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Jennifer (1978)

When a movie proves to be as successful as the Stephen King/Brian DePalma flick Carrie was upon it’s 1976 release, you can bet that second tier companies like American International will be quick to add a similarly themed movie to their production schedule. Which of course leads us to this Brice Mack directed venture where Carrie has become Jennifer and Piper Laurie has turned into Jeff Corey. No fooling!

“Jennifer there’s magic in your name.” So says the theme song sung by that household name, Porter Jordan.

Jennifer is played by Lisa Pelikan. A quiet gal coming from a poor background and living at home with her father Jeff Corey who loves to quote scripture when the urge strikes him. Jennifer is a talented young student and is attending Green View School on a scholarship. Sadly the school is overrun with snooty, arrogant gals who look down their noses at poor Jennifer. No one anymore than Amy Johnston who is the blonde haired, good looking psychotic. With her leading the charge the film is often cruel as the bullying and hazing that goes on against Jennifer is extreme. Sadly the school principle is herself a b&*#h.

Nina Foch is the hungry for money and prestige principle and is all for expelling Jennifer and overlooking any transgressions Miss Johnston makes. For good reason, Senator John Gavin is the father of the arrogant trouble maker that makes Nellie Olsen on Little House On The Prairie look like a little angel in Walnut Grove. Gavin is free with his money to keep his darling little girl in Foch’s school for girls.

The only sane individual on the faculty seems to be Bert Convy as the sex education prof. Somewhere in here there’s a ticking time bomb for Bert when it comes to teaching these young gals sex ed. Miss Johnston is practically throwing herself at old Bert and his curly black perm job. He keeps her at arms length and sees the girl for what she is. A spoiled brat who might just be psychotic and goes about defending the meek Jennifer when the girl is attacked and chastised by Foch. Foch’s response to Bert’s objections at how she handles the obviously innocent Jennifer, “the rich over the right.”

Sill to come, disco dancing, a pool side scene that had me thinking it’s surely inspired by 1942’s Cat People and Jeff Corey pushing his daughter to return to the church of the south where she was raised and displayed a certain power over snakes. Yes the slithery things are going to play a major part in the finale when Carrie  …. I mean Jennifer turns the tables on those who continue to attack her with intent to do her bodily harm.

Honestly I haven’t seen Carrie in a number of years but the impact of the film has never been forgotten. Neither has Piper Laurie’s performance either for that matter. So the intent here from AIP and the writer, Steve Krantz with Kay Cousins Johnson screenplay is easily transparent. That’s not necessarily a knock on the film either. There hasn’t been a successful film made that didn’t have copycat wannabes turning up in the years that followed. Look at Jaws, it’s still being copied to this day. Some good, some passable and some just bad. Jennifer being better than bad, far from good.

Strictly a B film Jennifer proves harsh at times beyond just Lisa Pelikan in the title role. Louis Hoven stars as a slightly overweight girl who wants to be a member of the fraternity that hang around glamour girl Johnston and by extension the good looking boys that are always buzzing around her. She’ll be abused both mentally and physically before the end of the film but just might find a friend in the girl with the power.

Bert Convy is instantly recognizable to me but I honestly had to pause and wonder where I actually know him from and couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. Looking at his list of credits I guess it’s pretty much anything made for TV in the 70’s with a few film roles sprinkles in. Sadly he passed away in 1991 at just 57 years of age. Nina Foch’s career, like actor and part time acting teacher, Jeff Corey’s goes all the way back to the 1940’s. Foch made her film debut opposite Bela Lugosi in his unofficial Dracula film, The Return of the Vampire. Then there is John Gavin who played his final theatrical role here after a career that began in the mid 50’s including his Julius Caesar in Kubrick’s Spartacus. Gavin would remain active in TV ultimately retiring from the camera in 1981 and move into politics as Ambassador to Mexico for a number of years.

Looking to see this Carrie knockoff? It recently turned up on blu ray from Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing which gave me a chance to see it for the first time and bring it together side by side with a poster I’ve had in the vault for a number of years.

3 Comments »

  1. Oh, boy… yipes, I remember this one… ugh, bidn’t like it much, but it’s good to see you covering it here. That and Bert Convy was a staple on some popular game shows here in the US for ages. I actually know his face more from those than his film output and I bet a lot of Americans do as well. I’ll need to poke at his IMDB page one of these days and see what else he was in, but I’ll remember him for those old hosting jobs first and foremost.

    • So like me you just know him instantly but not sure from where exactly, more for his always being on the TV when you turn it on. I can see the game show connection for sure. Probably was on Match Game and Hollywood Squares with all the other middle of the road celebs in many cases. But not the center, that was reserved for Paul Lynde if I remember correctly.

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