The Last American Virgin by any standard initially comes off as your average 80’s teen movie about high schoolers trying to get laid. In fact the original poster showed the entire cast, all smiling 50’s-style, as they were ensconced in a pair of unzipping jeans. It’s not made clear whether the jeans belong to a guy or a girl, the point is that if you watch this movie jeans are going to be coming down. The poster also boasts songs from such bands as The Cars, Blondie, Devo, Journey, The Police, REO Speedwagon, Tommy Tutone, etc., so simply based on this soundtrack, The Last American Virgin could forever be enshrined in the halls of 80s, teen, moviedom.
However, once you watch the film it becomes apparent that The Last American Virgin is not your garden-variety teen film. Sure there’s nudity, there’s even sex, parties, site gags, and everything we want from “teen movies”, but a teen movie this is not. This film is the story of Gary (Lawrence Monoson), Rick (Steve Antin), and David (Joe Rubbo) all trying to score with the ladies. Gary is the more sensitive and thoughtful of the three characters. That doesn’t mean that Rick and David are without nuance. Rick is a clearly the ladies man while David is a your obligatory 80s, fun, “big” guy. At the same time, Rick is both a good and bad guy. David isn’t entirely fun loving, especially when he slaps another character in the face for hurting Gary’s feelings.
So amidst their quest for ladies, Gary meets Karen (Diane Franklin) who he is instantly smitten with. However, Rick (not knowing that Gary feels this way) gets there first and suddenly this “sex comedy” takes a turn. The stakes get raised when Rick impregnates Karen but then doesn’t want anything to do with her. Gary swoops in and selflessly takes care of her. In fact, in a move that is controversial even in 2020, he helps Karen get an abortion. Amidst this Gary declares his love for her and it seems like finally the stars have aligned. The movie isn’t over (we’ll get to that later), but, taken as a whole this solid 80s film allows itself to break from the pack. It may have a disposable title and present itself as everything you’ve seen before, but in the end The Last American Virgin is actually a special film that is right up there with such coming-of-age stories as Stand By Me and The Breakfast Club.
Oddly, The Last American Virgin was not this films first incarnation. In fact it was released in 1978 as Lemon Popsicle, and according to IMDB it was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign film. (That right there should tell that it’s American remake was working with material that was of a little higher caliber). There were actually a bunch of sequels to Lemon Popsicle. Director Boaz Davidson helmed some of them and he also directed The Last American Virgin. Interestingly, there are shots in both versions of this film that look identical, they just have different actors in them.
Setting this film apart from other teen, sex comedies would also be its handling of risqué material in scenes and it’s characterizations. For example, there’s a scene where Gary, Rick, and David encounter a nymphomaniac named Carmela (played to perfection by Louisa Moritz). This scene is broken down by the three characters. When Rick gets to be with her the scene is stylish, sexy, and exactly as you might expect a scene like this to be with a study younger man and an older woman. Then it’s David’s turn and because he’s the comic relief throughout the film, the scene is comically done. As I stated, David is your classic “big guy” character. When it comes time for Gary to take his turn the laughter and sexiness of the scene stops. Gary almost seems like a deer in the headlights. He seems forced to follow his friends and as a result we feel his angst and fear. Just before things can get really awkward, Carmela’s husband comes home and chases the boys away. Ultimately, Gary not consummating the act deepens our connection to him and his character.
Contrast this with the scene where the three guys solicit and “score” with a prostitute. The backdrop of this scene is that Rick has been too busy hanging out with Karen to hang out with his friends. So Gary and David make it seem like they’ve been seeing a prostitute regularly. Rick, feeling left out, goes with the guys to see this prostitute, not knowing of course that they have never seen her before in their lives. This whole encounter with the prostitute Ruby (played by Nancy Brock) on the streets of Los Angeles, is nothing short of horrifying. Ruby is crass, angry, and sees her work with the boys as nothing more than a business exchange. This isn’t her fault of course, the woman is simply doing her job. This time Gary does have sex with her. However, there’s nothing about his “first time” that is good, memorable, or in anyway enjoyable. In fact, Gary even throws up after this which some people have suggested might be his way of rejecting/negating his first sexual experience. Whatever the case, this character’s sensitivity to this moment is unlike anything you are likely to see in these sorts of 80s skin flicks. Not wanting you to dwell on Gary’s tortured adolescence for too long, this whole situation juxtaposes with Gary, Rick and David getting “crabs” in the aftermath of their evening with Ruby.
The character of Karen as played by Diane Franklin is also given to a lot of nuance. It is obvious when her and Gary first meet that there is a connection (at least on Gary’s end). Karen seems like she might be open to it. Then, a short while later, when we see her at the party dancing with Rick, it is apparent that Gary might be right for her but Rick is who she wants. In most 80s films, characters like Karen don’t generally have a lot to do. They appear in the beginning, the middle, and the end with their primary function being that they are going to push the story along. That isn’t the case with Karen in The Last American Virgin. Sure, this is clearly the boys movie but she casts a large shadow over much of Gary’s actions and the film. While never stated it is apparent that he doesn’t want any of his extra-curricular activities to get back to her via Rick. At the end of the movie, just when it seems like there’s no way Karen and Gary will ever not be together, it is Karen’s ultimate decision that we remember the most about this supposed throwaway, 80s film.
The ending of The Last American Virgin is probably the reason why we’re still writing about it 38 years after it’s release in 1982. Rick and Karen have sex and this results in Karen getting pregnant. Rick completely abandons her. This causes Gary to confront him and they get in a fist fight. Gary puts a plan together to pay for Karen’s abortion. Amidst this, he even sees Rick leave for a ski trip with another girl. So Gary helps Karen have the abortion and then nurses her back to health after. Then he admits his feelings for her (which she has to have known by now), they kiss, and it seems like they are going to be together. Gary gets Karen a gift for her birthday party and shows up to give it to her. It is here, with a house full of people that Gary walks in on Karen and Rick making out. Apparently, as good as Gary has a been to her it just isn’t enough and she still loves his former best friend. Gary leaves the party and drives home in tears.
80s movies don’t typically end this way. Lawrence Monoson’s performance when he sees Karen and Rick back together is nothing short of soul crushing. Rick and Karen both appear like star-crossed lovers. At the same time they seem to know they shouldn’t be doing this to Gary but can’t help themselves. Then, Gary leaving the party, not “getting the girl”, and the movie just ending is truly what makes The Last American Virgin a special film. At times it is the perfect blend of 80’s teen comedy schtick and high school angst. However, with an ending that elicits the same feelings no matter how many times you watch it, this supposedly disposable movie (from Cannon Films no less!) rises to the level of art.
If you’re lucky, try and get your hands on Arrow Video’s release The Last American Virgin as it is undoubtably the most definitive version out of the classic movie.
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