Night School (1981)

Ken Hughes directed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mae West’s Sextette. Did that prepare him for this Western take on a giallo?

As the last child is picked up from a daycare center, Anne is menaced by a man clad in black leather, wearing a motorcycle helmet and wielding a traditional African kukri. He or she chases her to a merry-go-round and spins her into being decapitated, her head found the next morning floating in a bucket.

Judd Austin (Leonard Mann, star of many Italian productions including The Humanoid) is the cop who wants to solve the case, which takes him to the night classes at Wendall College. This isn’t the first murder with a severed head being found in water and it seems like there may be a serial killer. But who could it be?

It turns out that many of the murdered girls all went to the school and were all involved with Professor Millett. Or maybe it was Gary, the mental busboy. Or it could even be Miss Griffin, the administrator of the school. But surely it isn’t Eleanor, Millett’s live-in love and a starring role for Rachel Ward.

There are the bones of a great slasher here. There’s a girl in a diving suit who gets decapitated and we see her head fall into a turtle tank. There’s a head that was used to make some soup. There’s even a head in the toilet.

What it does need is just a little bit more gore and plenty more style. It’s competently directed and the mystery is decent, but imagine how this film would have played out with just a little more panache. I’m not saying it’s a horrible film. I’m just saying that it could be so much more.

That said — you won’t waste your time watching it. And now, this hard to find film is now playing on Shudder!

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