocus 750 projector, shooting at 96" diagonal.) It is, of course, presented in it's FULL aspect ratio. There are multiple options for sound: the original mono (which sounds fine, but...); stereo (which is MUCH PREFERRED over the mono); spanish mono; and of course, the commentary! Now, let's get into the STUFF!!

The Audio Commentary By Actress Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca is nice and juicy, when it needs to be. In fact, Casablanca tends to have a running commentary on their commentary that Fox is going to edit out some of the stuff they are talking about. Parkins voice is as silky smooth as it was FORTY years ago! She is fairly frank in her commentary, though you do feel when Casablanca has reached one of her boundaries. Overall, though, she is great to listen to and provides a nice amount of trivia, some of which is also covered in the featurettes.

There is an additional subtitle track that pops up with trivia notes that go beyond the making of the film and into the careers of those attached to it. It is sort of like 'pop-up video' however, it appears discreetly at the bottom of the screen, right under the letterbox.

“Gotta Get Off This Merry Go-Round: Sex, Dolls And Showtunes” a documentary that profiles the cultural phenomenon that 'Valley of the Dolls' can be considered to be: including the book, film, stage production and television remakes. The majority of the interviewees are from the Los Angeles Theater-A-Go-Go, which produced an apparently enormously popular stage version, starring Jackie Beat as 'Helen Lawson.' Frankly, I am not a big Jackie Beat fan, so when she is referred to as one of the 'world's great drag queens' well... I don't think so. Anyway, Barbara Parkins appears on camera looking just lovely! She doesn't add anything that she didn't cover in the commentary. Michael Musto and other cultural critics are on hand to shed light on the later incarnations of 'The Dolls' on television - as both a made for tv movie AND a late night series, neither of which I was aware of! This documentary wanders farther off from the film than I personally have an interest in. However, for true fans of the book and its various incarnations, it'll be devoured!

True Jacqueline Susann fans will eat up the 'archive featurettes': "Jacqueline Susann and Valley of the Dolls", “The Divine Ms. Susann” and "Valley of the Dolls - A World Premiere Voyage". The first appears to be a transfer from a REALLY OLD videotape! The quality is fair to poor, but it offers a lot of info for the die hard fan. (However, it is a studio publicity documentary, which means that Ms. Susann was not allowed to air her grievances about the film.) "The Divine Ms. Susann" is a profile piece. "Valley of the Dolls - A World Premiere Voyage" is perhaps the strangest of the extras included in this set. Army Archerd co-hosts a film about the Princess Cruise on which 'The Dolls' had its world premiere. I say it is odd in that it focusses more on the cruise than the film, but it is an archival sample of how far the studios can go for publicity.

“Hollywood Backstories: Valley Of The Dolls” appears to be an E! Network profile of the film, which doesn't include any new information that doesn't already appear elsewhere on the set. However, it does feature an interview with Patty Duke, which proves quite interesting. Overall, it serves as a 'Cliff Notes' version of all the major trivia surrounding the film.

"Screen Tests" are the under-publicized gem of this set! In this set of a half dozen screen tests, you get to see how talented Barbara Parkins and, particularly, Sharon Tate were! They deliver scenes that work better than the finished product. A fact that is not lost on Ms. Parkins in her commentary. It is here that you see how hard Mark Robson must have pushed his cast into campy hell. Sharon Tate's tests are simple, authentic and rather touching, compared to the stiff and overdone final product.

“Pill Pop-Up Karaoke” lets you follow 'The Bouncing Doll On Three Songs!' And you know what? It's sort of a hoot!

The Motion Picture Soundtrack is featured on its own page. There are also still galleries which I generally don't delve into.

Overall, this may be MORE than one could have asked for! Disc one is worth the price of the set. The "Screen Tests" on disc two make the set a MUST-HAVE!

Go. Buy. It!

Tomorrow: "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"!!


Anonymous said...

damn miss blodgett.

you make it sound good enough to eat:)

JimmyD said...

Why have I never heard of this film before?

Jay, the Angry Little Man said...

You have lived in a cultural Gulag for the past 7 years.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm convinced I have to have it. " come crawling back to Broadway, but Broadway doesn't go for pills and booze." Loved the picture of Jackie and Judy!

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