Most home video releases are mass produced and marketed by faceless conglomerates interested only in separating you from your hard-earned cash. If you look closely though you’ll find smaller labels who love movies as much as you do and show it by delivering quality Blu-rays and DVDs of beloved films and cult classics, often loaded with special features, new transfers, and more. But yes, they still want your cash, too.
Our latest look at Top Shelf releases from smaller labels features two new Blu-rays from across the pond, and in addition to both being region B releases the two share a genre similarity too in that they’re both coming-of-age teen comedies. That said, they handle their themes quite a bit differently.
First up is Gregory’s Girl which explores one gangly, Scottish teen’s efforts to woo the beautiful new girl at school. His friends are equally lost in a sea of hormones, but the film pursues it all with a light and innocent touch. Far, far away at the other end of the tonal spectrum is The Last American Virgin. It’s Porky’s-style comedy including crass behavior, nudity and sex, but it has zero interest in satisfying viewers with a typical happy ending.
Keep reading for our look at the new import Blu-rays of Gregory’s Girl and The Last American Virgin.
Gregory’s Girl (1981)
Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) and his best buds feed their growing interest in the opposite sex by peeking in windows at topless nurses, but when one of their classmates spills the beans that touching the birds is even more satisfying they decide it’s time to get girlfriends. They soon discover it’s not all that easy, but that doesn’t stop Gregory from instantly falling in love with Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), the new girl at school. She’s gorgeous, but even more impressive she’s a better football player than any of the boys. He’s determined to win her over, but what if he gets won over by someone else first?
I first saw this film back in the late ’80s, and while I recalled loving it the only specific image I remembered was of Gregory pressing his fingers against his nipples to hide them from a girl. Because we’ve all done that right? The question became would it hold up for me as an adult, and while the film is held in high regard by British film fans most Americans seem oblivious of it.
Happily the movie remains a charming and affectionate look at immature infatuations and the romantic fumblings of youth. Laughs, a warm heart and big, feathered hair combine in a delightful little time capsule, and while teens like these would be the geeks and nerds of an American film here they’re just normal kids. It’s a refreshing change from the norm, and equally unexpected is the inappropriateness of some of the humor including a bit about Gregory’s 10 year old sister having the body of a 13 year old.
While the humor and personality remain as effective as I remembered the film is a bit rough around the edges when it comes to the acting and editing. Some members of the young cast seem to be reciting lines instead of simply talking, complete with forced pauses, and the editing is a bit too jumpy at times. These are minor prices to pay though for a film that surprises and delights on its way towards a sweet conclusion.
Second Sight’s newly remastered Blu-ray/DVD of Gregory’s Girl presents the film in widescreen for the first time, and it’s a wonderfully bright and sharp image restoration. The disc’s special features include a commentary with director Bill Forsyth and UK film critic Mark Kermode and the following two interviews.
- Bill Forsyth: The Early Years [20:08] – Forsyth’s post-Gregory’s Girl career included a handful of critically acclaimed films including Local Hero and Housekeeping, and here the director discusses the earlier part of his career. It took me exploring his IMDB page though to discover that he made a sequel to this film in 1999! He hasn’t worked again since.
- Gregory’s Girl Memories [11:06] – Clare Grogan, who plays Susan, talks about her acting career and her time as the lead singer of ’80s pop band Altered Images.
The Last American Virgin (1982)
Gary (Lawrence Monoson) is a shy, horny, big-lipped teen looking for love in all the wrong places. Part of the problem is that he’s following his friends on their never-ending search for sex, but equally problematic is that he’s prone to following his heart too. That particular organ gets him into trouble when he falls for the new girl, Karen (Diane Franklin), and proceeds to try and win her heart through kindness. His efforts are rewarded with pain, sadness and loneliness.
Director Boaz Davidson is a big-time action producer these days, but back in the early ’80s he was attempting to break into Hollywood with this remake of his own Israeli hit, Lemon Popsicle. It hit a lot of the R-rated comedy notes that Americans were into at the time, but Davidson’s script went places audiences couldn’t fully support. That’s a shame as the film’s honest darkness is its greatest strength. It bears some similarity to certain character threads in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which came out the same year), but its lack of recognizable faces (and Phoebe Cates’ red bikini) left it lost in the shuffle.
As with the film above, the acting here can be more than a little shaky, but the emotion hits hard when it needs to. The humor on the other hand is far less resilient. Gags are too obvious and comedically flat, and what’s the deal with the boys’ locker room sequence? There’s a hole in the wall peeking into the girls’ shower where the naked girls are showering… but the boys decide to have a dick-measuring contest instead of looking?
Still, Gary’s underdog journey towards love is such a rarity and highly effective in its impact. This was never going to be a hit, and it’s a movie that would most likely never get made today, but it remains a film worth seeing for its brave take on the highs and lows of young love.
Arrow Video’s remastered Blu-ray offers up a clean picture and sound, something that benefits the film’s ’80s soundtrack, and it comes loaded with eighty minutes worth of interviews.
- The First American Remake: Boaz Davidson on The Last American Virgin [36:06] – Writer/director Davidson discusses his early career in Israel including the production of and international response to his film Lemon Popsicle.
- Memories of a Pizza Boy: Lawrence Monoson [26:07] – Monoson (Gary) talks about his experience on the film including his duplicitous efforts to get the job even the he was underage.
- Babe of the Eighties: Diane Franklin [20:59] – Franklin shills for her autobiographical book about her work in several ’80s films and discusses the production of the film at hand.
- In Praise of Smaller Movies: Adam Greenberg [21:10] – Cinematographer Greenberg talks about his work with Davidson and his affection for smaller films with more personal stories.