In a 1988 Sight And Sound interview, Patricia Highsmith talks about film adaptations of her novels, from Strangers On A Train (1950) to The American Friend (1977)
Posted October 20, 2005
It’s probably really tough for today’s male youth to understand what the older generations had to go through in their youth to get some inspiration to burp the worm. Today you just turn on your computer, toss a DVD in the player, or watch pay TV and it’s showtime. What about the young gents of the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s or my wonder years, the ’80s? It wasn’t easy to get even a whiff of a nipple back then. If you grew pubic hair in the Reagan era, you had to either hope you were gonna find some musty stroke books in the woods or make do with something that wouldn’t arouse your parents suspicions; like Teenage Sex Comedies.
They weren’t even close to hardcore (and almost always depicted teens being humiliated by the very fact that they possessed a sex drive) but to a teenage buck in heat it was sweet ambrosia to immerse yourself in that humour based, candy-ass, sex-crazed fantasy world, populated with kids… just… like… you.
With mountains of XXX at my very fingertips in this modern age, it’s easy to forget how desperate my underage dink used to get for some form of erection inspiration. And these ponderances give a former fan of the teen sex comedy pause to reflect on the nearly deceased genre itself, and all the years I spent doggedly seeking out the films of this under appreciated form of cinema back in a time when they actually were somewhat plentiful.
Yes, 1981 to 1986 were the halcyon days of youth for myself, my Atari generation, and the teenage sex comedy (from here on out called the T.S.C). It’s been 20 years since the golden age of the American T.S.C , an era that exploded into theaters with the enormously popular PORKY’S in 1981, and died in 1986 as director John Hughes took the genre under his wing and cast aside the bare breasts and endless pussy and cock innuendoes. With the sudden quality injection of acting, scripting and direction in Hughes’ productions like THE BREAKFAST CLUB, came the loss of perversion, teenage nudity and adolescent sex values. Almost overnight, the “teenage sex comedy” was transformed into the “teenage comedy”, thereby legitimising it for concerned parents and critics, but completely fucking ruining it for horned-up teens looking for a masturbatory home video thrill.
Indeed — my very first jerk-off session came at the beckoning of perhaps one of the most famous T.S.C moments emanating from my glowing idiot box: The PORKY’S shower scene. For those of you unlucky enough to miss it the first time around, it starts as a gratuitous excuse to show about a half dozen shapely naked girls in the shower together, as the male stars of the film spy on them through a peephole in the wall. Being a comedy, the scene morphs into a slapstick masterpiece centred around flagrent penis abuse, but I wasn’t laughing during that first viewing. I was too… um… busy with a little of my own “penis abuse”.
There were other raunchy and steamy moments in T.S.C lore. Who could forget 1983s PRIVATE SCHOOL? Oh dear lord, I get wood just thinking about it. C’mon, a young baby faced Phoebe Cates and the luscious and lithe Betsy Russel, who is pretty much naked in every scene? *Slobber* I quote my teenage friend Tim Golub — who upon seeing the seminal PRIVATE SCHOOL for the first time earlier this year wrote me to say; “Now this is a movie for TEENS!! Where is all the nudity in teen movies these days, any ways? Absolutely everyone is obsessed with sex. From the rich girl’s father to the ugly best friend with the stupid hat.”
Indeed, teen comedies should be obsessed with sex, because that’s where their audience’s head and groins are at. This audience-pleasing wisdom was not lost on the makers of this otherwise pointless film, and my worn out rewind button on that old VCR I had when I was younger can attest to that.
Another amazing movie was THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN from 1982, which as you can probably deduce somewhat from the title, is about three teen boys agonising about how to get laid for the first time. One strangely arousing and very uncomfortable moment has the lead boy and a rather homely girl trying awkwardly to subtly get naked in a peer-pressure induced grope session, which ends up in an accidental attempted humping with another lad’s mother. How about some incredibly risqué teen nudity in the abortion clinic? Or a depressing virus-catching hooker fuck session for the underage lads? It’s all here, and it’s even complete with a sobering heartbreaking finale where loss and rejection rule all.
1981s PRIVATE LESSONS found the lovely Sylvia Kristel (of EMMANUELLE fame) seriously naked in at least four scenes and creating a serious spacial problem in my shorts. I could easily put myself in the place of virginal “Phillip”, an awkward teenage boy who found his wildest fantasies fulfilled when left alone for the summer babysat by Kristel, a very sexually active family maid. It’s fascinating to ponder on how people’s attitudes have been shaped by fear in a relatively short period of time concerning the humorous depiction of a 15-year-old being seduced an adult. The PC view now would be to see a mentally deranged female pedophile and her underage victim, but in the early ‘80s this was comedic teen-market fluff and did MASSIVE numbers theatrically and in the first wave of VHS business.
I really loved the undeniably terrible 1983 film, JOYSTICKS. The very idea that something as geeky and culturally under-appreciated as videogames were in the early 80s, would warrant a film with heavy and hot raunchy T.S.C. value impresses me today, and certainly made me very pleased back then. It was improbable in the real world to have a couple of pouty nympho teen girls that would screw almost anything that wore pants in a video arcade, but damn… it was a lovely fantasy, since that was where I spent all my free time after school. So thank you, Greydon Clark. A generation of videogame addicted males thank you for creating JOYSTICKS.
Many of today’s big stars cut their teeth in low-brow T.S.C films, and even occasionally got naked themselves. (Oh — the follies of youth!) Check out a saucy young Johnny Depp in PRIVATE RESORT (1984), or Tom Cruise trying to pork up a storm in LOSIN’ IT (1982). I still chuckle thinking of Tim Robbins in FRATERNITY VACATION (1985), and E.R.’s Anthony Edwards in REVENGE OF THE NERDS(1984). They don’t have too much to be proud of with the above-mentioned films, but I can watch and enjoy these dopey sexuality-fests easier than I can much of their more respected work.
After the T.S.C genre sorta died out in 1986, it wasn’t until 1999’s AMERICAN PIE that another film came along to join the vulgar and immature ranks of those films that had gone a decade before. As soon as I saw redheaded cutie Alyson Hannigan pipe up that she had masturbated herself with a flute at band camp, I knew that the wait was over. The genre was now minus much of the important nudity, but it was at least back. And of course, the immense popularity of the AMERICAN PIE franchise seems to have instilled faith in the studio system that teens (and apparently a whole lot of other people) will pay money to see some dirty language, wall to wall PG-rated sexual innuendo, and even some good old fashioned poop and fart jokes.
Sure, a couple years later Hannigan and Co. drove the fra