American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
* Ebert's Note: "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," a movie for which I wrote the screenplay in 1969, has over the years become a cult film. Although it would not be appropriate for me to review it or give it a star rating, I offer the following observations written for Film Comment magazine on the occasion of the movie's 10th anniversary in 1980.
Remembered after 10 years, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" seems more and more like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum. At the time Russ Meyer and I were working on "BVD" I didn't really understand how unusual the project was. But in hindsight I can recognize that the conditions of its making were almost miraculous. An independent X-rated filmmaker and an inexperienced screenwriter were brought into a major studio and given carte blanche to turn out a satire of one of the studio's own hits. And "BVC" was made at a time when the studio's own fortunes were so low that the movie was seen almost fatalistically, as a gamble that none of the studio executives really wanted to think about, so that there was a minimum of supervision (or even cognizance) from the Front Office.
We wrote the screenplay in six weeks flat, laughing maniacally from time to time, and then the movie was made. Whatever its faults or virtues, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" is an original -- a satire of Hollywood conventions, genres, situations, dialogue, characters and success formulas, heavily overlaid with such shocking violence that some critics didn't know whether the movie "knew" it was a comedy.
Although Meyer had been signed to a three-picture deal by 20th Century-Fox, I wonder whether at some level he didn't suspect that "BVD" would be his best shot at employing all the resources of a big studio at the service of his own highly personal vision, his world of libidinous, simplistic creatures who inhabit a pop universe. Meyer wanted everything in the screenplay except the kitchen sink. The movie, he theorized, should simultaneously be a satire, a serious melodrama, a rock musical, a comedy, a violent exploitation picture, a skin flick and a moralistic expose (so soon after the Sharon Tate murders) of what the opening crawl called "the oft-times nightmarish world of Show Business."