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Lilli Palmer owns and runs a school for wayward girls in France. Her absolute discipline has fostered a social order among the girls with rampant sex, lesbianism and torture the norm. Palmer also has an adolescent son (Moulder Brown) she tries to keep isolated from the young women lest he be tainted by sexual relations; She explains that he must wait for a girl "just like his mother". Meanwhile, girls are "running away" (being murdered) one by one, with their corpses and any evidence of their outcome not to be found. Beware cut versions; the film was shown back in the 70's on network TV chopped to only 76 minutes! Written by
Arthur Workman <email@example.com>
This rather rare film from the director of "Quien Puede Matar a un Niño" (better known as "Island of Death" or "Who could kill a child", see also my comment on that) tells an intriguing and uncomfortable story about sinister things happening in a French boarding school around 1900. The acting is thoroughly outstanding, especially by Lilli Palmer as the head of the school, and John Moulder-Brown, her seemingly weak teenage son.
It is said that this mix of classic and modern horror that undoubtedly was years ahead of its time was Dario Argento's inspiration for his own masterly "Suspiria", and although the two movies are quite different in style, this seems to be undoubtedly true. The creepy atmosphere of the school, the uncanny characters of the women in charge: it's all there already, only that Argento put the whole thing into a more extreme shape.
"La Residencia" is probably a little bit slow moving for today's standards, but no time is wasted: The careful development of the characters make the viewer involved in all characters very soon, so one really cares about them when they reach their grisly demise. The film's atmosphere is terrific, extremely creepy throughout the picture.
And there is also the topic of oppression: Palmer's character is leading the school relentlessly; she knows no mercy for girls that are disobedient. But the oppression also works (in a far more subtle way) towards her teenage son, who has learned to obey his mother a long time ago.
One more word about inspiration: It seems to be, without a doubt, Juan Piquer Simon too was inspired by some elements of "La Residencia" when he made his overtly gory chainsaw-killer-film "Pieces" ("Mil Gritos Tiene la Noche" in spanish), although you can't compare the two films.
This hard to find gem is highly recommended for all true fans of the horror film.
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