Rock Hudson and Margaret Markov in Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)


(director: Roger Vadim; screenwriter: Gene Roddenberry/from the novel by Francis Pollini; cinematographer: Charles Rosher, Jr.; editor: Bill Brame; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Rock Hudson (Michael “Tiger” McDrew), Angie Dickinson (Miss Betty Smith), Telly Savalas (Captain Sam Surcher), John David Carson (Ponce de Leon Harper), Roddy McDowall (Mr. Proffer), Keenan Wynn (Chief John Poldaski); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Gene Roddenberry; MGM; 1971)
“At best, it can be viewed as silly fun and harmless soft core porn that offers a snapshot of a bygone era.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roger Vadim’s (“Barbarella”/”Seven Deadly Sins”/”The Game Is Over”) first US-made film is a revolting one-joke black comedy about a high school football coach/guidance counselor/assistant principal in an upscale suburban California school who is a serial killer of the pretty coeds he is tired of seeing on the secret. None of it is very funny; it also leaves a sour taste with its superficiality, vulgarities, Rock Hudson going against type as the villain, the girl vics as plastic sex objects and it signals the death of the old Hollywood for this new and more crass product. At best, it can be viewed as silly fun and harmless soft core porn that offers a snapshot of a bygone era. At worst, it’s a pointless and sloppily made attempt to be different that displays French director Vadim’s roots in Eurotrash films. Star Trek’s creator Gene Roddenberry is on hand as producer and writer.

The narrative has married family man, Ocean View High’s popular guidance counselor/football coach Michael “Tiger” McDrew (Rock Hudson), scoring a number of the pretty coeds in a biblical way. When the affair might endanger his marriage or won’t end easily, Tiger terminates the relationship by usually resorting to strangling his vic. Horny virginal student Ponce (John David Carson) discovers the dead body of a pretty cheerleader in the bathroom, and bumbling Sheriff John Poldaski (Keenan Wynn) investigates. When the sheriff puts his fingerprints all over the note pinned to the dead girl’s body and shows more interest in the football team than the murder, state investigator Captain Sam Surcher (Telly Savalas, in his pre-Kojak days) takes over the investigation and is supposed to provide comic relief when he keeps his sunglasses on the top of his bald noggin. The humor settled for is that weak.

The running gag has Tiger set up his protégé, Ponce, with sexy substitute teacher Miss Betty Smith (Angie Dickinson) to handle his priapism problem–which Tiger tells her is an impotency problem (you can see where this gag is going!). The film is set during the heart of America’s Sexual Revolution, and so even Ponce has a sexual awakening thanks to the sexy older woman; the film then lumbers along with its uninteresting police investigation and leads to a ridiculous shot of Rock looking manic in a close-up when the game is up for him.

The longer the film goes on the more futile it becomes. It’s one-joke idea never could be sustained. But Rock gives it that ole high school try and never stops acting even though everything is by now reduced to a childish level.

Rock’s days as a big movie star with box office appeal were over, and he was just one year removed from his successful transition to television with the hit series McMillan & Wife. The Rock could no longer get the juicy parts in those bedroom farces he once starred in, such as Pillow Talk, and sleazy films like this one didn’t help Rock get his movie career back on track.