Exploring fright in black-and-white. It's enough to make your spine tingle!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Horror In Public: Satan's School For Girls (1973)

I've wanted to see Satan's School For Girls ever since I first heard the title.  I initially feared there was no way that the film could possibly live up to my expectations- and then I learned it was an Aaron Spelling production. I'm a child of the 90's and In Spelling I Trust. I will always love the man who was responsible for this:

And this:

And most importantly, this:

Yes, I love Tori. Deal with it.

Spelling doesn't disappoint with Satan's School For Girls, which boasts not one but TWO Charlie's Angels in its cast (Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd, credited here as "Cheryl Stoppelmoor".) The film is a 1973 Made For TV guilty pleasure. As you'd expect, this means there is little gore to be found here. But gore isn't everything and this underappreciated gem makes up for its lack of bloodshed with tons of creepy atmosphere.

                                               Cheryl and Kate in doll form

An extremely distressed Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) commits suicide after seemingly being pursued by something menacing. Her sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) is immediately skeptical and decides to enroll at Martha's boarding school, Satan's School For Girls Salem Academy for Women in the hope of discovering what led to her sister's death. She keeps her identity a secret from the students and immediately gets her Nancy Drew on. She takes classes like Behavioral Psychology with creepazoid Dr. Professor Delacroix, who is obsessed with lab rats and Art with sexy Dr. Clampett, whose lesson plans feel like Magic Eye puzzles. 'Member those?

                                     I could never see anything in these things.

Elizabeth makes friends with (future Angels) Roberta and Jody and with a weird chick named Debbie who paints a disturbing portrait of Martha in a creepy old cellar. When Elizabeth asks Debbie about the painting she appears afraid. Elizabeth later locates the cellar and conveniently there's a campus legend about eight Salem witches who were hanged in a cellar. Another suicide (Debbie's) leaves the students shaken and while investigating, Elizabeth discovers that most of the students at Salem seem to be orphans. Coincidence? Methinks not! Just as she thinks she's figured out who is behind the darkness at Salem Academy, she is betrayed by someone she trusted.

As I said, there's not much gore to be seen here- but the film manages to be effectively creepy due to the rather Gothic and claustrophobic atmosphere of the school. If you have any affection for Made for TV movies or the 70's you'll find much to enjoy here. Satan's School For Girls is campy without being too ridiculous and has solid performances by likeable actors. It's the kind of movie that is perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon. And honestly, it's worth it just for this face:

I haven't seen the remake but it stars Shannen Doherty and Kate Jackson plays the headmistress so it's definitely on my list. You can catch the original on youtube:


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