• Pretty Maids All In A Row



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 10/12/2010
    Director: Roger Vadim
    Cast: Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, John David Carson, Roddy McDowell, Keenan Wynn, James Doohan
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    The soothing sounds of seventies soft rock icons The Carpenters opens up Roger Vadim’s film based on Gene Roddenberry’s screenplay, in turn based off of a novel by Francis Pollini. Produced by MGM in 1971, the film is based around a high school in California where some rather strange things are going on. A student named Ponce de Leon Harper (John David Carson) can’t stop thinking about sex and is having difficulties with his overactive libido and is prone to sprouting wood at the first sign of female anatomy, covered or otherwise. This matter is made worse when he meets his new substitute teacher, Miss Smith (Angie Dickinson), a beautiful and caring woman with an amazing body.

    When Ponce gets aroused in class and excuses himself to go to the restroom, he finds the dead body of a female student. After reporting it to the school principal (Roddy McDowell), who fondly remembers the deceased as a ‘fine young cheerleader,’ the cops are called in, lead by the local sheriff (Keenan Wynn) and Captain Sam Surcher (Telly Savalas). While the cops are trying to figure out who the killer is before he strikes again, the philandering guidance counselor/football coach, Tiger McDrew (Rock Hudson) is trying to convince Ms. Smith to help Ponce with his problems all while screwing as many nubile young female students as he can.

    It’s a happy day when murder mysteries and sex comedies collide, because at least with the film in question, the results are pleasingly loopy. Vadim’s first film made within the confines of the Hollywood machine is an odd one, uneven in tone, mixing copious female nudity with a pointless and at times almost plotless narrative. The film is about as subtle as a slap to the face. Case in point, a scene in which Ponce and Ms. Smith become entwined and crush a chocolate duck full of red liquor which, of course, winds up oozing between Ponce’s legs. Vadim’s film shows no affection for the free love generation, teaching us that those who show affection in such ways as the free spirited girls we see in abundance will find not the true love they seek, but death at the hands of their ideal mate. It’s all quite disjointed, but entertainingly so and it’s quite surprising to see marquee names in a film that is pretty blatantly an exploitation picture. Vadim’s obsession with filming naked ladies is more prominent than story here, but at least he does it well.

    Performance wise, Hudson is good as the older male lead. His charisma makes the ladies swoon and he’s able to play the comedic parts with a straight face. We can accept him in the part and understand why he’d attract the women he does and inspire the male students. Carson is fine as the younger male lead, unsure of himself at first but learning in Tiger’s footsteps, while Dickinson is cute, sexy, and warm in her part. A Supporting effort from Savalas can’t help but remind us of Kojack while James Doohan and Keenan Wynn round things out nicely. Look for Joy Bang as one of the ‘maids.’

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Pretty Maids All In A Row is presented in its original 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio demonstrating fairly good color in a decent progressive scan transfer. There's some mild print damage but given the film's age that's understandable, as is the softness that creeps up in certain scenes. The contrast levels look good, detail is stronger than you'd probably expect, and while there's a little bit of shimmer, this is otherwise a decent looking effort. The film has not been given any sort of restoration according to the Warner Archives website, but at least the elements used for this transfer appear to have been in pretty nice shape. It’s a bit grainy and spotty but overall, not a bad looking picture.

    The English language Dolby Digital Mono track is obviously limited in range but the dialogue is easy to understand and the levels are properly balanced. There aren't any recurring problems with hiss to complain aboutand generally the movie sounds alright, even the opening track from The Osmonds.

    This DVD-R features a plain, static menu and nothing else.

    The Final Word:

    A surprisingly sleazy film for a major studio production with an A-list cast, Pretty Maids All In A Row mixes sex, murder and high school in entertainingly inappropriate ways. It’s a mess of a movie when you stop to think about it too much, but it sure is an odd one, and Warner Archive’s widescreen release is a welcome one, even if it deserved fancier treatment than it receives here.