“Near Murder” by the Reverend Mother



A “scathingly brilliant idea” was the operative term for a wonderful movie said to be for adolescents… but really meant for adults as well, known as “The Trouble with Angels.”(AlthoughLadyjustice isn’t of the Catholic faith, she has a soft spot for movies set in the convent, as she formerly consulted as a speech pathologist in a school convent setting for a few years, “in a former life.”)

Take a few veteran actresses, including Roslyn Russell, the flawless comedic timing of a young Hayley Mills and June Harding; mix in your local castle turned convent, add your standard yellow school bus, many mischievous pranks and you have an entertaining comedy-drama that is timeless!  However, under the surface, there are adult themes and lessons to be learned.

This 1966 re-mastered Columbia pictures movie with its lively musical score pulls at your heartstrings, makes you care about the characters … and respect the Catholic church in one big breath…  It’s really a coming of age tale…

How many girls, afraid of gym class, thought of ailment after ailment to avoid the pain?  It’s in this movie…  How many adolescents push the limits or experienced the world through misguided parents, only to be sent to private schools to “set them straight?” It’s in this movie.  The topic of death is also dealt with in a respectful and poignant manner in The Trouble with Angels.”  A variety of pranks that would be considered “good clean fun” by today’s standards result in no shooting, stabbings or name calling.  Instead, punishment includes, washing pot, janitorial service and doing penance with the Stations of the Cross.  (Whatever that means exactly, Ladyjustice doesn’t know…)

It is in the relationship between the characters of Mills, Harding and Russell as the Reverend Mother that Haley (Mary Clancy) – the wayward rebellious ringleader begins to see that her life choices are broadened by the experience of St. Francis Academy.  Mary sees an opportunity to use her “scathingly brilliant ideas” to serve others… including God. The film shows her peeking around corners and hiding in the shadows in awe of the sisters’ devotion and discipline.

Running gags and quirky personalities keep the story line moving such as:

The temperamental boiler becomes a character in itself at the Academy and spurs them into action to try to win a band competition to fix the broken down antiquated equipment; “Playing the silent piano;” The loveable and unique character of “Sister Legory” – Mother ‘s Assistant and Math Teacher Extraordinaire who uses horse racing “The Last Race at Pimlico”  (Baltimore’s premier destination and home of the Preakness stakes) as her motivation along with doling out saintly metals for good grades;   “Marvel Ann-“ Mary Clancy’s ne’er do well, gullible cousins. “Charlotte-“another student who faints on other students at the drop of a hat…. Pranks including unauthorized tours, havoc in the sister’s private dining room, near fires, “immortalizing” gullible students with plaster casts…bring  the characters portrayed by Roslyn Russell, Mary Wicks and Marge Redmound to the brink of contemplating  expulsion or homicide… if it wasn’t for  Mary and Rachel’s questionable family ties… and a great deal of tolerance.

An “all nighter” is pulled by June/Rachael and Reverend Mother in an attempt to enter a dress design contest.  This particular scene is touching and may have been the deciding factor in Haley/Mary’s coming of age…..    Perceived betrayal at the end of the movie among the two inseparables leaves a lump in your throat (if you have ever experienced rejection!)  Who hasn’t?    Ladyjustice won’t spoil the surprise ending….

So, try it, you’ll like it.  It’s a scathingly brilliant form of escapism and a nice change of pace from cops and robbers.  By the way, there is a sequel minus Hayley Mills and June Harding.

Some key scenes:  WATCH HERE

Scathingly Brilliant Ladyjustice”

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