Back in the mid-80s, when my friends and I were fourteen-year-olds with carte blanche at the local Video Village, we soon discovered a comedic sub-genre that we really liked. Every weekend and in between horror flicks, we always had a new one: Porky's, Private School, The Last American Virgin, Joy Sticks, My Tutor, Hardbodies, etc., etc.
But Private Lessons was the only one we rented more than once. And here's why:
It's about a fifteen-year-old guy who gets seduced by the freakishly fine female known as Sylvia Kristel. Nothing else about Private Lessons mattered aside from that one important plot point: Dorky teenager seduced by hot housekeeper.
But after revisiting with the flick for the first time in two decades, I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that I used to like the thing. But I was a stupid, horny kid back then. And now I'm a smart, horny adult telling you this: Private Lessons is a pretty bad movie. And if you suck the nostalgia value out of the flick, it suddenly seems a whole lot worse.
The plot: Rich teenager is seduced by his lovely new housekeeper, only to discover that she and the sleazy chauffeur (Howard Hesseman) have concocted an elaborate blackmail scheme. But ask any guy who's seen this movie about the "blackmail" stuff, and they'll just get a hazy look in their eyes as their brains recall the only thing worth mentioning in Private Lessons ... and trust me, it ain't the plot.
Modern sensibilities dictate that I should probably be offended by a movie about an adult who manipulates and seduces an underage person, much like I was by 1984's stunningly seamy Blame It On Rio, but Private Lessons is too innocuous to inspire any sort of anger. Taken as a gender-reversed and boob-obsessed version of Lolita, Private Lessons is about as offensive as a dirty limerick. Unfortunately, for a comedy, Private Lessons isn't as amusing as that dirty limerick.
On the technical side, Private Lessons looks a lot like a soft-core porn flick. Production value is nominal, at best, and director Alan Meyerson (who'd go on to a lifetime of TV work and Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach) seems content to just plop his camera down and shoot whatever wanders into the frame. (Keep an eye out for boom mikes and not-so-hidden crew members!) True that the soundtrack is laden with tons of early 80s classics, but you can get that on FM radio without all the redundant tittie jokes.
Video: Not only do we get a flat and inflated full frame transfer, but eagle-eyed guys will also notice a bizarre floating "spot" that covers some of the female nakedness. Really weak visual presentation, fellas.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish.
Rather enlightening is an audio commentary with director Alan Meyerson, screenwriter Dan Greenburg, and actor Howard Hesseman, in which the filmmakers pretty much trash the holy hell out of Private Lessons. Citing a hated "producer" who re-cut and re-shot a lot of the final cut, the trio look back over their exploitation classic with a palpable sense of derision and disdain, which makes the chat-track pretty damn entertaining.
Also included is the original theatrical trailer and a pointless collection of isolated scenes from the flick called Sherman: Love Expert.
Teen sex comedies are like cheese. They may have tasted great back in 1982, but nowadays they're pretty smelly, moldy, and painful to behold. And Private Lessons is certainly no exception. Rent it for nostalgia value, if you must, but be prepared for a sex comedy with very little sexiness and a complete dearth of comedy.