Night School (1981)

Kevin Hart. What a funny little fella. He gets up on screen, bugs his eyes out when he’s tellin’ jokes, screams… He seems like an overall pretty good dude. Tiffany Haddish is someone I find quite attractive too. She’s known for being pretty funny as well. What on Earth are they doing on this blog? What could they have possibly done to draw an article on B-Movie Enema?

Wait. Hang on a second. I’ve got some new information coming across my desk about this week’s article. Oh. Okay. I see. Gotcha.

Looks like I watched the wrong Night School. Well son of a bitch. I watched the 2018 comedy starring Hart and Haddish. I should have been watching the 1981 slasher directed by Ken Hughes. One moment while I go and rectify this shit.

Okay, 1981’s Night School is a little bit of a cash in on the brand new, low budget, mask ’em and slash ’em horror flicks that became popular with the big ol’ 1-2 punch of Halloween and Friday the 13th. There’s something kind of interesting about this movie. It is the final film of British director Ken Hughes and also the film debut for actress Rachel Ward. We’ll start with Hughes…

Hughes had worked for nearly 30 years as a writer, director, and producer in Hollywood. While he was never likely someone who would be considered an auteur, he does have a few interesting films on his resume. First off, he did the 1967 comedy version of Casino Royale. He didn’t just direct that turd, he wrote it too. It was a send-up of the Bond series that VERY loosely took some stuff from James Bond’s debut novel from writer Ian Fleming. It’s very much of its time and not an enjoyable movie. More of a curiosity, if anything.

The very next year, he adapted another Ian Fleming novel that is much better received – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That film was co-written by Roald Dahl during his very brief career as a screenwriter. It also definitely working off the successful adaptation of Mary Poppins as it starred Dick Van Dyke in the lead role. Going into the 70s, Hughes wrote an episode of the 1974 series for Dial M for Murder. He then wrote and directed Alfie Darling which was a sequel to the Michael Caine hit Alfie. Then, his next-to-last movie was Sextette which was a classic Hollywood musical comedy starring, of all people, Mae West, Timothy Dalton, and Ringo Starr.

So, let’s connect some dots. Hughes wrote and directed the comedic version of the James Bond adventure Casino Royale. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is an Ian Fleming novel. Fleming wrote the original Bond novels. Roald Dahl wrote the script for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also wrote the script for the fifth James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Hughes made Sextette which co-starred the fourth actor to portray James Bond, Timothy Dalton. Everything comes back to James Bond I suppose.

Okay, back to the movie, and our lead star of this feature. Rachel Ward had been on TV with a Christmas movie and an episode of Dynasty. However, Ward would go from Night School to a role in a Burt Reynolds movie, Sharky’s Machine, then hit it huge with The Thorn Birds, one of the biggest TV mini-series ever, and then Against All Odds in 1984. She had a couple other big roles in some thrillers, but she also had a peculiar role in the Richard E. Grant dark comedy How to Get Ahead in Advertising in which Grant develops a boil on his shoulder that begins to talk and develop into a head that consumes his own.

We ain’t here to talk no boil head movie. I’m here to go to Night School. So let’s do it, Enemaniacs!

Every now and then I talk about a DVD or Blu Ray’s menu screen. Most of the time it’s for a very specific reason based around how bonkers it is or what have you. This time around, I wanted to call attention to this disc’s menu. Check this out:

Now, you might think I’m going to make fun of its very very basic and minimal attempt at a menu. I actually am not. I really love this menu. There’s a classic feel to it. It’s a marquee to a movie theater that feels like what we might have seen in a town in 1981 at a movie house playing this movie. I appreciate that Warner Archive Collection actually made a menu for this disc that had anything on it. But to give it that marquee on an old timey movie house building is charming.

Okay, enough about that, let’s get into the movie. The credits play over shots of Boston seemingly at night while everyone is home and probably nice and comfy in bed. However, we then come across a daycare center where there is some life. We meet Anne Barron who is with one of the kids at Jack-and-Jill Daycare Center. She’s on the merry go round with a little girl who tells Anne that she wants to become a teacher when she grows up because she likes Anne. This is a kind of sweet moment in the midst of the hustle and bustle of kids being picked up by their parents after work. When the girl goes off with her mom, Anne is left alone contemplating the day while she spins around on the merry go round.

A leather-clad person on a motorcycle drives up and approaches her. She thinks this person is a parent but all the kids have been picked up. Without saying anything, and not revealing his face under his black motorcycle helmet, he begins to spin Anne around in the merry go round. He produces a kukri and starts teasing her. A kukri is one of those crooked hunting knives often used in India for fighting and for general cutting. He uses it to ultimately bring it down into her head and kill her.

Lt. Judd Austin (Leonard Mann – mostly known as a spaghetti western lead) is assigned to the case. He’s told that Anne’s been decapitated. She’s also the second murder in the area in the course of a week. The body was found next to the merry go round, but her head was put in a bucket several feet away. Lt. Austin tries to find out more about Anne from the shaken up older lady who runs the daycare. He says that Anne worked in the day at the daycare to put herself through college, which she attended in the evening at an all girls school, Wendall College.

Lt. Austin is a Harvard grad who is a detective that specializes in these more psychological kinds of killings. He’s trying to figure out any connections and what have you surrounding the killings – what’s the motive, why mutilate a body in one place and carry the head over to a different place to hide it, what’s the connection with the victims, etc. He goes to Wendall to speak with the administrator, Helene Griffin. She didn’t know the girl very well because as the administrator, it is difficult to get to know each student on a personal level (though she does make some exceptions). She’s a little frustrated with the fact that there will likely be reporters and such coming around to bother the school.

Anne was studying anthropology at the school under Professor Millett. Millett is teaching a course about a tribe performing a naturalization ceremony that was rarely photographed. After class, Austin speaks to Millett. Millett is a bit frustrated and uppity about him walking in. Millett says that he should speak with Kim, a student and assistant of his that knew Anne pretty well. Kim agrees to help in anyway she can. Austin notices that Millett is a bit “close” with Kim as he embraces her and kisses her on the forehead.

Also noticing the closeness between teacher and aide is another student, an exchange student named Eleanor Adjaj (Rachel Ward). She seems a tad off after seeing Millett and Kim’s interaction. Austin takes all of this in. It would seem that Professor Millett is quite the hot catch on the staff of the all girls school.

Kim reveals that Anne didn’t have many friends but did have a boyfriend. She doesn’t know who the boyfriend was and was likely keeping it from her because they both knew this man. He’s also possibly a married man or someone she didn’t want to reveal due to some scandal. When Austin leaves, Millett says he thinks they are dealing with a madman. Austin promises that he will find the killer.

Meanwhile, Eleanor stops off at a diner for dinner. The waitress asks Eleanor if she’s in Millett’s class. Apparently this beefcake of an anthropology professor is famous for sleeping around with his students. This irritates Eleanor and she leaves. As she walks home, a mentally unwell bus boy from the diner follows. This unsettles her even more than being asked about the professor. This “chase” has all the hallmarks of a good slasher thriller scene. There’s the closeup of the feet walking, first hers then his. There’s a jump scare when she’s next to a gate where a big scary dog jumps up and barks. She trips when she picks up the pace. She struggles to get her keys to get into her apartment. She does finally get into her apartment and… Well, she seems relatively calm. She doesn’t call the police. She doesn’t… She doesn’t do anything. She undresses and gets ready for a shower.

Now… We all appreciate Rachel Ward doing this for us. I appreciate her sheer bra. I really do. I appreciate the shower scene. We don’t see anything, but I don’t care about that because the bra was sheer, remember? All of these things are wonderful and appreciated. I cannot stress that enough. Anyway, she really should have called the cops about that whole stalker incident. Why? Because someone tries to get into her apartment while she’s in the shower. That person also rings her doorbell causing her to now consider getting out of the shower leaving her extra vulnerable. When she doesn’t, and turns the shower back on, this allows for the perpetrator to resume getting into her apartment.

“Huh. Maybe I should have called the police.”

However, it turns out to be a red herring (or IS it?) because it’s Millett who has come in. He apparently is her lover or she his or whatever. This 100% prime cut hunk of a beef slab is here to fuck. And do some kinky tribal fuckin’ too.

That lucky son of a bitch.

She apparently likes this red stuff smeared on her body – almost as much as I like looking at her butt when he gets down to that part of her. She moans and kisses him and really goes for it. I don’t know what this is, but every time I try to smear some tribal shit onto a girl in a shower, she just screams about how I got inside and tells me to leave before she calls the cops.

At the aquarium, we see a guy feeding some of the fish and sharks and sea turtles in a diver’s outfit. On the other side of the glass, after we see some patrons come by and look and smile at the stuff going on, we then see the motorcycle guy. When the diver gets out of the tank, we see it isn’t a guy at all, but a lady! In fact, it isn’t just any ol’ lady, it’s Kim. Kim works at the aquarium and is changing out of her clothes and getting ready to go home when the biker sneaks into the locker room and attacks her with the kukri. We see that this is a legit modus operandi as we see what happens after Kim loses her head…

Austin is starting to piece some commonalities together. At least two of the three killed went to the same school. All three victims had something to do with water. The first girl’s head was tossed in a pond. The second, Anne, had her head found in a bucket, something you carry water in. The third, Kim, worked at an aquarium and her head was thrown into the tank.

Austin goes to speak to Millett again. He shows up at his house to find Eleanor. She says he is not to be disturbed, but Paul tells her he has a badge that allows him to disturb anyone he wants. He comments on being surprised that Eleanor is there. She says she works for him as his research assistant. When Austin sees Millett, he reveals another person has been killed. This does not seem to shock Millett. Millett pulls the big brain idea of when man kills once, he will become addicted to the act. Austin tells him it was Kim. Millett tries to play it off as coincidence, but Austin ain’t having that.

Now, Austin is getting right to the heart of the matter – was Millett screwing around with his students? Millett refuses to cop to any “emotional” relationships with his students. Again, Austin isn’t having it. This time, he directly asks about Anne and Kim. Millett says he’s had an affair with neither girl. He says that Austin shouldn’t listen to school girl gossip before the lieutenant sees himself out. After leaving, there is a minor tiff between Eleanor and Millett. She cries and says she loves him. He says he isn’t into a long term thing, etc. She says that he will always find a way to replace her no matter how much she feels for him. He tells her she should have known what to expect from him after all these years of knowing each other.

Eleanor goes to the diner where she heard the rumors of Millett screwing around and her stalker works. Millett arrives to apologize to her… on a motorcycle. That little factoid is not important quite yet because Eleanor reveals she’s 3 months pregnant and will not have an abortion. He says this must be why she’s acting crazy lately and is, in no way, going to ask her to get rid of the kid. He does tell her that he loves her too and that he won’t let her down. Feeling better about this, she asks if they can get married.

Millett must have gone to the same school as Doc Savage because he wiggles out of that one expertly.

After that real close call, Professor Millett goes to Wendall College to speak with Helene Griffin. He is denied a meeting because Griffin is speaking with a student who is confessing that she had an affair with Millett. Griffin says she’s going to fire Millett and make sure he no longer takes advantage of any students at her school ever again. She then offers the girl a place to stay that night so she can have someone to talk to. It comes across like she’s making a pass on a possibly naïve girl.

Later, as the local diner is closing down and Carol, the waitress that had just recently been working during the day when Millett and Eleanor were talking about their troubles, is all alone locking the place up. The gloved hand of our helmeted biker turns off the power to the diner. Oh, I should point out that when Millett was at the diner earlier in the day, he made a joking pass at her – to which Eleanor felt was kind of shitty of him to do with her right there. After he left, Carol told Eleanor that he was full of shit if she thought he would come around to settling down.

Anyway, now the killer is there at the diner to deal with Carol. I do not like her chances to get away. Sure enough, the killer gets a couple good slashes on the waitress before eventually separating her head from her body and dumping it in the kitchen sink.

There’s a nice lead up to the discovery of Carol’s head. It starts with a couple of the diner’s regulars coming in shortly after Gus, the owner of the diner. They find the mess of the place left from the previous night’s struggle between the killer and Carol. They then ask for food, which Gus says he has some beef stew. One of the guys finds a big ol’ hair in his stew. We think the head is in the pot with the stew. It is not. We think it might be in the fridge. It is not. We think it is in the box with some of the most oddly placed melons in any scene in any movie ever. It isn’t. That just leaves the sink that then reveals the head as Gus drains the water out of it. It’s a good setup. In fact, this movie does know when to take its time with stuff like this. The stalking of Eleanor earlier, the relative patience with Anne’s murder, etc. It’s able to hold its horses for decent effect.

Okay, so our suspect list is starting to shrink. Austin, and his sort of partner Taj, are at the diner and they ask Gus about the “tutti frutti” that works there, the not-all-there bus boy Gary. Gary has titty pictures all over the walls. He also has someone’s bra in his dresser. Apparently, Gary has lived in various towns and, in each, he was arrested for indecent exposure. Austin realizes that Gary is nothing more than a peeping tom and a flasher. There’s nothing more he’s likely guilty of.

Austin leaves and goes to Professor Millett’s place. No one is home, so he uses the ol’ credit card trick to jimmy the door open. He looks around the place and sees a lot of pictures of Millett and Eleanor. He also finds a lot of books about the tribes of Papua New Guinea. He finds pictures of Millett and Eleanor exploring the tribes, and so on. Unfortunately, he is discovered by Eleanor. Naturally, he can’t answer for why he’s inside Millett’s place.

Eleanor is about to call the police, but Austin asks if it is not a crime to be a headhunter – even for anthropologists. She says that there’s likely no connection between the research she does with Millett and these ghastly crimes. He asks if there are situations in which tribes remove the heads of their victims. She says that some tribes believe the taking of the head is to come into possession of the victim’s lifeforce. He then asks about the water. She says that water would purge the head of any evil spirits.

She asks him how he knew anything about those connections. He says he didn’t know. She just told him what he needed to know. Oops.

Hmmm… Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.

When Austin leaves, Eleanor considers calling Millett, but instead goes to the school to speak to him in his classroom. When she gets there, she finds Griffin having her conversation with Millett. Naturally, she walks in just as Griffin says something about having an affair with a student. She storms off. Millett gets mad AT Griffin for the conversation that his more regular Saturday night thing overheard. He then accuses Griffin for being a lesbian.

Later, Millett leaves the school and Austin tails him. Austin loses him when a garbage truck gets in the way. He gets a call from Taj saying that, since midnight, Gary has been staked out across the street from Griffin’s place. Taj goes to bust Gary when he crosses the street and takes the stairs up to get a closer look at what’s going on inside Griffin’s.

And what we have is a (sort of) lesbian affair between Griffin and the girl who went to her to tell her about the affair with Millett.

I’m beginning to think every teacher and administrator at this college is only there for the poon. There’s something both gross, but also later sensual in this scene. At first, the young girl is not into this and we think this is typical early 80s weirdness about gay and lesbian stuff as this was during a time in which these people were often portrayed as killers, miscreants and so forth. However, after the it goes back to this scene, it seems the student is a little more into it or more receptive and such. While that part was mildly sensual, I can’t help but think this was probably meant to portray Helene Griffin in a negative light for being gay more for being a little more lecherous around one of her students.

Don’t worry, we don’t have to worry about what it was because lesbian sexy time is interrupted by a phone call that Helene must take. She goes to talk on the phone, and the door to the room slowly closes revealing that the killer is in the room. Helene is slashed and killed. The killer is now heading to the bedroom to deal with the student. Before doing so, the student has to find Helene’s head in the toilet only for it to serve as a distraction for the killer to approach from behind.

Austin springs to action when he hears… something? I mean Helene was screaming. It didn’t really seem like student hot body here did, but whatever. As he finds Helene’s body, he’s distracted enough for the killer to lunge at him to get away. Meanwhile, Taj is arresting Gary, obviously the wrong guy.

The killer appears to return home and is a bit distraught. The killer takes off the helmet to reveal what I figured out about an hour ago – Rachel Ward is the killer. She is confronted by Millett and tells him that she did all this for him and their baby. She says that she had to get rid of anyone who trespassed on their sacred relationship because she loves him. So, yeah, somewhere along the way, sexy research assistant Eleanor has gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. She bought into the whole thing that tribes do and it led her to kill anyone who Millett slept with, argued with, and even flirted with. She’s proud of what she did.

Here’s the thing… I figured this out rather early in the movie. Millett never reacted or was shot in a way that indicated he was guilty. Helene wasn’t enough of a character. I refused to believe the movie would have an unwell guy like Gary be the killer. There was only one person that could be the actual killer. I knew how she looked at other women, or how she reacted to things, and it was all solidified in the scene with Carol because of the size of the killer in proportion to Carol. It was a woman.

I knew of this movie for years because of the amount of times in the early 80s that this played on cable and TV, but I didn’t know the movie well enough to know who the killer was. It just seemed to kind of all fall into place. I think Austin knew it too.

Alright, so yeah, Eleanor is the killer. She tells Millett she will kill anyone he cheats on her with again without hesitation and that this world we live in is the truly uncivilized one because they rejected the practice she was doing that had been accepted for thousands of years before. She hears the sirens of the police cars and tells Millett that if they find her, they’ll probably kill her and their baby. Oh yeah… Definitely remember that she is pregnant with child. Anyway, she wants to run, but Millett kind of wants her to, you know, not? I think it may be good for her to be arrested, and I’m not too sure he doesn’t think it a decent idea to maybe, I dunno, get rid of all his responsibilities at once if she gets arrested.

Anyway, he is right, if she leaves, and she and the fuzz do a little chase thing, they will probably kill her and, guess what, we learn that as the motorcycle killer attempts to escape, eventually come the cops and they are, indeed, shooting at her. However, it isn’t the guns and the pew pews that brings her down… It’s her running into a cop car barricading the place. However, it’s a trick! The person in the killer’s outfit and on the bike is Millett! He dies of a broken neck. Taj thinks this is case closed and everything worked out.

Austin isn’t so sure.

At Millett’s funeral, Eleanor leaves early. Austin asks Eleanor, as she passes by him, if the ceremony is over. She affirms it is, and he says he hopes so. Now, I’m guessing that Austin knew all along it was her. Why he didn’t arrest her I don’t know. I can’t believe she actually outsmarted him. I can understand that maybe he and Millett didn’t like each other because they were both kind of smug jerks to one another, but I refuse to believe he didn’t know all this time – or at least suspected that it wasn’t as simple as it turned out. That night, he is thinking things over, seemingly uneasy about something, and is leaving the station. We don’t realize that Eleanor is waiting for him in the back seat.

But! It’s only Taj messing around with Austin. They yuk it up and the movie ends as Taj continues to laugh hauntingly.

This is a really pretty decent early slasher. I can understand why this achieved cult status along the way. It’s not poorly acted. While there are some things that are kind of forced into the puzzle to make the story work, it’s not poorly written as a bit more of a mystery thriller as opposed to the straight up horror slasher like so many other movies coming out at the same time. You can tell that a director with a decent career made this movie.

I’m sure that this was something that was easy for Rachel Ward to show people that she has some range. She played scorned very well and was good at downplaying insanity. Drew Snyder was maybe the best part of this movie. He played Millett and is a guy who has been in a ton of things you’ve seen through the years. While he was most definitely not the killer, he was good at being smug and kind of barely holding onto his philandering ways and somewhat domineering personality. It almost seems like his job and his authority was on the verge of crashing down around him anyway. Yeah, he was picking up lots of eager young women who would sleep with him, but he also plays it like he was a dinosaur. Someone whose time of being able to do this so often and be able to get away with it was about to end.

Overall, I recommend Night School. I don’t mean that you need some brain learnin’s. I mean the movie. From 1981. Maybe not the 2018 one. I haven’t seen that one. If you can get THIS one relatively cheap or during one of Warner Brothers’ quarterly Archives sales, it’s worth a look. Next week, we’re going to go to the video store on some random weeknight in the mid 90s to see a vampire comic book babe come to life. I’m going to watch the Talisa Soto-led Vampirella based on the Warren Publishing magazine created by Forrest J. Ackerman and Trina Robbins. So be sure to come back here in seven days to check it out.

And hey! B-Movie Enema: The Series is coming back in just about a month’s time. If you want to catch those new episodes and see the previous episodes from season one, be sure to go over to B-Movie Enema’s YouTube Channel and subscribe. But don’t stop there! Be sure to go to Facebook to follow the B-Movie Enema page as well as hop onto Twitter and follow B-Movie Enema there. There you’ll be able to stay in the know on all the B-Movie Enema goodness as it happens.

See you all back here in a week, my dear Enemaniacs!

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