According to Roger Ebert's audio commentary on the DVD, Russ Meyer was unaware that this film would get an X rating. Roger says that Russ would have added more nudity and sex to the film if he knew beforehand.
Budgeted at a modest $900,000 (approximately $4.5 million in 2005 dollars), the film grossed ten times the amount in the US market, qualifying it as a hit for the beleaguered 20th Century-Fox. Though tame by modern standards, "Dolls" was slapped with an "X" rating, and there was much negative publicity generated by the fact a major studio had allowed a "pornographer", Russ Meyer (labeled "King Leer" by the mainstream press at the time) to make a Hollywood film under its aegis. Grace Kelly, who was a member of the board of directors of Fox, was outraged and lobbied to have the studio's contract with Meyer terminated. After his next Fox film, The Seven Minutes (1971) flopped at the box office (possibly due to its LACK of nudity and titillation), the studio terminated its relationship with Meyer. He never made another film for a studio.
The outfit that Kelly borrows from her Aunt Susan to wear to the party at the beginning of the film is the one-piece pants suit that Sharon Tate wore in Valley of the Dolls (1967). Sharon wears it in the scene where she is watching Neely on television and Tony comes home to tell her (and sister Miriam) that the studio has dropped his option. Sharon is also wearing it (sans the metal link belt Kelly will add) in the photo on the cover of the Valley of the Dolls soundtrack LP.
Frequently touted as Pam Grier's film debut. She received an on-screen credit and a photo of her in a party scene was prominently featured in a 1970 Playboy layout on the film. Her role is very brief; she can't even be seen as an extra. Marcia McBroom was roommates with her at the time and got her a role when she was cast in the film.
Originally intended as a sequel to Valley of the Dolls (1967). Jacqueline Susann submitted a screenplay for a sequel, but when Fox found it unsatisfactory, their contract gave them the right to produce a separate version. Susann was reportedly so offended by the results that she threatened to sue 20th Century-Fox. As part of a settlement, Fox inserted the disclaimer "This is not a sequel to VALLEY OF THE DOLLS" in all advertising.
The Strawberry Alarm Clock did the soundtrack for this film. The band's only big hit "Incense and Peppermints" can be heard in the first party scene.
In an oft-seen publicity picture of the three female leads posing on a bed, Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers and Marcia McBroom wear the same outfits worn (respectively) by original Valley of the Dolls (1967) stars Sharon Tate, Patty Duke and Barbara Parkins in a similar bed publicity shot used in ads and the soundtrack album cover of the first film.
The character of Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell was based loosely on legendary record producer Phil Spector. While neither Russ Meyer nor Roger Ebert had ever met Spector, they were told by acquaintances of his that they'd caught his essence very well.
This title was released a week before 20th Century Fox's other X rated film Myra Breckinridge (1970).
Dolly Read wears a polka-dot lounge pants suit in the first party scene at Ronnie Z-Man's Malibu beach house that had been worn by Sharon Tate in the original Valley of the Dolls (1967) film. In the DVD commentary for this film, Dolly mentions this fact and that she had a crying fit--she did not wish to wear Sharon's old outfit as Sharon had already been murdered when the scene was being filmed.
This film is listed among The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book "The Official Razzie® Movie Guide".
According to screenwriter Roger Ebert, Z-Man's secret was not thought of until late in filming, and tacked on at the last minute. While fans feel that the film's dialogue hints at the secret, Ebert says it's only coincidence.
During the infamous final party held at Z-Man's Malibu beach house, the character Roxanne is wearing one of the "Catwoman" costumes from the old Batman (1966) TV series, while her girlfriend Casey is wearing one of Burt Ward's old Robin costumes from the same TV series.
The theme song was re-recorded by Josie Cotton and released on the CD 'Invasion Of The B-Girls'. Russ Meyer threatened to sue Cotton if she put any of his title songs on her CD, but he died before he could follow through. Josie says that she didn't mean to steal from Meyer, but that she is a fan and it was meant as an homage.
According to John Lazar (Z-Man), he originally didn't like the line "It's my happening and it freaks me out!" because he thought it was not "hip"enough.
John Waters called it "the funniest film ever made" in his first autobiography, "Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste."
The Criterion Collection had been trying to obtain the distribution rights from 20th Century Fox for a Blu-ray release for about a decade until Fox offered them a deal; if they wanted this film they also had to release Valley of the Dolls (1967) as part of the package deal. Both films received a Blu-ray release September 2016.
In some of the excised footage removed to avoid an X rating, there's a dream sequence with Kelly, wearing a Union Jack flag ensemble, where her dead mother (in a coffin) tells her to seek out her Aunt Susan. Dolly Read also played her mother using ageing effects makeup. Stills from this scene exist, as do stills from the motel room Kelly and the three others were sharing when she had this vision. There was also a scene in which Casey, who has decided to get into film acting, goes to an interview with a casting agent who is revealed to be a pervert who tries to get her onto the "casting couch", essentially sex for film work. As this footage has yet to be seen it has been considered lost.
After Russ Meyer saw that the film was slapped with an X rating (NC-17 today), he immediately wanted to re-edit the film to insert more sex and nudity but 20th Century Fox wanted to rush the film's release and get it to theatres quickly and did not allow him to do so.
When Ashley St. Ives talks about her latest porn film she states that "They've just banned my latest movie in Cincinnati!" which was a reference to the controversy surrounding the film Vixen! (1968) and being banned in Cincinnati.
Pam Grier originally had one line in the script. However when she delivered her line, she attempted a British accent and was not given a chance to do another take.
During a bedroom scene, Kelly wears the same flimsy red nightgown worn by heroines of at least two earlier Russ Meyer pictures (Vixen! (1968) and Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers! (1968)).
In the original script, the Susan Lake and Baxter Wolfe characters were called Anne Welles and Lyon Burke.
20th Century-Fox recycled costumes from several recent films in this film, including a Sharon Tate lounge pants suite worn by Dolly Read, a golden caftan worn by Anne Jackson in The Secret Life of an American Wife (1968) worn by Lavelle Roby and extras wearing cast-off costumes from Myra Breckinridge (1970).
According to Roger Ebert's audio commentary, Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell's pad was a set originally to be used in Myra Breckinridge (1970).