Student Body, The (1976)

What if I told you there was a movie where ladies in the state penitentiary start a riot and discuss the finer points of cock size? What if told you they’re involved in a pool party, a fight in an alley, and a craps game gone bad? What if I told you there was a penguin? What if I told you that these ladies are part of a clinical study where they pop meds that lead to madness and “aggressive behavior”? You’d be psyched right? You’d think, Annie, I’m going to watch this shit now because it has everything I love: women in prison, the finer points of cock size, and a pool party. Who doesn’t love a pool party? People who can’t swim and cats, but that’s beside the point. You want to see ladies slip into madness. You want to see some sleaze. You want to be seduced.

Which is exactly why you should watch a different movie.

The Student Body is like ordering a dessert at a restaurant and getting a salad served instead. You get confused – excuse me, waiter, there’s a mistake. And the waiter looks at you and says, actually no, that’s the only thing on the menu today. A salad. It came from a bag. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a good salad. But when you order chocolate chip bread pudding, then that is what you want. You want to eat the living shit out of it. You don’t want iceberg and you sure as hell don’t want celery, which ruins everything it touches. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I rather eat lettuce from a bag than watch this movie.

Carrie, Mitzie, and a girl who insists on being called Chicago (who we can only assume is from Chicago, though it’s never explicitly stated) are working the laundry shift in the state pokey. A riot ensues. There is hair-pulling and yelling and choking. Laundry is strewn onto the floor, but somehow all clothes remain on. This is the first clue that this movie might not deliver. A fight in a women’s prison is supposed to involve nudity — why else would you set a movie in a women’s prison? The three ladies end up in the warden’s office, and they are sent to college. They will serve out their sentence by participating in a clinical drug trial for a “mild tranquilizer.” You know what else is a “mild tranquilizer”? This movie. But I digress. The drug is designed to help them rejoin society and become law-abiding citizens. The clinical trial is led by Dr. Blalock, played by Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet). He does not get it on with any of the girls.

The experimental medication doesn’t have the effects the good doctor hoped. The girls slip into madness and aggression. They get into fights. They find a craps game and win, but then lose. They talk about dicks. They break a window. This might not sound wild because it’s not. It’s pretty standard stupid-drunk-girl behavior. It never escalates to next-level-blinding-drunk-crazy-asshole-cut-off-your-arm-and-beat-someone-with-it behavior. There is no excitement or drama or even a sense of fun. No relish. It all feels phoned in, as if director Gus Trikonis (who later went on to direct Baywatch) was too lazy to make madness any fun. There are way too many boring conversations among the girls and Carrie spends more time wondering if she’s going crazy than actually going crazy.

There are only two good things about The Student Body, and if you enjoy movies that fail to deliver just like my FedEx guy — a man who ding-dong ditches me every goddamn time — then I advise you to skip the next few sentences. The first saving grace is that this movie is about 54 minutes long. I can more or less sit through anything for 54 minutes and I’ve sat through much, much worse (Dr. Charles, DDS I’m looking at you). The second comes when Mitzie puts up a penguin poster in her bedroom. Dr. Blalock hypnotizes her and we discover that she was abused by a priest. Just to make it crystal clear for us, Blalock draws the connection between a penguin and a priest — like you know, a priest dresses in black and white and is sometimes called “a penguin.” This is why Mitzie is “obsessed” with penguins, though one poster is hardly an obsession. I knew a kid whose mom loved anything with cows on it. There were cows all over the house – figurines, cartoon drawings, paintings, embroidery, potholders, toilet paper cozies, etc. That was a fucking obsession. I don’t think cows are cute, but this is why America is a beautifully diverse nation. Anyway, Mitzie begins dressing in black and white. Because penguins. She even wears a tux, but it’s like a shirt that has a tux on it. You know the one. Some guy at your prom wore it “to be funny.”

The final moments of the movie are perhaps the biggest disappointment. It’s a seemingly endless sequence that’s supposed to build to a stunning conclusion, but instead leads to talking, more talking, and the eventual checking of email and online shopping because the number of shits I give about how this movie plays out is 0. The Student Body is a letdown. A movie with the tagline “Three beautiful coeds set education back 100 years” should deliver, but sadly the only thing that delivers is boredom mixed with “oh hey, Zappos is having a sale.”

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