The Last American Virgin (1982) – A Review
“Everybody put in a buck. And the man who’s got the biggest tool, he’s the one who wins the pool!”
Some movies you only need a few minutes to see and immediately the time period they were made in comes flooding off the screen. There’s just no mistaking it.
The Last American Virgin is one such film. It was one of those many movies that gained its real popularity thanks to airings on cable television and the new marvel that was VHS. It has all the 1980s hallmarks that marked the films targeted at teens during the early part of the decade. We get scenes in a locker room, the burger joint, there’s the loud party, the outrageous fashion, the music and of course the timeless quest to get laid. This is quintessential wild high school antics in the 1980s. Or at least the movie version of it.
Collars up gentleman!
So we have our three lead characters, the shallow ultra-smooth ladies man Rick (Steve Antin), overweight, cost conscious, prat-falling David (Joe Rubbo) and our lead character the pizza delivery ‘nice guy’ Gary (Lawrence Monoson). As stereotypical 1980s teenagers all are, these three guys are out to have a good time – drinking, smoking, partying and naturally trying to score with the ladies.
Oh that last one is a big goal with these guys. In fact it’s pretty much the first half of the movie. Not surprising given the films title. With a name like The Last American Virgin, sex has to come into this somehow.
So their young lives are on adolescent cruise control until one day a new girl arrives at school. Gary is immediately crushing big time on Karen (Diane Franklin), but unfortunately he quickly moves into her ‘friend zone’ after she catches Rick’s eye.
Gary now has to heartbreakingly watch as his buddy spends time with his dream girl. Looking at this from Karen’s perspective, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was getting a bit creeped out by Gary with the constant gazing he does at her. I wonder if the idea of getting a restraining order ever crossed her mind.
Alas, there can be problems that arise with young love/lust and soon Karen is faced with a real problem. Rick no longer wants anything to do with her and carelessly rejects her. However help comes from the brokenhearted Gary, who comes to her aid making personal and financial sacrifices to make sure the girl he loves is ok.
Now will Karen see that Gary is a special kind of guy, look at him differently and have this nice guy finish first? That’s what’s supposed to happen in the movies right.
If I were to make an ultimate list of the Top Five Teen/Sex/Comedies of the 1980’s I’m pretty sure The Last American Virgin would find a place somewhere in one of those five slots.
It’s not necessarily because it’s a great movie or the story or characters are anything unique. Most of the adventures involving our three heroes is stuff we’ve seen many times. They get caught by parents trying to score with girls, a car gets ruined when they try to score with girls, a big, angry boyfriend surprises them when they try to score with an older girl. It’s not really original stuff, but that’s not to say it’s not entertaining.
There’s one particular scene of the trio needing some medical help with a slight case of crabs, so they head to a pharmacy in the hopes of getting some kind of remedy. Naturally their embarrassment in trying to explain what exactly is wrong makes it a very funny, awkward scene.
Whenever I watch that scene I’m reminded of a very similar one from Summer of ’42 when the young timid hero attempts to buy condoms and he becomes a panicked-stricken customer who goes about his purchase in the most grueling, indirect way possible.
One odd thing about Virgin’s pharmacist scene is it seems like a lot of times it’s truncated. In the version I saw years ago the first pharmacist they encounter is a female and they quickly make up the excuse that they’re there to weigh themselves. This explains why they’re standing on a scale when they begin talking to the male pharmacist, which is where most versions of this scene begins with. I’m not sure what the reason is for this. Perhaps it was only included in the TV-version of the film, but I always notice its absence when watching it today.
The movie has enough other silly and memorable stuff that make it pretty fun to watch, The main love triangle story runs through a series of episodic adventures of the boys at school and their wannabe sexual adventures. Challenging the school geek Victor to an erection measuring contest, where all the guys at full attention proudly march up to get measured. A visit to the vile prostitute Ruby and the itchy fallout from the encounter.
Then there’s one of the most fortunate pizza deliveries Gary could ever hope to make to the blonde latina bombshell Carmella (Louisa Mortiz) who wants to have a pizza party with these three muchachos . There finally seemed like there could be a payoff to driving around in a pink station wagon with a big pizza guy on the roof.
Casual Virgin fans may not know The Last American Virgin is actually a remake of director Boaz Davidson’s Israeli film Eskimo Limon (Lemon Popsicle) from 1978, which was a decent sized hit and spawned several sequels. When he was setting out to remake the story for the U.S audience he originally considered making it a period film set in the 1950’s like the original.
However, for whatever reasons it was decided to set it in contemporary times. Maybe it was just less expensive that way. According to IMDB Virgin was filmed two years prior to its 1982 release. I’m not sure if that’s accurate or what might have caused such a delay between making it and releasing it. Perhaps Davidson had trouble finding a distributor for it.
The 1980s era in which the movie takes place in is one of the things that really stands out watching it today. Both the good and bad about the decade come seeping through the movie. It’s hard to believe kids used to wear some of this stuff and it was considered cool. Kids really went to parties wearing Devo hats??? It’s almost a perfect time capsule of the early 80’s. The fashion, the hairstyles and most notably the music.
The soundtrack is wall to wall 80’s hits. The filmmakers must of knew to market the movie based on the songs they had and having them all packed in one movie was a major selling point. The movie poster takes up nearly half its space up promoting the musicians. The original movie trailer for the film plays more like a promotion for the soundtrack than the actual movie. Based on the trailer the movie looks like it’s just a bunch of kids running around with music constantly playing. Story? What story? Just listen to the music kids!
Actually a lot of the songs accompany the scenes pretty well. Devo’s ‘Whip It’ plays over the boner measuring contest. Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Oh No’ when Gary discovers Karen and Rick are doing it.
The Waitresses repetitive ‘I Know What Boys Like’ fits perfectly over Gary’s feeble attempt at undoing a bra strap of an oblivious female. And of course James Ingram’s ‘Just Once’ that punctuates Gary’s infatuation with Karen. The film starts to use that particular song so often it almost gets comical.
It’s the ending to the film that has really left the most indelible impact on viewers. We’re going to get into SPOILER TERRITORY HERE, so if you haven’t seen the film you might want to stop reading now and just go check out the movie.
Rick finally has sex with Karen. Gary is angry, heartbroken and just devastated. Later on he learns that Rick dumps her because she gets pregnant. With no one to turn to for help Gary swoops in and gives Karen the emotional and financial support she needs to get through the abortion. It’s kind of odd how Virgin and the more popular Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which got released within months of each other both had abortion play a part in their stories.
I had read that Virgin took awhile to come to DVD because one of the problems was the song that accompanies Karen’s abortion procedure. U2’s ‘I Will Follow’ plays as we see her getting prepped for surgery crosscutting with Gary running around trying to scrounge up enough money to pay for it.
I had heard at one point U2 wasn’t too thrilled with their song being used during that scene and it took the studio awhile to iron out the music rights for its DVD release. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s just one of the haphazard things I’ve heard about this film through the years.
After supporting Karen through this ordeal and paying for the whole thing now Gary is really the good guy! He confesses his feelings for Karen, they kiss and it looks like we’ll fade out on the pair who are on the cusp of starting an epic teen romance. This is something that should have happened when she first met him, but it just took her awhile to realize it. Now all the pain that Gary went through will make having Karen fall for him all the more sweeter.
However, Gary and us are thrown for a loop and the fairy tale ending is shattered when we and Gary discover Karen is back in the arms of Rick. As the music comes up we see the shock and pain on Gary’s face as this revelation hits him like a bucket of cold water. He silently drives away with tears streaming down his face. It’s not the expected finale you would think a film like this would end on.
Over thirty years later, when this film somehow comes up in conversation from those who grew up watching it that ending still hits a chord. I’ve heard people describe Karen in all sorts of very negative ways. Any sympathy she gained by her unfortunate situation and being ‘used’ by Rick gets completely wiped away in those final moments of the movie.
Some say Gary set himself up for such an emotional flogging and opening that kitchen door at the party and catching those two making out was the best thing that ever could of happened to him. While others describe it as the typical and more accurate example of a ‘nice guy’ story, rather than the movie version of having these two ride off together in that pink station wagon.
I always thought Gary should have just hooked up with Rose! Here’s a chick throwing herself at him throughout the entire movie, but he doesn’t do anything since he’s so fixated on Karen. They try to make Rose look all geeky with glasses having goofy hair and braces, but did anyone notice her in her bikini? Yeah, what a nightmare chick she would of been to have…..uh huh.
I always found this to be a very downbeat ending for such a seemingly fun, goofy film. I’m not sure had that final scene not been there and they just gave us a ‘happy ending’ if The Last American Virgin would have been such a memorable film for audiences.
It is interesting to note that in Virgin there always seems to be repercussions with the freewheeling teen sex that’s going on – STD’s, pregnancy, getting caught by the huge sailor Paco! There’s something of a price to pay for the fun the guys are trying to have. I suppose it keeps with that theme that hearbreak is also something that will happen to our hero.
The young cast are all pretty good in their roles. Most of the supporting cast I can’t remember seeing in anything else and only know them from Virgin. I think Rubbo retired from acting soon after and ran into some trouble with the law. Antin still works in the biz in some capacity, but I’m really only familiar with him from playing Rick, his small part in The Goonies and appearing in Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl music video.
Franklin, who would go onto co-star in Better Off Dead, was always someone I thought should have been more prolific during the 80’s. I could picture her being one of the more popular young
actresses who would go onto appear in a succession of movies, but she never really did.
Monoson is the real standout. He’s very likable and convincingly conveys the pain of a yearning teen who’s pining away for a girl he just can’t get. Again I only know him from this movie.
The Last American Virgin is basically two movies. First the customary ‘teen sex comedy’. There’s a lot of contrived gags, but there are some funny adolescent laughs to be had. We get the required ingredients we expect from a film of this sort.
Then the raunchy sex comedy attempts to be balanced by the more dramatic and unexpected turn the story takes in the second half. It’s sort of a precursor to the emotional weight John Hughes would bring to his teen movies in a couple years, which would subsequently transform the teen movie genre.
Overall it all works well here. On top of which there’s some pretty good tunes that run throughout the whole thing. I always thought of The Last American Virgin as one of the better Teen Sex Comedies of the early 80’s and an essential entry in the genre.