LA RESIDENCIA (1969) – The Dungeon Review!
One of the first things I do when I watch a film I enjoy is look up the director’s other work. After watching director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s excellent Who Can Kill a Child? I added his only other film credit La Residencia to my queue. The rest of Serrador’s work appears to be in Spanish television. Bloody shame. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador made two very entertaining films!
Teresa is the newest student at Ms. Fourneau’s boarding school for girls. Ms. Fourneau questionable disciplinary methods are enacted by pet student Irene who relishes the power and has her own special methods for keeping her peers in line. Principle and proprietor Fourneau has her own issues including an uncomfortably intimate relationship with her teenage son Luis. She reminds Luis regularly that these girls are no good and one day he will meet a good woman like his mother. Meanwhile the list of runaways from the school is growing and it would appear that they may have never left the school at all.
I read a review that described La Residencia as being part Hammeresque gothic horror and part Giallo. That is such a perfect description, I had to use it. I should give credit to its author, but I can’t actually recall where I read it. The film takes place in a girl’s boarding school. The school itself is an impressive building full of shadowy halls to explore and rooms to investigate. The sets and costumes are terrific and the film has this lovely lushness about it that makes it extremely easy on the eyes. It is a lovely looking film with some unique touches I will speak more on later. Visually La Residencia is primo.
For a film of this ilk it was surprisingly conservative. Nudity and lesbianism are pretty much par for the course in girl’s school fare; the girl’s school girl fare I watch anyway! Nudity and lesbianism are promised but never delivered; in fact, it is really only hinted at. The film’s requisite shower scene sees the girls covered in long nightie things. Although one girl rebelliously strips for her shower and taunts Ms. Fourneau. Again, you don’t really see anything. Naughtiness is definitely of the PG variety. They are a little looser with the film’s violence, but there is very little of it. The trio of scenes you do get are not graphic but they are intense and well-executed. Despite a low body count and lack of sex La Residencia definitely has its share of memorable scenes.
La Residencia has a few meaty scenes to note courtesy of bad-ass teacher’s pet Irene. A disciplinary whipping for one of the girls as Ms. Fourneau supervises has some punch. Irene humiliating new student Teresa, forcing her to put on her mother’s bustier and sing a song, is also rather effective. One of my favourite scenes in the film involves sexy sewing. The girls take turns going out to the shed to meet up with a man named Henry who makes a delivery to the school once a week. Henry arrives while the girls are sitting with Ms. Fourneau sewing, knitting and doing needlepoint. One of the girls is given permission to leave and goes to meet Henry. As the girl in the shed giggles with joy, her peers are expressing their pent up sexual aggression on their home-economic projects. The camera moves from girl to girl lingering only for a few seconds on each ones expression. I had no idea needlepoint and knitting could be orgasmic.
La Residencia’s murderous central plot is where the Giallo descriptor comes in to play. The students have no idea their peers are not running away but are in fact being stalked and killed. Only the viewer is let in on the secret. Who is the killer and who will their next victim be? While I can’t say the culprit was much of a surprise I nonetheless enjoyed the wonderfully energetic and demented reveal! Speaking of Giallo, Cristina Galbó who plays Teresa was in two excellent Giallo; the 1972 film What Have You Done To Solange? and the 1975 film The Killer Must Kill Again. The film also features Maribel Martín (The Blood Spattered Bride), Lilli Palmer (Murders in the Rue Morgue, What the Peeper Saw), John Moulder-Brown (Vampire Circus), and Mary Maude (Crucible of Terror). The film is well cast; particularly Lilli Palmer who plays Ms. Fourneau with such graceful severity.
My one issue with La Residencia is too much unnecessary chatter between the girls; it bogs the film down at times. Overall, I found La Residencia quite entertaining. La Residencia is well cast, beautifully filmed, with great sets and costumes, and enough memorable and unique scenes to garner a solid recommend.
Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5
Directed By: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Starring: Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown, Maribel Martín, Mary Maude, Cándida Losada, Pauline Challoner, Tomás Blanco, Víctor Israel, Teresa Hurtado, María José Valero