Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE SUMMER: The Last American Virgin (1982)

“Come to me my big burrito!”

The Last American Virgin, 1982 (Lawrence Monoson) The Cannon Group

Three idiots. Three friends. Isn’t that always the way? Private School. Fraternity Vacation. My Tutor. The formula is tested, tried, and true. Lawrence Monoson’s pizza boy Gary, the titular virgin, struggles with teenage ennui as his sex-obsessed friends, sleazy Rick (Steve Antin), and tubby David (Joe Rubbo), bizarrely and effortlessly, manage to bag babes every night. Maybe it isn’t as important to Gary, especially after he locks eyes one night at the ice cream stand with the gorgeous Karen (Diane Franklin). Karen has wide, dreamy innocent eyes, but her looks are deceptive. She’s a carnivorous viper, the worst kind of tease imaginable with a singular mission in life: to destroy Gary in any way she can.

Of course, the audience isn’t supposed to know that (or even believe that given her naïve disposition). When Rick sets his sights on Karen, Gary intercedes and an interesting conflict develops wherein Gary must be loyal to his friend while attempting to protect Karen by being the nice guy. We don’t always see the nice guy in movies like these. Matt Lattanzi comes to mind, as does Stephen Geoffreys, but here Monoson succeeds because he is perfectly awkward. He’s too young to be taken seriously and too old to be viewed as anything less than a young adult, which means he understands responsibility. This wouldn’t be a teen sex comedy without moments of implausibility and outright fantasy.

Gary strikes up a friendship with Karen after her bike breaks down, and he gives her a lift to school. Unfortunately, the way Karen is written, she comes off a total flake one moment, a tart the next, and completely dizzy most of the time. She’s clueless as to Gary’s affection for her, throughout the movie! At a party, Gary is crestfallen to find Karen in Rick’s arms. He becomes obsessed with her. Monoson’s performance makes me want to cry. Gary gets drunk on a half a bottle of Jack, and after being thrown in a swimming pool, gets shown the door, and this where I think the boys get the idea to de-virginate Gary.

When delivering a pizza, a solicitous nymphomaniac customer named Carmela (Louisa Mortiz) invites Gary for sex, but he insists on bringing his friends along. When Gary is about to get his turn at bat, Carmela’s boyfriend, Paco, shows up to ruin the festivities. Later, the three of them pick up a wise-cracking hooker, but Gary doesn’t enjoy it. He even throws up afterward. All of them get crabs. First, they try to drown the little buggers in a pool (doesn’t work) and then, humiliated, they see an apothecary who bursts out laughing. There’s a lesson to be learned here, I think.

This is where you have to wonder if Karen is incredibly stupid for not seeing through Rick’s façade. She loses her virginity to him and gets pregnant. With no one to turn to, Gary hocks his stereo to pay for Karen to get an abortion*. I remember this part of the movie-making me extremely angry, even as a kid. I didn’t understand that Karen was a “creation.” Karen is an unsettling product of misogyny; as if all of the bad experiences with all women in the writer’s imagination were formed into a troubling golem, a stack of male miseries. As puzzling as that idea is, it still fits into a pattern of arrested adolescence and makes for perfect characterization. This is how most young men look at, and comment on, women.

Boaz Davidson remakes his popular Israeli comedy, Lemon Popsicle as a romantic drama for American audiences. There’s a surprising amount of artistry in the composition of photography and editing. One of the more breathtaking shots in the movie is when a car goes plummeting into the Malibu surf after the parking brake is dislodged during a heavy make-out session. There are elements of Fellini, Scorsese, and Rossellini juxtaposed with the more common tropes of Blake Edwards and Billy Wilder. The movie ends on an incredibly depressing note with Gary driving away after seeing Karen, once again, in Rick’s arms.

The movie is loaded with popular songs from the ’70s and ’80s and is an incredibly fun viewing experience. The Last American Virgin has so much going for it in character development and the underpinnings of drama with humorous misadventures, it’s puzzling the movie would be savaged by not only critics of the time, but the people who made it (as seen in the documentary, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films). The Last American Virgin is a knock-out of a movie made at a time when very little care was put into the genre.

*It’s interesting that money is the deal-breaker in providing an abortion in this movie. The Doctor, as portrayed in the movie, is much more interested in money than in health care. $250 cash (in 1982 dollars), to be precise. She even counts the money and eyes him in very much the same way the hooker eyes her prospective customers. I wonder if that was a conscious decision on the director’s part.

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