No. 31: My Tutor

Note: Back to the Movies is a special feature on the FilmNerds blog in which Matt Scalici will be watching the Top 50 highest-grossing movies of 1983 in order from 50 to 1.

In my days as an active film critic, I viewed it as part of my job to take a stand against films or cinematic trends I found to be morally or artistically deplorable. While I am giving a subjective opinion on many of the films I watch in the Back to the Movies project, I don’t want to turn this particular entry into a diatribe against the lurid, misogynistic teen sex comedies of the early ’80s because obviously my complaints about them now don’t really serve any purpose. The movies were made, they were hugely successful (commercially, anyway) and eventually they largely died out as a commercially viable genre.

It’s the job of the contemporary critics of the day to make those arguments, and in this case they did their best. Roger Ebert didn’t review My Tutor but he did lump it in with a number of other teen sex comedies of the day in an admirable diatribe against the genre.

“There are a few Teenage Sex Movies that do deal realistically with the whole area. The list is short: “Tex,” “Baby, it’s You,” and the upcoming “Valley Girl.” The rest of these movies (“Private Lessons,” “My Tutor,” “Going All the Way,” “Losing It,” “The Last American Virgin,” “Paradise,” “Blue Lagoon,” etc.) depict a world in which teenage males are initiated into sex by prostitutes or older women, while teenage females are made the targets of jokes and public embarrassment. This is very sick.”

There is more than a hint of anger and disgust in Ebert’s comment and I think it’s certainly justified, not only because the message sent by films like My Tutor is disgusting but also because My Tutor and most of the films like it are simply really bad movies. By today’s standards, they wouldn’t even be acceptable material for late night cable channels or direct-to-video sequels. They are poorly and cheaply made with bad actors delivering bad dialogue, all set to bad music.

The plot here is pretty simple: Matt Lattanzi plays a teenage virgin whose mean rich dad is trying to make him go to an Ivy League school even though all he wants to do is go to UCLA and become a romantic astronomer. His best buddy, played by Crispin Glover, is also a virgin and the two are so desperate to get laid that they occasionally embark on ridiculous adventures such as going to the most glamorous whorehouse in the history of mankind or propositioning a waitress at a local diner. Both scenario’s almost work out for the lads but of course things go disastrously wrong at the last minute.

The solution to the problem of not being able to lose your virginity, as we learned in our last installment in this series, is to sleep with a woman twice your age who is having problems in her personal life. Caren Kaye plays a French tutor who accepts the absurd assignment of living in the mansion of a wealthy family for the summer so she can teach their horny 18-year-old son how to speak French.

As you’ve probably already guessed, Kaye teaches the young man a lot more than French. The storyline is painfully predictable and ridiculously written and basically just a thread to get us from one love scene to another. It’s pretty obvious from the trailer what the selling point of the film was (there are actually censored shots from the film’s racier scenes included in the trailer). It’s a gamble against the good taste and common decency of the movie going public and in the early ’80s, and that appears to have been a pretty safe bet.

There are so many things to hate about this movie besides its bad writing and acting (thought Crispin Glover is mildly entertaining at times and gives off a vibe that reminds me of a Steve Zahn-type character). There’s the incredibly, awfully racist Hispanic gardner and maid characters who are in fact incredibly intelligent people pretending to be illegal immigrants so they can pay for their college tuition. There’s the classic 1980s theme of how hard it is to be a rich kid. There’s completely obscure double-entendre’s never to be heard again elsewhere like “getting your lance waxed” (are you supposed to wax lances?).

But easily the worst part of the movie (or the best if you’re one of those hipsters who sits around ironically watching bad movies on purpose) is the character Don Sylvester, played by Bruce Bauer. Don is an attempt to create the classic ’80s douchebag, a staple of ’80s cinema, and while I’ll admit the character made me laugh more than a few times, I’m not sure all the laughs were intentional. Don is supposed to be the French tutor’s ex-boyfriend yet he looks to be in his 40s.

I’ve seen some bad movies on the countdown thus far but none that I felt were a complete and utter waste of time until My Tutor. It’s a worthless sexploitation movie made largely as attempt to jump start the career of Lattanzi (who was engaged to Olivia Newton-John at the time and thought to have potential as a future star) but Lattanzi’s awful acting and complete lack of screen presence combined with a plot that’s more boring and predictable than sexy leaves us with a movie with little to no entertainment value.

Next Up: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are reunited in Two of a Kind.