Saturday, January 25, 2014

70's T.V. Terror - SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS 1973

  Pre-Charlie's Angels Kate Jackson & Cheryl Ladd channel some Aleister Crowley in 70's made for T.V. terror with demonic horror & mayhem at a girl's school (and it's got Pamela Franklin) !!

"Evil is What They Teach at Satan's School For Girls"

     More 70’s TV fun where you’ve got the cute as heck Pamela Franklin (THE INNOCENTS & just a short time from THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) investigating some network approved “G” rated devil worshiping at a creepy girls school located in Salem (!) Mass. where future CHARLIE’S ANGELS Kate Jackson (bringing along her horror cred from DARK SHADOWS) & Cheryl Ladd are among the (maybe?) satanically immersed students, along with headmistress Jo Van Fleet. Sign me up!!

   One of the many post ROSEMARY’S BABY devil themed projects that perpetrated both theatre & T.V screens in the early 70’s, 1973’s SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS while being saddled with a lurid title that it (obviously) can’t live up to still manages to create some T.V. friendly creepiness & atmosphere. Plus anytime you’ve got Pamela Franklin, Kate Jackson, and Cheryl Ladd together in the same 70’s T.V. horror project the question becomes not if it should be watched – but WHEN! If this weren’t all enough everybody’s favorite red herring, the always reliable Lloyd Bochner, is lurking around as a creepy psych teacher.

    Premiering as an ABC Movie of the Week on Sept. 19 1973, we begin with frightened young Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) being pursued by an unseen presence before she runs into a house and seemingly commits suicide. Not buying the police explanation of an “unmotivated suicide” Martha’s sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) enrolls under a false name in The Salem (“Satan…”) Academy for Women, the private school Martha was attending and once there goes into full Nancy Drew mode (complete with Pamela sneaking around darkened hallways in her nightgown with an oil lamp).

   At the school she’s befriend by the seemingly helpful Roberta (Kate Jackson) and meets the very weird Debbie (Jamie-Smith Jackson), who has a creepy portrait she made of Martha (posing in the VERY creepy basement of the school) and refuses to talk about it. Also hanging around is fellow student Jody, played by Cheryl Ladd (here still going by Cheryl Stoppelmore) and Van Fleet’s somewhat nervous headmistress. The entire school curriculum seems to contain only two classes, with one being Dr. Delacroix’s (Bochner) bizzaro psychology class that consists of endless studies related to driving rats insane in a maze and an art class (taught by Roy Thinnes from THE INVADERS) where the students paint bad modernistic knock –offs (and attend after school wine tasting parties !).

    In her investigation Elizabeth discovers that as legend as it, eight witches were hung in the (very) creepy basement during the puritan days and when Debbie is discovered to have committed "suicide", along with a slowly going insane Jo Van Fleet and an oddball murder/drowning in a pond (perpetrated with large sticks !) - well, these all add up to some pretty nifty 70's T.V. horror. In addition there's a nice claustrophobic feel to the film along with a feeling of isolation (and Pamela does a good job with the whole "wondering dark halls with a lamp" thing).
   One of the fascinating things about 70's T.V. horror is that they all have such a deathly serious tone to them, with no humor or comic relief as all of the cast in SATAN'S SCHOOL read their lines with all the somber tones of a Shakespearean drama. Loyd Bochner does some of his patented scenery chewing and the rest of the cast does a surprisingly good job. Aaron Spelling produced this and I guess he remembered Cheryl and Kate down the road for CHARLIE'S ANGELS.
    This was remade in 2000 with Shannen Doherty, along with Kate Jackson as the headmistress.

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