"Evil Breeds Evil, Honey....."
A wonderfully lurid example of just far you could push a PG rating (or as in this case the short-lived GP) in the 70's with a boatload of familiar TV faces and film noir icon Gloria Grahame along for the ride.
Mrs. Deere runs her orphanage (populated it seems by all older “teenagers”) with an Ilsa like psychotic iron hand despising punishment such as starvation and chaining up her charges in the attic for minor infractions. Plus whenever one of them attempts to escape handyman Tom hunts them down with a meat cleaver whereupon their corpses are kept in a handy basement walk in freezer so that they may be taken out periodically to fill up a fake infirmary to keep the headcount accurate (and the money coming in). No problem with the county welfare agent Mr. Mullins as Mrs. Deere keeps him occupied with some hanky panky whenever he shows up for an inspection and to top it all off she even keeps the body of her deceased wheelchair bound husband hanging around in the basement so she can periodically talk to him.
Arriving at the orphanage a miniskirt clad Ellie is introduced to the various other “kids” including jail bait seductress Bunch (the very pretty Terri Messina), resident hunk Walter (Ronald Taft) who gets all the girls hot & bothered by spending almost the entire movie shirtless (which leads to a pretty nifty cat fight between Bunch & Ellie at one point) and nice guy/ nominal hero Pete (a young Dennis Christopher). Not responding too well to chores and Mrs. Deere’s ideas of discipline (not to mention an attempted rape by handyman Tom) Ellie plans her escape while at the same time a flannel shirt wearing pasty faced zombie looking guy with a hammer is stalking around the orphanage.
Another wonderful little oddity from the 70’s, this has a constant undercurrent of creepy scuzziness pervading the storyline and a cast of truly repellent characters that either start out slimy or soon show their true colors.
Gloria Grahame (probably best known for The Big Heat & and as the town floozy who tries to steal Jimmy Stewart from Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life) is really excellent here playing an obviously crazy & demented person trying desperately to keep up a facade of sanity. Interestingly Melody Patterson’s dialogue in the opening scene in the hospital was dubbed by famed voice actress June Foray (The Flintstones & Rocky and Bullwinkle).
Scored with a sometimes overwrought bunch of library cues and shot mostly in the bright sunlight with garish colors (and 70’s day-glo red blood) by ace low budget cinematographer Paul Hipp (who shot TONS of exploitation stuff), this contains some interesting off kilter hand held camera work and surprisingly is director Phillip Gilbert’s only IMDB credit. Writer Gil Lasky also wrote the worth-a-look The Night God Screamed (also from 1971). Never released on home video (although owned by MGM evidently there’s some rights issues) this showed up during that wonderful time period a couple of years back when Netflix had slews of obscure stuff like this up for streaming (most of which has sadly disappeared).