Directed By: Don Jones
Starring: Gary Kent, John Parker, Stafford Morgan
Tag line: "They were abducted and abused... ...but worse was yet to come!!"
Trivia: This film was inspired by an actual incident in which a missing woman's car was discovered on the side of the road, but the woman was never found
Like a good number of ‘70s exploitation films, most of what you need to know about this particular 1973 movie is in its title. If you can get past the whole Schoolgirls in Chains thing, you can certainly handle whatever else this flick will throw your way.
Frank Barrows (Gary Kent) and his brother Johnny (John Stoglin) live in a remote farmhouse with their domineering mother, who controls every aspect of their lives. To ensure that Johnny (who, despite being a grown man, has the mind of an 8-year-old) always has someone to play with, Mother has Frank kidnap young women and chain them up in the basement. When Johnny grows tired of current “friends” Ginger (Suzanne Lund) and the sickly Stevie (T.R. Blackburn), the two boys go out looking for fresh victims. They abduct Sue (Lynn Ross) as she sits in her broken-down car by the side of the road, but when she doesn’t work out the brothers go after Johnny’s “dream girl”, college student Bonnie (Cheryl Waters), who is dating her psychology professor, Robert (Stafford Morgan). Unlike Ginger and Stevie, though, Bonnie has no intention of becoming a toy, and will do everything in her power to escape this living nightmare.
While it’s certainly a perfect exploitation title, calling the movie Schoolgirls in Chains is a bit misleading. As director Don Jones said in an interview, the film doesn’t feature “any schoolgirls, and not many chains” (he had sold the rights to a distributor, who came up with the title). Still, Schoolgirls in Chains has a lot of what you’d expect from this sort of fare: men abusing women, nudity, rape, and a few nerve-wracking chase scenes (Sue, whose abduction opens the movie, manages to slip away at one point). The acting is so-so, as is the film’s overall pace, though director Jones does get creative at times with some POV shots, showing us what Johnny sees while spying on Bonnie through the windows of Robert’s house (along with being stylish, these scenes are also incredibly creepy).
In addition, Schoolgirls in Chains explores the sometimes complex relationship between a mother and her sons. During a flashback, we witness the disastrous afternoon when Frank tried to introduce his fiance Jane (Sara Lane) to his mother (played by Greta Gaylord). Not willing to “share” her son, Mother tells Jane that she and Frank have not only committed incest, but continue to do so (Mother claims the intimacy began when Frank was only 15 years old). Aside from keeping Frank as a lover, Mother also treats her other son Johnny like a young boy so that, no matter how old he really is, he’ll always act like a child (Johnny and Frank have very different ideas of what “playing” with the girls means).
Along with a decent exploration of its twisted characters, Schoolgirls in Chains has both a twist ending (while not a total surprise, it’s fairly effective) and an intense final act (where Bonnie uses her wits, as well as her body, to escape her kidnappers). All this, plus the right amount of ‘70s sleaze, makes Schoolgirls in Chains a movie that grindhouse aficionados will surely enjoy.