The Film: 3/5
Los Angeles high school student and part-time pizza delivery boy Gary (Lawrence Monoson) and his friends Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo) spend most of their free time in search of cool parties and hot sex with the finest ladies in town who won't reject their creepy advances. It all goes to Hell the day Gary meets transfer student Karen (Diane Franklin) and falls head over heels in love with her. She likes him well enough but doesn't seem to be interested in anything other than a friendship. Much to Gary's consternation Karen only has eyes for his more charming pal Rick, the consummate player who doesn't regard her as anything more than an easy occasional lay. Though the dagger in his heart gets a little twist every time he sees Karen in the arms of his best friend, Gary does whatever he can to be there for her hoping that she will come to her senses and realize that she loves Gary as much as he loves her. Fat chance, Philo Vance. Substandard sex comedy shenanigans - including an afternoon visit with the readily carnal Carmela (Louisa Moritz) - and a awkward encounter with one of the foulest movie hookers ever created (Nancy Brock) pepper the uncomfortably sensitive narrative like a bad case of cinematic Tourette's.
The Last American Virgin is a true feathered fish among the junky teen sex comedies of the 1980's. There have been precious few times in my life when I've seen a movie at war with itself as much as Boaz Davidson's beat-for-beat remake of his breakthrough Israeli feature Lemon Popsicle (Eskimo Limon) redesigned from the ground up to appeal to moviegoers young and horny of the time. Virgin wants to exist in two distinct genres of cinema - lewd T & A farce and sensitive romantic drama - but is never quite sure which one it secretly prefers in the end. Thus we have scenes of a young love story coming carefully and awkwardly to fruition mingling with immature peeping into the girls' locker room, a weirdly inappropriate dick measuring contest, and multiple attempts at teen booty calls that end with the characters getting chased around in their underwear by angry adults like a Benny Hill slowed down to normal speed. Virgin is both the Gollum and Smeagol of 80's smut-coms; it can never stop arguing amongst itself, but at least the good side wins the battle for the movie's soul when all is said and done (though it's hardly pleasant to watch).
I've never seen Lemon Popsicle or any of its sequels so I can't accurately judge if Last American Virgin is either better or worse than its Israeli predecessor, or at the very least the original's equal. Whatever differences may exist between Popsicle and Virgin are moot because they both share the same basic underlying theme: love can be a wonderful sensation, but it mostly sucks. That's a pretty timely message. Neither movie cared to force upon their audience the Hollywood fantasy of love conquering all. Anyone who actually buys into that illusion will end up like Jonathan Pryce at the end of Terry Gilliam's Brazil - strapped into a torture chair, the mind completely consumed by misplaced ideals and a refusal to embrace reality. We all get taken in by those happy movie endings that conclude with a lasting kiss and a walk off into the sunset long before we find our first loves, so when the relationships we attempt to nurture and grow sadly crumble into loneliness and heartbreak we are left reeling and confused. But....but....but....we were in love....and we kissed....and we gave each other our virginities....we were....meant to be. It's all a steaming load of manure, and Boaz Davidson knows it all too well. More importantly, he prefers not to insult the intelligence of his audience by trying to sell them a lousy bill of goods.
The ending of The Last American Virgin I won't reveal, but chances are you already how it ends even if you've never actually seen the movie. Davidson doesn't spend much time developing the relationship between Gary and Karen. None of the characters become anything more than T&A farce archetypes: the lovelorn loser, the conceited ladies' man, the fat kid, the nerd, the saucy slut, and so on. Karen gets even less to do outside of serving simultaneously as the object of Gary's affections and Rick's attractive arm piece. The performances are mostly serviceable as a result of the lack of character maturity. Monoson acquits himself decently as the closest this movie has to a sympathetic male lead. Gary's pesky habit of gawking at Karen lovingly with his mouth hanging open is intended to show the powerful effect her beauty has on him, but it only serves to make him look like a pervert. Franklin is lovely and has a winsome quality - with a smile to match - but the lack of growth inherent in her role hampers the actress from making a genuine impression. Antin was one of the big screen's most reliable arrogant douchebags in the 80's thanks to his performance here as Rick and subsequent turns in The Goonies and The Accused. He nails that irresistible shit heel attribute that makes women go weak in the knees and the brain. Cuban sexpot Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000) imbues her one-note insatiable bimbo Carmela with a breathless charm that transforms her erotic overtures towards Gary and his friends mid-way through the story into something honestly sweet and carefree.
I think Joe Rubbo's character David is the most well-drawn in The Last American Virgin. Meant to be the overweight comic relief, there is more dimension to David's slightest actions than any of his onscreen peers. As the trio's financial advisor and treasurer he has to think with his big head more than his little one, and in a way he's the lifeblood of the group. But David clearly cares about his friends, in particular Gary; when he advises Gary to forget about Karen the moment he first sees her in Rick's embrace he's not just saying it to express his own supercilious worldview when it comes to love. David really wants to protect Gary from the emotional calamity he knows is inevitable but can't get his pal to open his eyes and see. When Gary gets drunk and makes a complete fool out of himself David rescues him from further humiliation and encourages him to go home and sleep it off. Rubbo is the only member of the main cast that didn't pursue acting as a career and it's ironic that his performance results in being the only one to really take away from this film.
Cinematographer Adam Greenberg provides Davidson's scenes with bright, kitschy texture, and his lurid approach to the nighttime scenes in downtown L.A. where the guys proposition the seasoned prostitute is positively noirish. That scene is the most fundamental and truthful in the film. Gary, Rick, and David expect to find the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold of their celluloid fantasies, but instead get a battle-tested pro with a heart that possibly looks more like a festering tumor and a firebrand sense of reality that could reduce romantic whimsy to a smoldering pile of atomized rubble with a few choice words. It's an extremely uncomfortable scene - one of the most haunting to be found in a frivolous teen sex comedy - and it seamlessly encapsulates the movie's forthright mind-set on love and sex: you try to save your heart for the woman you believe to be your true love, but you willingly surrender your body to a salacious streetwalker who couldn't care less if you lived or died seconds after your business with her was finished. All you are left with is near-irreparable heartbreak, and a miserable case of crabs.
Some great movie soundtracks can also effectively function as Greek choruses, but The Last American Virgin's is an annoying Top 40 D.J. that hounds the characters at every turn hassling them into putting their lives on hold and rushing to the nearest record store to buy the official soundtrack album. I first saw this movie on DVD back in 2008 and it just about killed the Cars and Journey for me. Several of the more popular tracks are inexplicably repeated throughout the movie, and I will never again be able to listen to U2's "I Will Follow" (the leadoff track from their 1980 debut album Boy) without thinking of a young girl about to crossover into adulthood sadly undergoing an abortion.
Arrow's 1080p presentation of The Last American Virgin in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio was sourced from an HD print restored by current rights holder MGM, which first released the movie on DVD in the U.S. in August 2003. The transfer looks terrific for the film's age and low budget and is bursting with sunny, vibrant colors and soft texture. Print grain has been reduced to the requisite minimum, while the flesh tones are smooth and equalized. Our only audio option is an English 2.0 LPCM stereo track that features a great balance of the dialogue and music, though the overbearing latter occasionally threatens to drown out the former. Fortunately no manual volume control is necessary between the quieter moments and the rowdy comedy scenes. English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
Trumping MGM's previous Region 1 DVD release, Arrow has included a fantastic quartet of brand new retrospective interviews produced by Robert Fischer and Fiction Factory whose combined running time is ten minutes longer than that of the movie itself.
In "The First American Remake" (36 minutes) director Davidson talks at great length about the early days of his filmmaking career in Israel leading up to the movie that announced his talent to the industry, Lemon Popsicle, and how it lead to his long-running association with Cannon Films and remaking it as The Last American Virgin. He shares some interesting stories about certain Hollywood types but refuses to name names possibly for fear of litigation, though he does reveal that Nicolas Cage auditioned for Virgin. According to Davidson, Lemon Popsicle was originally supposed to get a U.S. distribution deal but the studio that bought it refused to release the movie unless the director changed the downbeat ending to one more optimistic. He concludes the interview by mentioning that a remake of Virgin is in the works with Brett Ratner producing and that one of his young stars Steve Antin might be a good choice for the director's chair.
Monoson is up next with "Memories of a Pizza Boy" (26 minutes). Getting the part of Gary apparently involved procuring a fake driver's license from some shady business associates of his mother's because the actor was two years too young to play the role. Monoson also reveals that he originally went in to read for the part of David when the producers were having trouble finding a heftier actor, and that in the tradition of the Lemon Popsicle franchise two sequels to The Last American Virgin were supposed to be made.
"Babe of the Eighties" (21 minutes) begins with Diane Franklin plugging her new autobiography and then segues into some candid recollections of playing Karen. When she first came on board the project Franklin had hoped to change Davidson's ending to a more happier one but gave up on that idea quickly. The actress speaks highly of her director and fellow cast members - in particular Antin - who helped make her feel comfortable during the filming of her nude scenes.
Finally, cinematographer Adam Greenberg is the subject of "In Praise of Smaller Movies" (21 minutes). He talks about his longtime working relationship with Boaz Davidson and serving as the director of photography for both Lemon Popsicle and its U.S. remake. The visual styles of both movies are compared through matching stills.
A theatrical trailer rounds out the bonus features on this disc. Arrow's release will also include a reversible cover sleeve featuring the original poster art and a new image by the Red Dress as well as a collector's booklet that includes an essay on The Last American Virgin written by author and Cinema Sewer publisher Robin Bougie and an interview with filmmaker Eli Roth (a huge lifelong fan of Virgin) conducted by Calum Waddell along with original archive stills and posters. These materials were not provided to me as I only received a screener disc for this review.
The Last American Virgin is a tough movie to like for its tired and often moronic sex comedy scenes, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty about tenderness and the consequences of unprotected lovemaking it makes some risky narrative moves that you have to give it major credit for attempting and mostly pulling off. Boaz Davidson’s U.S. remake of his earlier success Lemon Popsicle is perhaps more audacious than you would come to expect from a movie whose peers include the dreaded Porky’s flicks (yeesh). Arrow Video has done another outstanding job giving this cult classic a stellar upgrade in the A/V and supplements department. 80’s comedy fans will find this Blu-ray difficult to dismiss.