This was a TV movie produced by aaron Spelling that I guess was on sometime in the late 70s. I got it as part of the Fright Night bargain DVD boxed set, with 10 movies for $20, which also features God Told Me To, which is TOTALLY worth getting the set for. Those things are good to have around because then there’s always something to watch, no matter how horrid it is, and there’s usually at least one or two gems in every one. This is not really one of them, but it’s amusing enough.
The movie begins with a blonde woman driving a car as though she’s being chased. But she’s not… there’s nothing behind her. It goes on so long that you start to wonder if she’s just nuts. Then she finally makes it to her sister’s house. Her sister promised she’d be home, but is out at the store… which seems rather rude, as the woman on the run seems pretty hysterical, but who knows. Anyway, soon the first woman is dead.
The sister who was out shopping, Elizabeth, doesn’t believe that her sister would have committed suicide, so she decides to check in at the academy where he was going to school. If she were so fucking concerned you’d think she could manage to be home when her obviously WAY upset sister arrives, but no. This is never addressed. Anyway, the school is Salem Academy for Women. Get it? Salem? SALEM? I hope all the dark foreboding here is not being lost on you.
She is met upon arrival by a pre-Charlie’s Angel Kate Jackson, and two other instant friends, one of whom is played by Cheryl Ladd. They complain about the headmistress, whom they invariably call the “Dragon Lady,” and who we are soon introduced to. She is this older Lucille Ball-type with these high cheeks that really look like these bizarre pouches of flesh hanging off her eyes. She looks like that character with the big baggy cheeks from the end of Return of the Jedi. So Elizabeth is welcomed to the school and has to go to class.
Her first class is art, presided over by the handsome Mr. Clampett. All of the girls apparently have crushes on him. He espouses this hippie attitude towards the wonders of art, telling the women that “they have to let their minds hang loose.” Then, after going on about how they have to open themselves and accept all different forms of personal expression, he mercilessly rips apart their paintings as being inadequate! Elizabeth sees a painting of her dead sister looking terrified in some old basement.
After this is psychology, where a number of white rats are running abound a maze. The teacher here, Professor Delacroix [played by Lloyd Bochner, yes, Hart Bochner’s father!], is this darkly handsome dominant jerk with a mustache, and he also belittles the women. These two seems to comprise the entire faculty of the school.
Soon the plucky Elizabeth is creeping around the basement of the school with a lantern, looking for the evil room she saw in the painting. And this is where it begins to be very apparent that this is a TV movie, as it has ALL sorts of time to waste. We see Elizabeth leave her room, go to the art room, get the painting, go back, go downstairs, look all around… and it’s like, couldn’t we, you know, edit this down a little? This tendency continues throughout the movie.
Anyway, it seems that some dark force is making the girls kill themselves, and the other girls are terrified to talk about what’s going on. There is a lot of misdirection over who are the evil ones, but when it’s revealed, it’s not really a surprise.
Turns out that the handsome art teacher is actually Satan. Dang it, isn’t that always the way! It seems that many moons ago a bunch of witches were hung in that evil basement room, and now the art teacher is recruiting women to… I’m not really sure what. It may be that I was just too tired, but I think in reality the whole vision of the movie is unclear.
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Anyway, by the time it’s over, hurled lanterns explode like firebombs, there is the requisite big fire, and wouldn’t you know, Satan gets away at the end. Drat you Satan!
If you happen to own one of these boxed sets and have nothing to do, you could do worse than to watch this. If not, I think there’s no reason to seek it out. Unless, you know, you just really, really, really need to see the complete oeuvre of Kate Jackson.