Junesploitation 2021: Private Lessons (1981)

June 13: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is ’80s comedy!

Dan Greenburg has written plenty of books, including the Zack Films and Secrets of Dripping Fang children’s books. He’s also had several of his books made into movies, including the Elvis Presley film Live a Little, Love a Little, which was based off his work Kiss My Firm But Pliant Lips, Foreplay, Private SchoolThe Guardian and the movie we’re about to discuss, which was based on his book Philly.

It’s directed by Alan Myerson, who was O.K. Corrales in Billy Jack and directed Police Academy 5, as well as episodes of Ally McBeal, Friends, The Larry Sanders Show and more. In case you’re wondering, “Does Alan Myerson know comedy?” the answer is yes, as he’s one of the people who helped found The Committee, which counted folks like Howard Hesseman, David Ogden Stiers, Carl Gottlieb, Rob Reiner and Del Close.

That said, Private Lessons made me question my younger self. To wit: when you’re fifteen years old, the opportunity to lose one’s virginity to Sylvia Kristel seems like a dream come true. But when you’re getting close to fifty, you start to cringe at scenes where she tries to lure this film’s protagonist into a bathtub or makes out with him in the back of a limo. It doesn’t seem like a fantasy any longer. It feels wrong.

Philip “Philly” Fillmore (Eric Brown, Waxwork) is a 15-year-old high school student whose father has left him alone for the summer with the only supervision coming from Lester the chauffeur (Howard Hesseman) and Nicole Mallow (Kristel), the family’s new French maid. Sure, Kristel is really Dutch, but we’re not here to quibble about her nationality.

All of her seduction games with our newly pubescent protagonist are all a ruse. She’s an illegal alien who Lester is using in a scheme against Philly and his father. Once they have sex, she’s going to fake her death and Lester will help Philly bury her body. Then, the kid will have to steal ten grand to keep the mysterious demise of Nicole a secret.

The weird thing is, even when Philly busts Lester, he ends up letting the guy keep his job. Once you also see this movie through the eyes of someone from 2021, you realize that Philly is a rich white kid who is going to grow up to be a creep, empowered by the knowledge that he was able to subjugate those in castes below him and still get to repeatedly struggle snuggle with the woman who was once Emmanuelle, despite the fact that she states numerous times in the movie that she feels guilt for having taken his innocence. He has no innocence to speak of, as the last scene in the film shows, where he boldly inquires for a date with a teacher who already informed him that she found his intentions upsetting. I guess money can solve so much, but I wouldn’t really know.

Now for the fun parts.

This movie was Jack Barry & Dan Enright Productions, who usually stuck to producing game shows. They even used one of their announcers, Jay Stewart, to do the trailer’s voice-over. Barry received a lot of hate mail for this film from loyal viewers of his shows who were disgusted by the content of Private Lessons. As a result, he never made another film again.

Yet even more intriguing was the fact that this was the first picture for Jensen Farley Pictures, a subsidiary of Sunn Classic Pictures. Yes, after years of making movies just for America’s families, Jensen Farley would release stuff like The Boogens and another movie where an older woman — Joan Collins! — would deflower a younger man, Homework.

I can’t even imagine the music budget on this movie, because it has everything from Air Supply’s  “Lost In Love” to Eric Clapton, Earth, Wind and Fire, John Cougar and “Hot Legs” “Tonight’s The Night,” and “You’re in My Heart” from Rod Stewart.

It’s also the American debut of Jan de Bont, who was the cinematographer here and would go on to make Speed and Twister.

I should mention that I despise Eric Brown even more now, because not only did he get to do multiple love scenes with Sylvia Kristel, but he did the very same thing in They’re Playing With Fire, except that that time, the kid got to appear with Sybil Danning.

Another last revelation: I now realize that many of the women I’ve dated are just me trying to find my own Sylvia Kristel. Sadly, the real thing had a very rough life that was dominated by addiction and a quest to find a man who could replace her father.

Man, I should never write about comedies, huh?

You can watch this on Tubi.

PS: I totally forgot that Pamela Bryant from Don’t Answer the Phone! is in this.

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