EDITOR’S NOTE: No movie shows just how Cannon’s view of America and America itself are so different than this movie. I love it for that while being destroyed by it every time I watch it. If you haven’t seen it, skip this, watch the film and come back. We originally had this on the site on June 12, 2021.
This movie is a destructive force that still leaves hurt feelings decades after it’s been viewed. Sure, it’s a remake of director Boaz Davidson’s Lemon Popsicle and that movie ends the same way, but that movie came back with plenty of sequels. Once The Last American Virgin drops its bomb on you, it lets you watch everything burn and then that’s it. There’s no happiness, no hope, just the song “Just Once” and the destruction of the film’s hero in a way that there’s no coming back from.
When a movie has a title like Lemon Popsicle, you don’t know what to expect. It’s a foreign movie released in 1978 that could be about anything. But when the title is The Last American Virgin and the movie comes out in the middle of the teen sex comedy craze, you don’t expect things to go this way.
Gary (Lawrence Monsoon, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) is a pizza delivery boy with two friends, the cool ladies man Rick (Steve Antin, Jessie in the “Jessie’s Girl” video) and David (Joe Rubbo). Most of their hijinks revolve around trying to have sex, like telling girls they have cocaine — it’s really Sweet’n Low — or sleeping with a prostitute or Carmello, a Spanish woman who Gary meets while delivering pizza. Everyone gets their turn except for Gary, who is the titular character.
Yet he has better plans for his first time. He’s in love with Karen (Diane Franklin!), but she’s in love with Rick, who plans on sleeping with her once and dumping her. He does exactly that, getting her pregnant. She turns to Gary, who sells almost everything he owns and borrows money to pay for her abortion, then nurses her during the lowest moment in her life. They share a kiss and she invites him to her 18th birthday party.
That’s when the pain hits hard.
This film takes what Lemon Popsicle did on its soundtrack and transports it to the 80s, which is an incredibly smart move. The music is vital to this film’s success, featuring heavy hitters like The Cars, Devo, The Police, Journey, REO Speedwagon, U2, Blondie and the Human League. I mean, how do you think Bono felt when he saw this and his song “I Will Follow,” which is about his mom who died when he was only 14, is used over an abortion montage?
So much of this movie is very Cannon Films and that’s also the joy of it. It also leaves me with so many questions. Why does Gary bring Karen a bag of oranges when she’s lying in the hospital? Why would they make this seem like a teen movie and give it that ending, when if it was a date movie it’s filled with way too much raunchy sex? And how about the fact that the actors who played Gary and Rick, who come to blows in the movie over the girl who got between their friendship, have come out? How does Gary not realize that Karen’s friend Rose, who he gets set up with, is geeky hot (maybe this makes more sense in 2021 than 1982)? And how did cinematographer Adam Greenberg (who also filmed Terminator 2, 10 to Midnight, Near Dark and many more) feel about recreating so many of the same shots that he’d made in Lemon Popsicle?
Director Davidson also made Hospital Massacre, Salsa and American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, movies that would not even hint at the art that he would make with this movie. If you’ve ever seen the poster for this and laughed it off as a simple teen comedy, I want you to take a chance on this movie. But be prepared for the final moments.
To this day, this film remains an enigma to me. Part teen sex comedy, part coming-of-age film, with a tear-out-your-heart-and-stomp-on-it ending, it shows just how clueless Cannon could be! In a good way…