Satan's School for Girls (1973)

Martha Sayers (Terry Lumley) is frightened out of her wits and has arranged to meet with her sister Elizabeth (Pamela Franklin) at a secluded hotel to talk things over and get her bearings. However, Elizabeth isn't home, and whatever is after Martha finds her. When the police break down the door, they find that she has hung herself, and declare the matter a suicide.

Elizabeth thinks differently, and after the cops inform her that Martha's classmate Lucy (Gwynne Gilford) has largely refused to talk, Elizabeth decides to investigate on her own. Under an assumed name she enrolls at Salem Academy, the fine arts school her sister was attending.

Upon arrival she meets Roberta (Kate Jackson) and learns that the school is run by a headmistress (Jo Van Fleet) often referred to as "The Dragon Lady", though she appears to be anything but. Most of the girls are infatuated with art teacher Dr. Joseph Clampett (Roy Thinnes), whose '70s-style good looks have them all swooning. On the other side of the coin, they are scared to death of creepy science professor Delacroix (Lloyd Bochner), who appearsd obsessed with his rats and with picking on another of Martha's former friends, an emotional girl named Debbie (Jamie Smith-Jackson).

It also seems that Debbie may know a bit more about what happened to Martha and, by this point, Lucy, who has also supposedly committed suicide. Debbie has painted a picture of Martha in a mysterious room, and Elizabeth sets off to find it. She does, and after revealing to Debbie the room is real, Debbie commits suicide as well. Things start to reach their head as occurrences continue, the headmistress begins to lose her wits and more people die - leading to the inevitable conclusion that something supernatural is going on.

This television movie is largely known as an early vehicle for Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd, two-thirds of Charlie's Angels. Jackson has the most screen time of the two, with Ladd in a bit-part as Jody, who usually assists for the Headmistress. So, if you're expecting to see them in every shot, you will be disappointed.

If instead you are looking for a tamer version of a lot of the Satanic-style exploitation films of the 1970s, this is a treat. Since most of those were filmed on nearly-non-existant budgets, the fact this was filmed on a TV budget doesn't hurt it as much. The acting is decent throughout, the plot doesn't meander (even though containing a few unintentionally hilarious situations) and the school is fittingly creepy. Although bloodless, some of the killings that occur are well-done.

This is one of those times when a TV movie overcame its limitations and became sincerely entertaining. It is no surprise that many remember this fondly.

Satan's School for Girls (1973)
Duration: 78 minutes
Starring: Pamela Franklin, Kate Jackson, Roy Thinnes, Cheryl Ladd
Director: David Lowell Rich

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