Private School (1983) – A Review
This was a double-whammy with chicks….so to speak. Private School had not one, but two hot chicks that you would find yourself torn choosing between.
We have the ‘good girl’ Chris Ramsey played by the adorable Phoebe Cates. This was Cates in her prime. Fresh off the success of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Cates had instantly become one of the preeminent teen girls in movies that had guys swooning. And her starring in a film titled Private School (also called Private School….for Girls) it sounded like an ideal cinematic way to watch our beloved Phoebe prance around in a dorm room looking as cute as ever. And hey, maybe we’d get to see some skin too!
|One of THE Questions of the 80’s|
On the flip side we have the ‘bad girl’ Jordan. Betsy Russel is the sexy, bitchy, buxom girl at Cherryvale Academy for Girls (get the joke?) who has her eyes on Chris’ boyfriend Jim (Matthew Modine). Jim’s a good guy, He’s in love with Chris, but it’s really hard to resist the very well-built Jordan. Especially with her throwing herself at him every chance she gets. What’s a guy to do? Who will Jim ultimately choose? Will he wait for Chris until she’s ready and make their ‘first time’ an unforgettable very special event in their lives? Or will he just forget that and have wild, shallow sex with Jordan?
Are all private schools this much fun?
Private School has become one of those quintessential teen/sex comedies. If you were to ask someone to name five 80’s teen/sex comedies this will probably be mentioned. Everyone saw it. It became a fixture on cable that resulted in countless viewings. With the popular Cates being the main girl, the sexy title that will get the perverted wheels spinning in your head (unless you think it’s some kind of English drama) and the smoking hot Russell baring all, it’s no wonder it gave a jolt for those who watched it way back when.
|The Always Cute Phoebe Cates|
Setting aside cute Phoebe, the luscious Betsy and the title, the film itself is…..eh. I always found it a pretty standard 80’s teen comedy. It’s not the worst, but not my favorite. Cates and Russell are really the only two things that make this flick stand out to me. Their good girl/bad girl struggle for Jim’s heart is the main story, but the film sprinkles in all those requirements a film of this genre needs.
It’s got the juvenile humor. The opening scene is Jim and his – naturally ‘wacky’ – buddies spying on the showering Jordan and snapping photos away with a polaroid (just google that kids). Actually it is kind of strange when I think that Jim is supposed to be this good guy and the first time we meet him he’s peeping at the naked Jordan (not that I blame him). If he’s this jazzed to see Jordan au natural then how could he ever resist her when she’s trying to seduce him?
|The required ‘Peeping Tom’ scene in Private School|
Plus, Chris sees him doing this whole peeping thing, but just finds it as funny as can be. I would think she might be a little ticked off about it. But maybe I’m thinking too deeply into this. It’s just the first wild, fun sexy scene to kickstart the movie and it ends with one of the big things we love about these movies:
Yep, we get them here. It would be a real letdown if we didn’t get to see any young girl boobs in a film called Private School. Russell is unquestionably the standout in this department. She is truly a stunning woman and when she drops her towel, throws her toned leg into Jim’s hand or the most notable scene from the entire film, her riding slo-mo topless on a horse she does make you drool.
|Russell and Modine|
Plus, she’s actually pretty good in the film. She does the stuck up rich girl pretty well and is a nice adversary for Cates. And seriously – her body is unreal in this flick.
She’s the main target of the teenage hijinks in the movie. It mainly consists of Jim and his pals trying to see her naked. That’s simple enough.
As shown on the poster the guys dress up as girls to sneak into the private school to check out all the talented chicks. Their wigs don’t make for much of a disguise and this leads to Jordan luring Jim into her room and doing her best to turn him on. It’s a pretty sexy scene. Russell disrobes little by little asking her new ‘gal-pal’ to critique her body. Any hetero guy would have been flipping out as much as Modine if he were ever lucky enough to be in this predicament.
|Russell disrobing – something she does a lot!|
Michael Zorak is Bubba, he’s one of those loud, slobby, horny best friends who show up in these movies a lot. Bubba is usually at the center of the awkward sexual antics taking place. He’s the lynchpin for giving us the raucous zany comedy. Getting stuck in a steamroom. Falling out of windows. Obliviously jumping into a bed with a teacher (played by Private Lessons star Sylvia Kristal).
At one point he places bets with his friends to see how far he can go with Jordan. With all the guys hiding around his dorm room to verify this, he tries to romance Jordan and manages to get her down to her underwear – with the help of spilling some wine on her (I guess that kind of counts to win the bet). But really, we don’t care about the bet as long as Jordan loses her threads.
The film really knew that Russell was something and tried to feature her as much as they could. There are a good amount of scenes ending with her either naked or in her underwear. This is a good thing by the way.
|Fran Ryan and Ray Walston|
Those dopey, authority-figure adults are running around too. We have stern teachers who embarrass themselves. Over-sexed and drunk parents. It’s all pretty standard kind of stuff in this department. Although, one of these goofy grown-ups is played by Ray Walston.
This was the second time he appeared in one of these teen-type of flicks after Fast Times. I guess it was probably an easy gig for him. Film for a few days and get a check. I don’t think he was being offered too much work at this point. All those Popeye sequels just never happened, so why not say ‘yes’ to Private School. I find him pretty funny in this actually. He’s funnier than Bubba!
|The cast of Private School decked out in 80’s attire|
One scene that really sums up Private School as well as anything is a random aerobics scene. It just sort of happens out of nowhere. The film stops, all the girls march outside and they do a choreographed aerobics routine. Where did this come from?
So we have all gals done up in spandex outfits, leg warmers, leotards, shaking their hips to Rick Springfield’s American Girl. The scene just screams ‘1980’s’ with big neon lights flashing overhead. There’s no mistaking what time period it’s taking place in.
It’s scenes like this that movies don’t do today. Private School knows we want to gawk at all the girls, so why not give us what we want by having them just shake their stuff for us in tight outfits for a few minutes. Does this scene further the plot? Does it slow down the pacing? Is this really integral to the story? We don’t care and neither does the movie. Knowing your audience and what they want is what these flicks were all about and this blatant scene proves it.
|The girls do learn some school stuff in like one scene|
To this day the debate still lives – ‘who would you choose, Chris or Jordan?’ This was like an 80’s version of the Mary Ann vs Ginger dilemma. That’s the main thing I enjoy and remember about Private School.
The misbehaving and pranks are so-so. I would never have predicted that four years later Modine would be starring in a Stanley Kubrick film based on his role in this. He’s a pretty stiff and boring character here. It’s not that he’s bad, but his character is so painfully bland.
That seems to be the case with the ‘good guy’ roles in these flicks, it’s the looney friends who are usually the most fun. And here…..Bubba…I don’t find him particularly funny, however he does try to get Jordan naked throughout the movie, so I have to thank him for that.
|The girls getting disciplined for their outrageous antics|
It’s not the worst of its kind, but certainly not the best. Cates and Russell are the main reasons why it stands out to me. With both those leads I would have hoped the rest of the film could have been funnier.
Private School has become something of a classic 80’s teen/sex comedy and that’s mainly due to Cates and Russell. It had the potential to have been just a classic 80’s comedy, but it falls short of any kind of greatness. Although, who am I kidding, they were probably not thinking of attaining any kind of ‘classic movie status’ when they filmed that aerobics scene.
Besides our two female leads, all the other characters in the movie I really don’t care about. Although, Ray Walston is pretty entertaining with his brief appearance as a snooty chauffeur. Maybe he should have done more 80’s teen/sex movies.