Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

This may very well be the kinkiest mainstream Hollywood movie ever made. Picture Rock Hudson as Coach Tiger McDrew, a playboy teacher sleeping with the female student body, killing the ones who threaten to expose him or cause him problems, hence the title “Pretty Maids All In A Row.” The Tiger is at least twenty years older than those he beds. Spotlight substitute teacher Betty Smith (Angie Dickinson) rubbing her boobs against those students who ignite her libido, ultimately deflowering one of Coach Tiger’s star players, Ponce de Leon Harper (John David Carson), not unlike the name “Fonzie” from TV’s “Happy Days,” causing him to be metamorphosed from a shy, timid teen, into the playboy of the western world.

Guess who’s in charge of the investigation into all the murders on and around campus? None other than Kojak (Telly Savalas), portraying Captain Sam Surcher, with a thing for his cigarette (in training for his later lollipop placebo). He is assisted in his search for the killer by Keenan Wynn as Chief John Poldaski, more a hindrance than a help. The straitlaced, prudish Mr. Proffer (Roddy McDowall) is in charge of the high school where mass slaughter is littering the campus with dead bodies. He naturally would like for it to stop. To emphasize the theme, Joy Bang has a bit part as Rita.

Those behind the camera are just as surprising. Self-proclaimed libertine director Roger Vadim, fresh from “Barberella,” starring his brother-in-law’s sister, Jane Fonda, makes sure the camera shots include as much cleavage and exposed skin as permitted in those halcyon days of 1971. Though based on a novel, Trekky Gene Roddenberry wrote the salacious script, even beaming up Scotty (James Doohan) for the role of Follo. Roddenberry served as producer as well. Trivia question: Name the one movie scored by the darlings of the establishment, The Osmonds? Right, “Pretty Maids All In A Row.” Actually, their version of “Chilly Winds” is not bad.

My wife and I saw this flick when it was first released in 1971 and found nothing outrageous about it. We watched it a second time recently and were surprised at how shocking it has become. Either the times have changed drastically or we have changed drastically (pobably both) since the days of the Flower Children. What is politically incorrect today was accepted by the viewers in that bygone era. The viewer will note that though the theme and philosophy seem deviant by today’s standards, there is almost no vulgar language used in the film. That cultural barrier had not yet been breached by Hollywood.

Obviously intended as black comedy at the time, “Pretty Maids All In A Row,” is certainly no “Dr. Strangelove,” nor was it meant to be. However the viewer labels this film, it is guaranteed to entertain and arouse the basic instincts. Enjoy it, even if you must call it a guilty pleasure.