Words: Brody Rossiter
I KNOW WHAT BOYS LIKE
Originally released in 1982 alongside Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Last American Virgin is often overlooked when it comes to benchmark releases of the coming-of-age comedy variety. This is primarily due to the enduring popularity and influence of Fast Times’ Cameron Crowe penned script, Sean Penn’s surfer dude Spicoli, and the now iconic image of Phoebe Cates and her red bikini’s slow-mo ‘emergence’ from that pool. In comparison the numerous home-video releases and terrestrial screenings of Fast Times, it is highly unlikely that wider audiences have viewed, or are even aware of Boaz Davidson’s equally entertaining and sexually awkward adventure – an unfortunate fact which Arrow video’s UK debut of the film on DVD & Blu-ray will hopefully fix.
Beginning with the brilliantly constructed opening sequence of scenes, irreverently serving up copious amounts of nudity and platters of Sweet’N Low cocaine to the soundtrack of The Police and The Waitresses, The Last American Virgin provides a checklist of how to make an endearing and boisterous comedy. Clearly the very best elements of the American Pie series, such as Stifler’s discovery of the ‘lesbian stronghold and Jim’s Bachelor party, are indebted to The Last American Virgin’s naughty but nice set pieces – as are the core ideas of many of today’s teen comedies.
Tonally the film can feel confused. Images on-screen sometimes feel alien when combined with the narrative content. Watching characters bum cigarettes and drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle at a house-party before launching themselves into scene of sexual pandemonium feels almost too mature, unsuccessfully juggling romantic teen angst and drunken self-destruction with comedic hijinks. The film’s depiction of sex, and the various sexual scenarios its trio of male leads find themselves in, also flip-flops between antiquated, exploitative Benny Hill eroticism and tender young love throughout the hour and a half runtime. When such conflicting instances are placed so closely together they can feel distinctly jarring and out-of-sorts.
Ultimately, despite its shortcomings this tale of three guys with one thing on their mind holds up extremely well, offering a timeless lesson in 80’s nostalgia 101 in the same manner as many of the era’s classic pictures, from Ferris Bueller to the Breakfast Club. The Ray-Bans, Debbie Harry’s impeccable new-wave soundtrack including The Cars, DEVO, and U2, alongside the solid, loveable performances from a young cast, all bear the unmistakable trademarks of those irreplaceable 80’s flicks, and whilst The Last American Virgin never reaches the same towering heights, it is often only fingertips away.