Valley of the Dolls is a musical that way way ahead of its time. Based on the novel by Jacqueline Susann, the film tells the story of three aspiring actresses and their attempts at becoming stars. Sure, this is an age old tale, but it had not been told as bluntly an honestly until now. The film starts Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate as the actresses in question. Audiences must have been shocked upon going to the theater, as they were much more used to rags to riches musicals such as A Star is Bo…n instead of the brutally honest vision that Dolls presented.
The actresses in this film are mean-spirited, nasty, drug-addicted women who will stop at nothing to get where they want to be, and they don’t care what they have to do or who they have to step on to get there. As horrible as these women are, this Hollywood musical strips away all the glitz and glamor to bring the true story of what it takes to make it in show business. It is a groundbreaking film that was nominated for an Academy Award for its wonderful musical numbers. Both the beauty and the ugliness of the business are shown here, and the film completely took me by surprise.
Unfortunately, the re-mastered audio track is just not as great as it should be. Viewers have the option of listening in the original mono or the new stereo format, but both are fairly flat. The musical numbers are bright and clear, but the dialog is pretty low in the mix. The result is a track that requires the viewer to constantly make adjustments throughout the film, or be blown out of the room when the music starts.
It also seems to me that if you are going to go to the trouble to make an expanded mix of the soundtrack, you might as well take it all the way to 5.1. The stereo track is clearly better than the mono one, but unfortunately neither one is all that impressive.
While the re-mastered audio track is a bit of a disappointment, the results on the video side were much more impressive. There are some segments that are still dingy and filled with grain, but for the most part the film has a vibrancy that it probably didn’t even have on its original showing. Colors really “pop”, and blemishes are kept to a minimum. Grain is also not a problem, except for in those aforementioned problem segments. You can say what you want about the film, but the impressive quality of the transfer is undeniable.
Fans of this film will undoubtedly be impressed with the extensive collection of extras packed onto this 2-disc set. First up is a wonderful commentary by actress Barbara Parkins and E!‘s Ted Casablanca. This is one of those all-too-rare tracks that is both entertaining and very informative. Surprisingly, it’s Casablanca that runs the show, and he really just refers to Parkins for insight on certain issues. Luckily, Casablanca has the knowledge to back up all his chatting, and the result is a track that is actually quite wonderful.
Similarly, there is Trivia Overdose: A Pill-Popping Guide to Valley of the Dolls. This is a “pop-up video” style segment that showcases interesting facts about the film on screen in a text based format. I always enjoy it when discs offer this kind of extra, and this one is no exception.
Disc one also features a new documentary segment called “Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls and Showtunes”. This is a piece that really puts the film in its place historically, taking a look back at how unique this film was at the time. Of course now, every sorted detail of the lives of every celebrity is front page news. At the time, however, scandals really were scandals, and this documentary helps to put the times into perspective.
Of course, there is also the standard still galleries and excerpts from some of the screen tests. Also here is a karaoke track for the song You’ve Got Talent for those of you that wish to get all hopped up on barbiturates and booze and see for yourself what it’s really like to be a big star.
Disc two gets the three big documentary subjects. The Divine Ms. Susann is a featurette that tells the backstory of the novel’s author, Jacqueline Susann. The Dish on Dolls is a fun little extra that points out goofs and fun trivia from the film, which is something that I can honestly say I have never seen before. “Hollywood Backstories: “Valley of the Dolls” is an episode of the hour-long show that was originally broadcast on the Biography Channel.
Finally, we have two archival featurettes. The first is called “Valley of the Dolls: A World Premiere Voyage”, which is a television program that was broadcast as something of an infomercial to drive audiences to the theater. This is something of an oddity, and marketing buffs will undoubtedly be fascinated by this interesting and original marketing stunt. Finally, there is a featurette called Jacqueline Susann and the “Valley of the Dolls” which is a very poor quality television program that focuses more on the novel’s author. While the quality of this piece is so horrible, it almost gives it a certain charm unto itself. I hope that more studios are bold enough to add this kind of thing to their vintage film DVDs, despite the poor quality that they might be in.
I feel like I need to take a “doll” myself after all this added content! This is a truly packed double-disc set. I would easily have accepted this as a three-disc product, and the fact that they squeezed it on to two is a testament to Fox’s commitment to provide quality products to consumers without needlessly raising the retail price. This title should be the gold standard for two-disc DVD sets.
Even die-hard Valley of the Dolls fans (and you know who you are) will be pleased with this title. Sure, the audio was not all that I hoped it would be, and there are a couple very brief video problems, but the unbelievable number of extras here will put a smile on the face of all fans of this tale of what it really means to “make it” in Hollywood. It’s trashy and sleazy, but that’s just the facts. It’s like Showgirls for the 1970’s crowd… except with much better acting.
Special Features List
- Commentary by actress Barbara Parkins and E!’s Ted Casablanca
- New documentary “Gotta Get Off This Merry-Go-Round: Sex, Dolls and Showtunes”
- “The Divine Ms. Susann” featurette
- “Hollywood Backstories: Valley of the Dolls” featurette
- “Valley of the Dolls: A World Premiere Voyage” documentary
- “Jacqueline Susann and Valley of the Dolls” documentary
- Still galleries
- Trivia Overdose: A Pill-Popping Guide to Valley of the Dolls
- “You’ve Got Talent” Karaoke
- Star screen tests