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. ... See full summary »
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>
Spanish director Narciso Ibanez Serrador was never happy with the marketing for the release of his first horror film, particularly in the United States, where it was released by AIP. It is understandable when the trailer is not very representative of the tone of the film. The trailer is more salacious, and hints at more kinetic horror than is actually delivered. However, this does not mean that the film fails. Far from it. In fact, the trailer does a disservice to this rather atmospheric, slow-burning story with horror elements, set in a French boarding school for naughty girls. Teresa (Cristina Galbo) is newly introduced to the school, and the tensions of hierarchy are established immediately, and this brooding sense illustrates itself in moments of sexual frustration, sadism and humiliation.
The school of corrective discipline is overseen by headmistress, Sra. Fourneau (Lili Palmer), whose son, Luis (John Moulder-Brown), lives a floor above the girls, but is known for his voyeurism - he often peeps whilst the girls shower (consequently, the girls shower in bathrobes). Fourneau is over-protective of Luis, and refers to the girls who come through the school as no good for him, too unsettled and dirty. You could indeed call Luis a Bates-in-waiting. As Teresa discovers, through gossip and hearsay, girls have been "escaping" because they need to see boys - their sexual urges too great to ignore. But as a love-struck girl, Isabelle (Maribel Martin), takes the advice of Luis to leave with him, she is murdered on her way to meet him, in a slow-motion, abstracted and balletic scene in the forests.
Whilst the finale's "twist" will be spotted instantly, this does not effect the impact of it, with its macabre, and chillingly sycophantic nature. It certainly plods often, particularly in the first half, but it instills a climbing sense of peculiarity. With the dynamic of the hierarchical systems in the school, suspects are everywhere, and it is the relationships, often signified with repressed sexuality, a deeply sadistic nature, the girls are often humiliated, and Fourneau seems to relish (much like her son) these voyeuristic-sadistic explorations, as non-conformist girls get beaten. The setting of a Gothic period piece lends itself to the ponderous repression, and makes the girls less accessible; the time of full coverage, their frocks thicker than a winter quilt.
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