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Is “Pretty Maids All in a Row” the Weirdest Movie Hollywood Ever Made?

Is “Pretty Maids All in a Row” the Weirdest Movie Hollywood Ever Made? (photo)

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If you were outraged by those risque photos of the cast of “Glee” in GQ, I must warn you: never ever, watch “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” You know what? Don’t even read this piece. If you do, your brain might explode.

Somehow, the director of “Barbarella,” Roger Vadim, and the creator of “Star Trek,” Gene Roddenberry, got together in the early 1970s and made one of the weirdest movies ever released by a mainstream Hollywood studio (in this case MGM). Long out of circulation, with a reputation as one of the cultiest cult movies ever, it is finally available on DVD from the Warner Archive. And it is wild.

With “Pretty Maid”‘s creative pedigree, you might expect it to be science-fiction. Nope; Vadim and Roddenberry chose to collaborate on a mashup high school sex comedy and slasher film. The result is like watching someone try to make “American Pie” and “Scream” as one 90-minute movie. Boner jokes alternate with shots of dead bodies of nubile teenagers. The Osmonds sing the cheerful theme song right before a girl is discovered bent over a toilet in the men’s lavatory. Vadim and Roddenberry invite you to be aroused by their undeniably foxy cast — who peel off their clothes so quickly you’d swear they’re allergic to polyester — and then watch helplessly as they’re defiled by grabby older men and brutally murdered. Talk about having your cake! This movie lets you have the cake, then tells you it pissed in the cake and asks how it tastes.

Rock Hudson stars as Tiger McDrew, a California high school guidance counselor and football coach. He loves his family but he loves his job more, probably because his job requires him to privately administer IQ tests to the student body, a task he uses as an excuse to get many students’ bodies alone and naked in his locked sex pad office. Tiger claims he doesn’t “ball” all the female students in school, “just a few truly exceptional girls.” But here’s the thing. Vadim and Roddenberry’s conception of a Calfornia high school is like a less realistic version of Michael Bay’s conception of an Ivy League college in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”: Everyone looks “truly exceptional.” Vadim, a Frenchman making his first English language film, has a unique vision of American high school life in the 1970s, and it looks like an episode of “Kojak” written by the staff of “Penthouse Forum.”

You see, some of Tiger’s teenage conquests start showing up dead around school. The first body is discovered by Ponce (John David Carson), a protege of Tiger’s who comes to him for help with a sexual ailment: too many erections. To help Ponce with his problem, Tiger enlists a sexy substitute teacher named Miss Smith (Angie Dickinson) to tutor Ponce at her home. He doesn’t necessarily tell her to sleep with him, but then again he doesn’t tell her not to, either. Bawdy sex comedy scenes ensue; in one, Ponce’s spontaneous hard-on knocks over a serving tray resting on his lap. As Miss Smith bends down to pick it up, she comes head to head with Ponce’s little Leon. “Oh, isn’t that wonderful!” she swoons. Another cuts from Ponce and Miss Smith in an embrace to a shot of a lawn sprinkler spraying water everywhere.

So you have Ponce and Miss Smith fooling around while Tiger lavishes his illicit attentions on his pretty maids. Meanwhile, Telly Savalas shows up to investigate the murders and make insinuating remarks to Hudson while his partner James “Scotty” Doohan looks on. And despite the fact that he spends every waking minute shagging his students, Tiger also finds time to coach the school’s football team and lead them to the big game against a local rival. That is some fierce multitasking.

By any standard definition, “Pretty Maids All in a Row” is an awful movie. Its actual comedy is a lot less funny than the extremity of its sexism. And though the revelation of the murderer’s identity mitigates this theme to some degree, it’s still fundamentally a movie about the pleasures of statutory rape. But the sheer existence of a film like this, produced and distributed by a major (and majorly confused) Hollywood studio as an attempt to cater to the increasingly sophisticated tastes of the moviegoing public, is fascinating. No boardroom notes session or studio executive tampering could ever produce something as ill-advised as “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” And that makes it unique. Maybe not good, but certainly unique.

I generally reject the notion of a “guilty pleasure;” if you truly and sincerely enjoy something, why feel guilty about it? But I’ll make an exception for “Pretty Maids All in a Row.” This movie is guilty of a lot of things. But it is a strange pleasure to watch.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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