Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Private School

(R, Universal Pictures, 89 mins., theatrical release date: July 29, 1983)

In my review of Mischief, a passing reference was made to a movie called Private School. For some godforsaken reason, I chose to revisit it in the hopes that I didn't have to use a two-word review that could sum up whatever appeal the movie had, which in '80s teen sex comedies tend to be as flimsy as the women's garments. And now I feel safe in dispatching this one with my original blunt, no-frills description:

Privates, Cool!

Thanks for your time, I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip the concierge and happy trails.

Maybe Mischief really was a passion project for Noel Black, because nothing in Privates, Cool...I'm sorry, Private School indicates a genuine filmmaking effort from all involved. Based on what I read in old newspaper clippings, this isn't even Noel Black's baby at all. Instead, you can place/blame whatever auteur tendencies are to be gleaned on the producer, Tel Aviv-born R. Ben Efraim. After making a mint on Private Lessons, this one-man Golan-Globus wannabe reportedly market-researched the hell out of his follow-up, going so far as to cater to "live teenage audiences" directly. To quote Universal Pictures' press kit, as relayed by Skip Sheffield of the Boca Raton News, Efraim deployed "the most sophisticated principles of testing and evaluation in all phases of production."

Yeah, right. Fancy terms for condescension aren't endearing to me even if I want nothing more than a 50-minute sizzle reel of T&A padded out for box-office legitimacy. Hardbodies had more of a sense of humor in its advertising blitz than this, not to mention better dialogue and direction.

For all I know, the motherfucker who produced Mitchell may as well have been influenced by his fellow Israelis when Lemon Popsicle was breaking big in Hebrew Land, which of course led to The Last American Virgin. Private School is a retread of that low landmark rather than the Sylvia Kristel-is-My Tutor antics of Efraim's previous smash, only without the clinical attention paid to the act of intercourse, not to mention the subsequent abortion and betrayal. Efraim apparently willed into being a transparent ogling party, and based on the high volume of female flesh on show, I doubt he reached out to adolescent girls one whit.

All you need to know about Efraim's legitimacy can be summed up by his three most outstanding credits which followed: Private Resort, Private Lessons 2, Private Lessons: Another Story. I'm sure a scientific cross-section of Skinemax viewers helped him fulfill that potential.

The only thing Privates...Private School has going for it is song which heralds the opening credits, Harry Nilsson's "You're Breaking My Heart." Ten years prior, the rakish iconoclast who popularized such couplets as "Everybody's talkin' at me/I don't hear a word they're sayin,'" "I can't live/If living is without you" and "You put de lime in de coconut/You drank 'em bot' up" reacted to romantic disappointment in a decidedly profane yet pithy act of subversion, with George Harrison's slide guitar egging him on. Such a gloriously rude anthem makes an ideal choice to kick off some Animal House-worthy antics, but Private School never proves as inspired as that one solitary musical cue.

(Rick Springfield, The Stray Cats, Bow Wow Wow, Trio, and Vanity 6 are the other name attractions on the soundtrack, with Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs' "Li'l Red Riding Hood" the sole oldie.)

Instead, we get a trite series of conflicts between boys and girls, young and old, all of them tedious louts. The female students of Cherryvale Academy defy their repressed headmistress, get peeped at by the male students of Freemount Academy and everyone unites for a PTA pool party where a limousine loudspeaker broadcasts some salacious distraction. Alleged scribes Dan Greenburg & Suzanne O'Malley rehash way too many exhausted clich├ęs under the pompous notion of "fun" (the one hurdle these prurient '80s teen romps constantly trip over). The imbecilic anarchy unwittingly becomes its own form of fascism.

There's a sex education class presided over by a listless Sylvia Kristel, whose juvenile name is the only designation of any laughter, not that it delivers. There's Ray Walston making a fool of himself in ways Amy Heckerling deigned not to do. There's the unbilled Martin Mull as a jabbering drugstore clerk who complicates a routine over-the-counter request for condoms (they were available on the shelves in the early '80s, for Christ's sake!). There's lanky Matthew Modine as Jim in love with Phoebe Cates' Christine, plotting out a romantic weekend of virginal conjugation (Cates gets to play innocent and sing, but her presence is just another bust). And, of course, there's Betsy Russell as Jordan, the class exhibitionist out to wreck things for the happy couple when she's not being pestered by Jim's buddy, Bubba (Michael Zorek), who appears to be hitting it off nicely with Christine's rebellious friend Betsy (Kathleen Wilhoite) whenever he's not sating his excruciating voyeurism.

Yes, the spank-tacular sight of Betsy Russell on horseback with her blouse open is meant to be an act of sabotage, an attempt to lure Jim all for herself with those teacup nipples. But what to make of a scene later when Jordan corners loverboy himself after he turns up as part of a drag-dressing stunt with Bubba and dork Roy (Jonathan Prince)? Vamping and undressing and raising the thermostat to drive him crazy, you'd think she'd make the most of what would appear to be having Jim delivered on a silver platter. Nah, it never gets amusingly bitchy or erotic, just leery and lame. Jordan's a dim bimbo in such a constant state of undress that when she's supposed to be truly humiliated, it never registers.

Good for sales of Vaseline, though!

Porky's and Mischief sure look like perfect 10s compared to the mindless, endless, useless peek-a-boo of Privates, Cool. Flunk this shit.

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