Tuesday, July 8, 2014

High School Memories (1980)

Voted "Best X-Rated Movie" at the 1982 ViRA Awards

Watch or Download "High School Memories" In Our Theater

Starring: Annette Haven as Janice, Jamie Gillis as Salinas, Diana Holt, John Leslie, Dorothy LeMay, Lisa Thatcher and Richard Pacheco

Evidence is mounting that the erotic film industry has turned a corner, and the vision of hot movies that also work as cinema on all levels will become a reality in this decade. Already twice this year, CAV has reviewed at least three features that were solidly and tastefully put together; films that managed to involve the viewer in the story without losing any heat. WOMAN IN LOVE, DEEP RUB, and AMERICAN DESIRE all seemed to this reviewer to reach the highwater mark in erotic cinema, and now HIGH SCHOOL MEMORIES joins that list.

Everyone who cares knows that Anthony Spinelli is one of the best directors in the business. His films have that "professional" look needed to garner bookings in the best theaters. Personally, I have sometimes felt that he gave so much  attention to the non-sexual material that his sex scenes seemed a bit perfunctory. Not so with this his latest release.

HIGH SCHOOL MEMORIES is hotter than an adolescent's wet dream. It is a landscape people with lubricous cheerleaders who cheerfully spread for randy footballers. There is enough wacko silliness to make you think you're watching yet another exercise in undergraduate humor. But wait! Something is different.

For one thing, the humor is handled by a naturalness and deftness beyond the reach of all but the most accomplished Hollywood actors. Porno people may not be able to play 'style', but give them characters close to themselves, a little freedom to ad lib and be spontaneous , and they can sometimes be completely convincing.
Moreover, this film turns out to have a moral center. The hero starts off as a selfish jerk with no real regard for women. He grows into a decent fellow who appreciates women and respects them as individuals. Here is a movie you can take your wife or girlfriend to see. If you can get her to sit through the first couple of scenes of porn zaniness, she will be rewarded with several sex scenes in which the woman is as enthusiastic as the man, the sex arises gradually out of extended foreplay, and both people seem to be genuinely involved.

Not every ejaculation is visible. Some occur, as they do in life, out of sight. This doesn't diminish the heat of the scene, but does enhance its credibility. For those squeamish few who still recoil at the sight of semen splashing on upturned faces, be advised this movie is recoil-less. Everything you've always wanted to see in a flick but didn't know who to ask: plot, theme, believable characters and situations, development (in the sex scenes, as well as in story and character), good photography and sound... I could go on and on.

The performances are uniformly good, but certain of the players deserve special commendation. Jamie Gillis and John Leslie are by now such seasoned performers that they are completely relaxed on camera, and their comedy is casual and understated. In this picture, they are almost like Crosby and Hope in the nude - if that image isn't too mind-boggling.

When they settle down for a serious scene, each projects a simple sincerity that is very appealing. Gillis makes you hate his character at first, then persuades you to love him at the fadeout. One quibble: the surreal style used by Gillis when playing the coach when he was a creep is hilariously effective, but doesn't link up with the naturalistic style employed after the guy gets wise.

Annette Haven is perfectly cast in a central role, that of a girl who loathed the coach at first, but discovers he's changed. Haven has appeared a bit rigid in some of her early films, but as a veteran of many campaigns on the satin sheets of "sinema", she is now very relaxed and natural. Her sex scenes are lovely.

Richard Pacheco, a fine young actor who makes one think of Robert DeNiro, seems in each picture to play a character vastly different from the others he has created. In TALK DIRTY TO ME, he was brilliant as John Leslie's simple-minded kid brother. Here he plays a line-backer named Savage, who is a raging bull. Pacheco makes him credible, somehow, and funny at the same time.

Two of the women in the film, both new faces, impressed me greatly. I learned with dismay that they had both retired from the business after completing this picture. Chris Hopkins who makes Bo Derek look mousy, is a radiant beauty who lights up each of her scenes with genuine joy and sensuality. Her scene with Gillis is state-of-the-art romantic sex. Lived, rather than performed, and infused with rich feeling.

The other girl is Laura Samuels, whose part is small, though her pom-poms are large! She brings to the role a cheerful enthusiasm that, in bed at least, knows no bounds.

Let us hope someone can coax these marvelous women out of retirement. They can make a movie come alive.

I must mention the soundtrack, which is excellent throughout. Chet and Jim Moore chose just the right music for each scene, and all sound was recorded and mixed well. Moans on the sex scenes may have been dubbed after filming, but they were mixed skillfully with the music and so do not distract.

Cinematography and editing are first-rate. All the cast look great, everything matches, and the flow of the film is smooth and uninterrupted.

Some other faces and fannies you will recognize: delicious Dorothy LeMay, delectable Mary Ryan, tight bunned Jon Martin. There isn't a lame-o in the bunch. This is a first-string team, and they've had a few seasons of playing ball together.

Script for this tasty little flick was written by Anthony Spinelli, Jr. In this case, it's a damned good argument for nepotism. Dialog is so natural it's hard tot tell which lines were written and which were improvised. In a film like this, that's a bullseye!

(May 1981)

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