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The Nostalgic Attic: The Last American Virgin (1982)

9 July 2013

The Last American Virgin (1982)

"Come to me my big burrito!"

Released somewhere between Porkys and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Last American Virgin is probably the least remembered, or acclaimed, of the three. It was certainly a good summer for teen sex-comedies, with Zapped, Spring Fever and The Beach Girls also seeing a release that year. Sadly the majority of these films have all but slipped into obscurity at this point, as people tend to remember the John Hughes movies a bit more warmly than the likes of these horny teenager sleaze flicks. But still, The Last American Virgin clings on in the memories of those who have seen it, and for some pretty good reasons.

Things kick off in typical fashion with our three young wannabe studs, nerdish Gary (Lawrence Monoson; Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Mask), young buck Rick (Steve Antin; Sweet Sixteen, The Goonies), and fat slob David (Joe Rubbo; Hot Chili) all trying to get laid in any way possible. They meet three girls in a drive through, and after the promise of free drugs, they get them back to Garys house. Sweet N' Low, as everyone knows, makes a perfectly good substitute for cocaine. Rick and David take the pick of the three girls, leaving Gary with a very unattractive and very unenthusiastic date who is more interested in eating the snacks than making out. As luck would have it, the front door opens and Garys parents stumble upon the worst teen sex party ever. His poor mum needs a lie down after the shock.

The thing is, Gary doesn't just want to get laid with just any old chick, he spends his time pining away on pretty Karen (Diane Franklin; Amityville II: The Possession, Better Off Dead, Terrorvision) who has just moved to his area and started in their school. He even goes as far as letting the air out of her tyres so he can give her a lift to school. This kinda behaviour was apparently charming in the 80's; nowadays he would end up on a register. He does work up the courage to ask her to a party, however. Sadly for him, she already has a date. Even sadder for him, the date is his best friend, Rick. Gary makes a complete ass of himself at the party by getting drunk and hounding after Karen, despite her seemingly obvious lack of interest in him as anything but a friend. 

Gary tries not to let this setback stop him from enjoying life. One day when delivering pizza, he stumbles upon the MILF-y, Spanish Carmella (Louisa Moritz; Deathrace 2000, Cannonball!, New years Evil) who wants to pop his cherry with her sexy dances and cries of "my big burrito!". Gary runs off and gets his friends to join him. Carmella seems more than game to take the three boys on one-by-one, with Gary going in for sloppy thirds. Once again though, his plan is snagged at the arrival home of Carmellas angry looking sailor boyfriend who tries to beat them all the way down the driveway. Some guys just ain't got no luck.

Things seem to get a bit hot and heavy with Rick and Karen, though. Gary finally looses it when he realises that Rick has nailed her, and gloats about it openly with his friends. And this is suddenly the turning point for The Last American Virgin. A few weeks later, Gary witnesses Karen crying in school after Rick tells her to get lost. Gary, being a caring soul, talks to her. It turns out she is pregnant, and Rick wants nothing to do with her. Gary decides he has to do the right thing and help her get an abortion. But will it be enough for him to win her over? Will things all work out happily ever after?

It's this final half an hour that makes The Last American Virgin so memorable. What had been up to this point an admittedly funny teen sex romp suddenly does a U-turn into drama that you never would expect a film from this genre to approach. It's a ballsy move that doesn't happen as seamlessly as it could, but it is the better film for it. Gary finally gets to show Karen that he does care for her; that its not just a crush or distant infatuation. She seems to open up to him, even kissing him, and possibly more that we don't see. It is these tender moments that make the final 5 minutes so raw and heartbreaking, and it leaves you with one of the most honest and realistic endings that I have seen in this sub genre. It is an ending that should stick with you much longer after the film has ended, and anyone who has ever suffered from a cold-hearted rejection will be able to relate to.

The film deals with plenty of other issues that many of us will remember from our teenage years. Those moments when you realise that the guys you are hanging out with might not actually be the life-long friends you thought they were, or how it takes getting hurt over and over to get you to toughen up. Sometimes the hurt will come from those who you think are your friends. The thing is, even with Rick being a jerk, he isn't the bad guy here. Rick is the obvious teenage catch; handsome, athletic with the bad boy credentials that all the ladies love. Gary is just... Gary. A bit desperate, needy and obsessive. We can all be young and stupid, and make the decisions that will lead us to ruin. Gary just makes some bad decisions, and puts too much stock in the hopes that people can change.

It's not all heartbreak and gloom, though. The film has plenty of laughs to get you through. The opening scenes mentioned above set the tone perfectly with the mix of boobs and gags. There is a penis measuring contest, and the scenes with Carmella are pretty hilarious. The lads end up with crabs after a particularly depressing trip to a hooker (this is when the film starts to take a slight darker turn) and have to go to a chemist to get sorted out after their attempts to 'drown' the crabs in the swimming pool fails. They steal uber-nerd Victors (Brian Peck; The Return of the Living Dead I,II, & III) car and end up driving it into the sea. All the typical things teenagers get up to over the summer.

Lawrence Monoson does a reasonable job at portraying the angst and pity of Gary. His character comes across quite creepy in parts, though, but that might just be hindsight giving him that vibe. Diane Franklin is electric as the love interest, even with her crazy eyebrows. She managed to rack up one of the best B movie credits from the 80's, and she will always be loved for that. She even handles the nudity like a champ. Steve Antin as Rick is perfectly cast; he pulls off being unintentionally obnoxious absolutely perfectly. Joe Rubbo is a good sport as the dumpy David, he has to get his tubby ass out a few times and does well as the comedy relief. Kinda like an 80's Jonah Hill. Also worth mentioning is the cutesy Kimmy Robertson who plays Karens friend, Rose, who has a crush on Gary. She is best known as Lucy from Twin Peaks, and is always good for a giggle.

Director Boaz Davidson had already threaded similar ground with the Lemon Popsicle series, which I have never seen. He does a great job of keeping things ripping along here, though, and somehow manages to make the tonal shift of the last act work. Special mention needs to made of the fantastic New Wave soundtrack, which features Devo, The Police, The Human League, Oingo Boingo, Journey, The Plimsouls and U2. It all works very well, and the U2 track is particularly memorable over the sequence it plays out on.

It may get less attention than other films from its era, but do yourself a favour and rediscover his film for yourself. It has full frontal nudity, sleazy humour, drama, tears... all wrapped up in a bittersweet coming-of-age story. It is one of the finest films from its genre, and that right there is strong praise.

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At 9 July 2013 at 12:19 , Blogger joe said...

I really liked this one back in the day, but I didn't like the ending of this movie.

At 9 July 2013 at 12:33 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Surprised you didn't like the ending, though maybe you were one of the lucky ones who never got your soul crushed :-) It is definitely worth a re-visit, you may feel differently towards it.

At 10 July 2013 at 13:27 , Blogger Dave R said...

Never even heard of it. Poor 80's Jonah Hill :(

At 10 July 2013 at 13:36 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Dave, you would enjoy this one. An heroic amount of breasts are on display, plus it has a lot of heart. Don't worry about 80's Jonah Hill, he got a serious amount of ass in this film.

At 10 October 2013 at 22:58 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this on cable staying up late on a school night in the late 1980s. I remember being shocked when the credits started rolling - there was just no way a raunch comedy could end like this. It was actually heart-wrenching.

At 11 October 2013 at 03:05 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

It really is tough stuff, pretty much from the hooker scene onwards is not what is expected. I found the abortion scene with the U2 track playing on it pretty emotional too.

At 20 May 2014 at 19:53 , Blogger Craig Edwards said...

I love this review - I think TLAV is an unheralded gem of a movie - and for all the reasons you cite. It's actually an Americanized remake of the first (I think) Israeli Lemon Popsicle movie - which turned up dubbed on a cheapie DVD set I bought. It was interesting to see the story play out in the original - but this American version is the one to see. The ending of this movie is devastating - and utterly real and honest. Amazing movie. Huzzah on you for giving it some love!

At 21 May 2014 at 00:29 , Blogger JP Mulvanetti said...

Thanks Craig! Fully agreed - if I was to make a top ten unsung movies from the period, this would be high up on the list. As I mentioned it above, I haven't seen any of the Lemon Popsicle films. They just never made it to this part of the world. I really should do my best to get hold of them though, especially as you have brought them up in relation to another favorite of mine.


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