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  Private School Let Her Ride
Year: 1983
Director: Noel Black
Stars: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Fran Ryan, Kathleen Wilhoite, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel, Jonathan Prince, Kari Lizer, Richard Stahl, Julie Payne, Frank Aletter, Frances Bay, Bill Wray, Karen Chase, Burke Bynes, Martin Mull
Genre: Comedy, Sex, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is Cherryvale School for Girls, and as the days grow closer to graduation, so the boys from the other school nearby grow more desperate to find some kind of satisfaction with the opposite sex. Thus three of them, led by Jim Green (Matthew Modine), sneak into the grounds at night and climb on top of each other's shoulders so the guy on the top, Bubba Beauregard (Michael Zorek), can take Polaroid photos of one of the girls in the shower. She is Jordan Leigh-Jenson (Betsy Russell), and twigs what they are up to, sensing an opportunity to make Jim's girlfriend Christine Ramsey (Phoebe Cates) jealous...

Checking out the opening title sequence to Private School and you had some idea of what they were aspiring to with its cartoon representations of its characters, Harry Nilsson's You're Breakin' My Heart playing over it (featuring the lines "You're breakin' my heart, you're tearing me apart, so fuck you!" well before Cee-Lo Green ever appeared on the scene), and the credit line "And Sylvia Kristel as the Sex Teacher". The latter's presence, no matter how brief it was, should have alerted you to the fact this was supposedly a sequel to her previous film for this team of independent movie makers, Private Lessons, though as it worked out this was far less controversial.

So nobody underage was seduced by anyone, er, overage, but you did have the sight of Betsy Russell horseriding topless to be indelibly seared into the memories of a generation of eighties kids who saw this in the cinema, or more likely rented it on home video way back when. Jordan was sort of the bad girl here, she doesn't do anything especially terrible, but she does wish to steal Jim away from nice girl Phoebe Cates, which is bad enough in the views of the movie to have her made fun of, though nothing like as cruelly as you might have gotten in Porky's, the previous year's benchmark for the teen sex comedy genre of this decade. That said, she was unclothed a lot more than her co-star, though what that says is up to you to work out.

Even by 1983, there was a template to these flicks, and as if written in tablets of stone there came to pass such sequences as the shower scene, the one where a horny male seeks to get laid and is forced to retreat in humiliation, and the bit where an authority figure is lampooned; if you've seen even a couple of these you'll know the drill. Actually, the whole script by Dan Greenburg and Suzanne O'Malley was so enamoured of these devices that pretty much the whole plot was built around them, repeated if and when necessary, with such variants as the three boys dressing up as girls to inveigle their way into the Cherryvale dormitory for a few cheap laughs. Not that this was enormously hilarious, but it did have an interesting moral.

Which was that love was better than sex: indeed, none of the three male characters are successful with their targets, at least until Jim stops acting the goat and takes Chris, at her request, to a romantic getaway hotel, the point being you can play the fool as much as you like, but it's the emotional sincerity of true love which will get you where you want to be. That didn't mean a guaranteed night with nineteen-eighties-era Phoebe Cates, but the message here was unexpectedly heartfelt for a film which aimed low as far as its humour went. Don't go worrying that this indicated some dry lecture about faithfulness and settling down with the right girl or guy (the ladies are as curious about sex in this as the gents, but are a lot more sensible about how to approach it), because rest assured eighties sex comedy fans there were plenty of lowest common denominator gags of a kind that wouldn't break any boundaries in amusement, but would bring out a certain nostalgia in some, a "what the hell were they watching back then?!" in others.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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