Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


The "Harper Valley hypocrites" on the PTA board
HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. (1978). Director: Richard Bennett.

Based on Jeannie C. Riley's amusing hit record, this details the struggles of widowed mother Stella Johnson (Barbara Eden of A Private's Affair) against the hypocrites of the Harper Valley PTA. As in the song, Stella - who's been called an unfit mother -- attends a meeting, calls out all the board members, exposes their sins and hypocrisy -- and that should have been enough. Instead Stella, who doesn't seem to be playing with a full deck, spends time, money and energy getting further revenge on everyone on the council, even importuning her friend Alice (Nanette Fabray), who owns a beauty parlor, to put acid in the hair of council president Flora Simpson Reilly (Audrey Christie). Of course Ms. Reilly's hair falls off in clumps until she's practically bald, at one of her chi chi parties. Sure, the woman was a snob, but talk about overkill! Since we never see the repercussions of these revenge schemes, one imagines that Alice was arrested for assault and received the papers for a million dollar civil suit off-screen [not to mention that hardly anyone would go to her beauty parlor after they heard what happened to Reilly!] True, movies like this are not supposed to be looked at too closely, but via her actions Stella seems to prove that she really isn't a fit mother! There's an amusing bit of business with Stella locking one board member out of a hotel room stark naked -- he finds a clever way to drape his body --  and the scene involving horse manure doesn't, er, stink, but most of the movie is simply strained and unfunny. Not one of the many actors in this betrays any great comedic skill aside from John Fiedler, who is very amusing as an aging and unlikely Casanova. This was a hit, and led into a pretty bad TV series of the same name. Audrey Christie made a better impression years before as the reporter Jane in Keeper of the Flame, her first film.

Verdict: At least it's a great song. **.

No comments: