The Last American Virgin Review
The American Teen Sex Comedy is not a genre which has inspired a great deal of critical explication, sharing as it does with the British and German Sex Comedy the dubious distinction of being neither sexy nor funny. There are exceptions of course and apart from the titans of the form like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Risky Business, I’m particularly fond of Porky’s 2: The Next Day, which has its heart very definitely in the right place. Boaz Davidson’s The Last American Virgin from 1982 isn’t a particularly distinguished film in itself but it does have considerable merits which raise it above the general run.
The film is based on Davidson’s 1978 hit Eskimo Limon which was a massive commercial success in its native country of Israel and subsequently across Europe including the UK where it was known as Lemon Popsicle. Based on Davidson’s own teenage experiences, it was set in the 1950s and relied heavily on a soundtrack of period songs. The Last American Virgin updates the action to the 1980s and adds a contemporary soundtrack which now, inevitably, makes it just as much a period piece as the original.
Like Eskimo Limon, the film deals with the adventures of three sex-obsessed teenage lads – Gary (Monoson), a sensitive loser and the Last American Virgin of the title, David (Rubbo), a chubby clown, and Rick (Antin), a hustler who gets all the girls. The trio undergo a variety of sexual misadventures including a party at Gary’s parents’ house which ends in a quick getaway, and an encounter with a sexy Italian housewife which leaves David and Rick satisfied but Gary frustrated when her boyfriend makes an unexpected return. But the central story is rather darker and more intriguing, as Gary falls in love with a virginal exchange student Karen (Franklin) who is seduced, impregnated and abandoned by the emotionally stunted but more experienced Rick.
Most of the comedy in The Last American Virgin comes from various forms of sexual embarrassment and it’s predictable and silly enough to please a Saturday night teenage audience – which was presumably the point. Occasionally it is quite funny, especially when Gary attempts to seduce a decidedly disengaged girl who is more interested in a bowl of crisps, but more often it’s just an excuse for lots of jiggling breasts and spotty bottoms. The actors certainly give it everything they’ve got and Joe Rubbo’s willingness to reveal a body which is not perhaps in the peak of condition deserves some sort of medal for bravery. In terms of attitudes to women it’s not the most enlightened film ever made but on the whole it is notable that, on the whole, the men come off even worse.
In this regard, the second half of the film is particularly interesting because it deals with areas which most sex comedies tend to ignore. The human consequences of the casual unprotected sex, while considerably less serious than they might have been a few years later, are demonstrated not only in the crabs they get from a realistically sordid encounter with a prostitute, but more significantly in the relationship between Rick and Karen which ends up with her having an abortion and being abandoned. Gary’s response to this, selling his possessions to pay for the termination and promising to look after her afterwards, is sincere and touching, making the remarkably downbeat ending something of a punch in the gut.
While the introduction of realistic concerns is a little bit awkward and tentative, this serious edge raises The Last American Virgin over other films of its ilk. The central relationship between Gary and Karen is very nicely drawn and played with affecting honesty by Lawrence Monoson and Diane Franklin, and Steve Antin’s willingness to make Rick an absolute bastard is rather refreshing. In many respects, it’s a film which would probably play well to teenagers today although the fashions and music might well give them pause for thought. Mind you, for someone of my generation, just hearing The Police, Journey, Devo, The Cars and REO Speedwagon was enough to create a heady sense of nostalgia for the past which may have influenced my unexpectedly indulgent response to the film.
While not perhaps a major audience favourite, The Last American Virgin has a small cult following who will be delighted with Arrow’s new Blu-Ray presentation.
The 1.85:1 transfer is, as we now expect from Arrow, a delight to witness. The film is surprisingly lush visually, thanks to DP Adam Greenberg, who later worked with James Cameron, and it’s served well here with a suitably film-like transfer which has a nice smattering of natural grain and more detail than you might expect for something shot in such a soft-focus style. Colours are fine, if sometimes a little muted, and while there is some minor damage in places it’s not a problem. The LPCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack is excellent. The stereo separation is subtle and effective with dialogue always crystal clear. The music comes across particularly well although you’ll probably never want to hear Keep On Loving You again after its overuse here. The film is accompanied by optional English subtitles.
All of the extras are presented in high-definition and, along with the trailer, they consist of a series of interesting interviews directed by the estimable Robert Fischer of the German company Fiction Factory.
Director Boaz Davidson is given over half an hour to discuss his involvement in the film. He talks about the autobiographical aspects, his fondness for working with actors and his experiences with Cannon Films. Lawrence Monoson gives a frank and funny 26 minute interview during which he discusses how he got the part in the film despite being under 18 and explains how some scenes were difficult due to his age – he has particularly traumatic memories of the sequence where he measures the assets of the other boys in the locker room. There’s also a lovely interview with Diane Franklin who still looks gorgeous. This was her first movie and one for which she obviously has a lot of affection; she makes a particular point of the attempt to make a film which was genuinely realistic as well as farcical. She also discusses how she had to justify the actions of Karen to herself since she found them so alien to her own personality. Finally, cinematographer Adam Greenberg talks about the differences between working on the original and the remake and how his career developed into working on blockbusters, something which proved to be a mixed blessing.
The disc, locked to Region B, comes in the usual lavish package containing new artwork and original writing on the film but this was not available to this reviewer.