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.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.