Pretty Maids All in a Row (Roger Vadim / U.S., 1971):

The Osmonds chirrup over the title, which is tattooed, via zoom, on a coed's ass -- Roger Vadim lines his gals to sing "America the Beautiful" sweetly, a love letter from "an observer's point-of-view." The camera is positioned rigorously for the color of the high-schoolers' panties, a problem for the pubescent hero, John David Carson, nervously virginal and with stubborn erections; his teacher is Angie Dickinson in full bloom, he dashes to the bathroom to relieve his hard-on and finds a corpse sprawled in the next stall. The student body as derived from the sexual revolution and Lord Love a Duck, with Roddy McDowall (here graduated to the Principal's chair) nonplussed by the murder ("We have always kept our academic records so high!"); Telly Savalas sets up investigation on campus while Carson does his best to get seduced by Dickinson, the couple's awkward groping crushes a chocolate duck and the red liquor inside hemorrhages out for quite a stunning defloration gag. John Milton's "Paradise Lost" is posed against Bosch, Molière is imbued with a peace sign, Zabriskie Point's opening is briskly sent up; refined glue is needed to hold Gene Roddenberry's shredding jests together, and Vadim locates it in Rock Hudson's glance of fatigued amusement as the libertine coach. A Bluebeard jock, Hudson declares his "passion of living" to the flames of his living room fireplace (a Chabrolian goof) yet can't tell fucking from killing anymore -- the micro-skirted hippie nymphs pay with their lives for their sexuality, our laughter dissolves with the grimness under Vadim's epicurean spirit. A scalding satire and, all things considered, a remarkably fecund work: The story launched a thousand porno flicks, Carol J. Clover and Heathers benefited mightily from it, De Palma breezed through for Carrie and, in the process, took Dickinson with him. With Keenan Wynn, Barbara Leigh, James Doohan, William Campbell, Susan Tolsky, Gretchen Burrell, Aimée Eccles, and Joy Bang.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home