Joy of Sex (1984)

Did everybody’s parents have a copy of Dr. Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex? What a frightening book that was, what with its Chris Foss (Flash GordonGuardians of the Galaxy, Jodorowsky’s Dune) illustrations of incredibly hairy flower children engaging in all manner of marital congress.

Paramount Pictures thought that with the name of the book, they’d have a big movie, too. They spent all kinds of money to get the right and then paid Charles Grodin — who was told the movie could be about anything — to write the script. So he wrote a script about writing the script. That movie was eventually made as Movers & Shakers.

Next, John Hughes was to write a script that Penny Marshall would have directed and John Belushi would have starred in, but then Belushi died. That would have been a National Lampoon movie and the studio tried to keep their name on the film before the publisher, Matty Simmons, made a huge deal of the Lampoon having nothing to do with the film.

Finally, Paramount was running out of time and had just four months left on their option. They went to TV producer Frank Konigsberg, who said “They knew that in television you do things quickly. We threw together a script. They wanted me to use director Martha Coolidge, who’d just made Valley Girl. It was a job. We just had to get it done. I didn’t think it was a successful movie at all. It was awful. Martha hated it. I hated it.”

As for Coolidge, she would say, “Paramount insisted on topless girls running down the hall because they thought the formula demanded it and it was totally gratuitous. I hated putting them in for no reason and argued against it. But when the film was previewed the audience, particularly young women and girls, hated the nudity so Paramount then asked me to cut as much of it out as I could!”

She described that experience as miserable, telling her official site, “We were under constant pressure and scrutiny to do the impossible, we had eight days of prep, 20 days to shoot and my A.D. quit because he was so angry.”

By the end, she applied for an Alan Smithee credit for her directing. However, her name stayed on. She’d follow it up with Real Genius, which I hope was a more rewarding experience (It was — despite turning it down twice, once it was rewritten, she came around to the film and really got into it after producer Brian Grazer told her, “Making a movie should be fun!” She said that he ended up being “supportive, great to be around and knowledgeable about comedy and film production.”).

As for the movie, it’s all about high school senior Leslie Hindenberg (Judy from Revenge of the Nerds, who left acting to practice Zen Buddhism), who gets a mole looked at and learns that she only has six months to live. That leaves her with one goal in life: to lose her virginity.

There’s a good cast with Cameron Dye (Valley GirlOut of the Dark) as the love interest and Christopher Lloyd as Leslie’s gym teacher dad, plus Colleen Camp, Ernie Hudson, Darren Dalton and Canadian scream queen Lisa Langlois (Happy Birthday to MeDeadly Eyes).

But otherwise, if you were expecting something better, this isn’t it. I don’t blame Coolidge for the failure of this film.

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