Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Doll House

Hey MST3K fans! Have you heard about the new podcast, Movie Sign with the Mads? Trace Beaulieu (Dr. F), Frank Conniff (TV's Frank) and Carolina Hidalgo (young standup) meet each week to discuss a movie or whatever they feel like. So some reason, they did an episode on Valley of the Dolls (1967), and, for our sins, we decided to watch it.

Although you've probably heard of it, or at least the Jacqueline Susann novel it's based on, you probably haven't seen it, nor had any desire to. But it was strangely enjoyable, and for all the reasons you'd expect. It's the story of three or four women and the men in their lives as they deal with show business and the big city.

Barbara Perkins comes to New York from her small Vermont home town to make it big, or at least to become a legal secretary. Her boss is agent Paul Burke, who manages aging Broadway broad Susan Hayward. Hayward is obnoxious and abrasive and gets Patty Duke kicked off the show for being too talented. The show also features a stacked chorus girl, Sharon Tate, who has to trade on her looks because her talent won't carry her. They find love, heartbreak, and sometimes, painkiller addiction.

Although this is all very cheesy, I did like Patty Duke's character, Neely. Although the part is probably inspired by Judy Garland, I got a bit of a Janis Joplin vibe from her (although in 1967, Janis was just taking off, and no one knew what her end would be). She wears a turtleneck and love beads, and sings with a certain ferocious attack. Her big number is pretty poppy, but seems to be in 7/8 time, which is pretty rad.

Also, she's the character who gets deepest into the pills, gets rehabbed, relapses, etc. Tate's character has a good arc, with tragedy after tragedy, culminating in a mastectomy that will surely wreck her burgeoning porn career. But she's kind of an afterthought. The voice-over viewpoint character is Perkins, and she's kind of boring.

Although the last scene (spoiler) where her boyfriend comes to see her and she walks out on him is a doozy: She walks out on him, but it's her house! She just walks away! Does he live there now? Where does she live?  In his apartment? Does he get her car too? So we are left with many questions.

If your question is "what are dolls, anyway?", I have answers. Although I'd never heard the expression, "dolls" are slang for pills, named after dolophine, a synthetic opioid now known as methadone, supposedly named after Adolph Hitler. And now you know... the rest of the story.

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