Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Comedy Thriller, Whodunit  |   Release Date - Apr 28, 1971 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This odd attempt to combine a sex farce with satirical black comedy and thriller elements is suitably ambitious but too unfocused and sloppily constructed to work. Gene Roddenberry's script serves up the occasional interesting scene but is otherwise riddled with problems: The underdeveloped murder-mystery angle of the story is all too easy to figure out and the satirical moments consist of obvious and heavy-handed potshots at easy targets like the American school system and law enforcement. Even worse, the script's handling of Tiger's dalliances with his female students has an ugly undertone of misogyny because it portrays these girls as amoral nymphomaniacs. Pretty Maids All in a Row is further hurt by indifferent direction from Roger Vadim: He gives the film a superficial sense of gloss but never establishes a real sense of pace and allows the film's more broadly comic moments to devolve into silliness. The only memorable elements of Pretty Maids All in a Row are the performances of its leads: Carson, Dickinson, and Hudson all do solid, nicely underplayed work in challenging roles and their one-on-one scenes suggest the sophisticated comedy that could have been. However, good performances can't make up for half-baked storytelling and the film's sarcasm is ultimately grating (especially when the ridiculous "twist" ending rolls around). As a result, Pretty Maids All in a Row can only be recommended to aficionados of cinematic oddities.