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Home » Culture and Criticism

Myra Breckinridge: Beyond the Valley of the Vidal

Submitted by on March 19, 2012 – 4:44 PM6 Comments

You could view Myra Breckinridge as a nervy meta-commentary on identity in Hollywood, on narrative recycling, on the tragic self-regard of the heroine of Sunset Boulevard, on the rejections of the aged and the outlier. You would have to squint so hard that your very skull would crack and craze like pottery glaze, but it's possible, and certainly the film itself would like you to view it that way.

Unfortunately, the film itself — a fantasia, you might generously call it, on the revenge of transwoman Myra Breckinridge (Raquel Welch, post-op) against…things? — is also every bit as misguided and deficient as you've heard. If it achieves insight into anything I've listed in the previous graf (or anything else), it's accidental; the clips from older films frantically interspersed as punchlines underline points that didn't need making at all, much less twice. It's like mixing prints in an outfit: it's doable, but you can't just throw anything on. You have to have a coordinating color, a through-line; otherwise, bag lady.

The attempts to shock (or, more cynically, to show The Kids that the studios Get It) land as quaint attention-whoring today, and may not have seemed much more with-it at the time. The few gasps give way to yawns, thanks to confused editing and a Head-like conflict between trying much too hard and not knowing what is being tried in the first place; first and foremost, it's boring. Calvin Lockhart as Irving Amadeus has a few classic line deliveries ("caaarelesssssss") from the depths of a nasty stereotype that isn't sure if it's satire, and there's an Esther Williams-y banana line at some point. As a guided tour of vintage jewelry and signage, it's of mild interest. Myra giving her pre-op fantasy alter ego, Myron (Rex Reed), a beej while Farrah Fawcett is baby-talking about sexy foods is, believe it or not, of no interest, unless you have a Tumblr about Reed's nipples. (Please do not have that. Thanks.)

No doubt a barrel — or at least a shallow saucer — of laughs when viewed among a peanut gallery; a pointless trial otherwise. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is just as weird, dated, and cynical about "today's youth," but so much more fun and with better outfits.

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  • Crass says:

    My husband and I did a marathon trawl through the fifty worst movies of all time, inclusive of "Myra Breckenridge" and "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls". I'll have you know I've danced to records by The Strawberry Alarm Clock.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    "You don't want flammable tits, now do you?"

    Who woulda thought transsexuality would become old hat, to the point that it's the least shocking part of this film?

  • Another Elizabeth says:

    Crass, you shut your mouth. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a goddamn masterpiece.

    (I go to a 24-hour B-movie festival every year. Whatever list of the worst movies ever has BVD on it is a bad list.)

  • Crass says:

    I agree that it's a helluva lot of fun!

  • Georgia says:

    @Another Elizabeth, the 24-hour B-movie-festival wouldn't happen to be Shockorama-A-Go-Go, would it?

  • Kristin says:

    Dear God, a Tumblr of Rex Reed's nipples. I now need therapy, stat.

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