This is a seemingly typical early 70’s American movie featuring many actors who were the mainstay of 70’s TV dramas… Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowall, Telly Savalas… Rock Hudson. It even feels like a made for TV movie in all but one very significant respect: there’s a little too much nudity. Naturally it’s pretty much all female and, with the notable exception of Angie Dickinson, all are supposed to be senior students at Oceanfront High School.
|John David Carson, the greats Roddy McDowall and Keenan Wynne,|
They are all preyed upon by Rock Hudson’s manipulative alpha male coach, who also has a beautiful wife back home (Barbara Leigh). The film never really explains why it is that he feels the need to dominate and exploit these women… only a half-coherent murmur about wanting to connect with them in the only way they would understand… He related to the boys through sports and the girls through sex: an arch comment on contemporary sexual stereotyping?
Now, I’m no expert on early 70’s sexuality and I appreciate that there’s humorous intent here, but this feels wrong-headed: I'm not entirely sure of the film's sincerity...
|Rock and Telly|
|Angie Dickinson and Rock try a little rom-com|
Maybe there was less of a hang up about this in 1970 - but then we’re hardly living in more enlightened times these days... Perhaps the shock come from those of us old enough to remember (or at least be aware of in my case) the feminist movement at the time.
Yet these women are not just exploited, some of them are killed and by an almost mindless and motiveless self-serving psychotic. One who may or may not escape to Rio in the end…
|John David Carson|
His torture is made even sweeter by the arrival of an attractive older teacher, Miss Betty Smith (played by the aforementioned Angie) who can’t help but add to his virgin woes. He escapes to the bathroom only to find the dead body of one of his fellow students… the murderer has left a cheery message on her panties…it’s not funny.
|Roddy McDowall and Telly Savalas|
Suspect number one rapidly emerges as “Tiger” McDrew (Rock Hudson) who seems to be systematically working his way through the female students under the guise of providing counselling and guidance. He coaches the football team as well as the young women: he seems to be in complete control of his environment and the people in it.
|Angie Dickinson and John David Carson|
Meanwhile young girls keep on being killed and stickered with off-hand messages. The detectives interview the senior pupils and they all seem sexualised, not that this cuts any ice with Surcher who has his eyes on the job. But there’s an implication that these young women are anxious for experience.
Gradually things unravel for Tiger as Ponce discovers a tape recording from one of his “maids”. Tiger would seem to have only one option and takes Ponce to a secluded part of the docks… he drives his car into the water and, in a last act of nobility appears to save the young man he had earmarked as his successor…
There’s a funeral but we’re left in no doubt that Tiger has flown and, from the look of his wife’s air ticket, they will be re-united in Brazil. But the ever vigilant Surcher spots the ticket and we know he will follow.
|Why Miss Smith...|
It’s an interesting film in spite of my reservations and very well acted by Dickinson - arguably the prettiest maid of them all and Savalas who is assured and just darned cool - Kojak was only a few years away. Savalas' believability contrasts sharply with the humour provided by Wynne and McDowall.
|Cool before Kojak...|
|Tiger explains his peculiar mentoring techniques...|
Dusty verdict: Back in the video box. If you must have the DVD it's available here.