Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Cinema Epoch - PRIVATE LESSONS Special Edition ""

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cinema Epoch - PRIVATE LESSONS Special Edition

PRIVATE LESSONS (1981; Alan Myerson) 
Of all the R-rated sex comedies of the 1980s, I feel like PRIVATE LESSONS gets left out of the conversation more than it should. In fact, a lot of the younger boy/older woman films from that cycle (MY TUTOR and  CLASS come immediately to mind) are not spoken of too much these days either. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that that sort of younger/older relationship being considerably more scandalous and taboo today than it seemed to be back then. As it stands, PRIVATE LESSONS is certainly a memorable entry in what is kind of an unofficial "PRIVATE" trilogy along with PRIVATE SCHOOL in 1983 and PRIVATE RESORT in 1985. All three films were produced by R. Ben Efraim who would even go on to produce two follow ups in PRIVATE LESSONS II (1993) and PRIVATE LESSONS: ANOTHER STORY (1994).
PRIVATE LESSONS stars a great young actor, Eric Brown as the lead kid, "Philly". He's quite good here and didn't end up doing too many more films (he may be most remembered for WAXWORK (1988) and his role on the Mama's Family TV series). The sexy leading lady of the tale is the lovely Sylvia Kristel which is of course and excellent choice as she may be most associated with the EMMANUELLE series of softcore films from the late 1970s (on up through the 90s!). She plays the titillating immigrant housekeeper trying to seduce the young boy. The supporting cast includes Howard Hesseman and Eg Begley Jr., so my mind immediately goes to SPINAL TAP and the work of Christopher Guest when those two pop up (not a bad thing). Both men are always funny and give a boost to any film I've seen them in. Rounding out the cast is Patrick Piccininni who plays Philly's best friend and partner in sexual curiosity. The two boys have a fun, jovial relationship and it elevates the film above some of it's raunchier cohorts. Piccininni sadly did very little acting outside this film, which is a shame. He and Brown both feel like real 15 year olds and they they have a heightened sexual interest, it never goes to a particularly outlandish place. The movie overall has a lot of heart and innocence to it and that is still quite refreshing.
One thing this sex comedy has in common with other such coming-of-age fare of the time is that it has a packed soundtrack a la something like THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Rod Stewart has several tracks here and there are also songs from Air Supply, Earth Wind & Fire and John Melloncamp as well as others. This kind of soundtrack is a little less common these days as music licensing tends to be more expensive, but it is certainly a nice way to facilitate setting a good vibe for your film and it works well here for sure. Sadly, the use of many big artists in a soundtrack has often hindered the release of a lot of great films due to prohibitive costs to clear all the music for DVD/Blu-ray release. Thankfully PRIVATE LESSONS was not lost to those specific legal pitfalls.Interestingly, Jan De Bont shot this movie and I have to say it of course looks pretty good as a result. I am kinda fascinated with a lot of De Bont's pre-DIE HARD work when he found himself working on such bombs as LEONARD PART 6 and WHO'S THAT GIRL (both of which I kind of enjoy actually). He of course worked with the great Paul Verhoeven quite a bit and also shot CUJO and ALL THE RIGHT MOVES (two legitimately good movies) as well.
Special Features:
This new Cinema Epoch Special Edition is notable or several reasons. First and foremost, it includes the theatrical cut of the movie. Apparently, the previous versions of the film were censored in one way or another so this is the premiere of this cut on DVD. Secondly, the disc includes not one but two commentary tracks. The first, with Director Alan Myerson, Writer Dan Greenburg and actor Howard Hesseman.
The second track (called the "comic commentary" on the dvd) features noted cinephile Marc Edward Heuck (BEAT THE GEEKS), Jackson Stewart (INVASION ROSWELL, THE CARTRIDGE FAMILY) & Gariana Abeyta (OUT OF PRINT). I've heard several commentaries featuring Heuck (and he's done a number of lists for my blog) and he's always got some interesting things to say about the movies he's discussing.
On the downside, the transfer of the movie is not 16x9 enhanced for some reason so while it is in its original aspect ratio, it will not fill your widescreen TV unless you zoom in on it (which I always hate to do). Other than that, this is a fine release, worthy of a pickup.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have to confess to owning a VHS copy of this one I snagged from a clearance bin. It'd be interesting to really examine a timeline of this subgenre. It seems like a post-SUMMER OF '42 effort to migrate these sorts of films to America from Europe where they really seem to be their own genre. It also seems like the longer these films lingered in the States, the more uncomfortable the subject became, thus slideruling from the tragedy of SUMMER OF '42 to the slapstick of Stifler's Mom in AMERICAN PIE. In between there were other comedies, like those you mentioned, and even a few attempts to swing it back into dramatic territory (STEALING HOME, and I might even include VISION QUEST here) but it still got a cultural reject stamp. Of course, no one's gooing to dig too deep into this because it's kinda creepy.
You're absolutely right to applaud the film's so-good-it's-almost-out-of-place soundtrack (though I definitely couldn't say as much for the elevator music original score) and I'm happy to hear it's intact. Seeing this without Rod Stewart crooning "Tonight's The Night" would be like watching AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON without "Blue Moon" playing over the transformation. I either missed or forgot de Bont shot this. Between that and Sylvia Kristel's somewhat recent passing I may have some valid excuses to give this a rewatch.