Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Seniors (1978)

          To understand why Risky Business (1983) is so remarkable, one need only imagine the same concept—a young man solves a financial crisis by opening a brothel—executed without good taste. Hence The Seniors, which came out five years before Risky Business. The narratives of the two films are sufficiently different that it’s not as if one emanated from the other, but close enough to allow for side-by-side comparison. Whereas Risky Business has complex characters, ingenious plotting, sophisticated gender politics, and wicked humor, The Seniors has ciphers, silliness, smut, and stupidity. The Seniors is not outright awful, since the story makes sense and some of the jokes are almost funny, but it’s cringe-worthy on myriad levels. Most egregiously, the film portrays women as subhuman sex objects to be manipulated, ogled, traded, and used at whim. That all of this exploitation is hidden behind the veil of calling female characters “liberated” makes the whole enterprise seem even more dubious.
          At the beginning of the movie, four male college seniors decide they don’t want to graduate because their situation is idyllic. Occupying a rented house, the dudes share a live-in nymphomaniac named Sylvia (Priscilla Barnes), who also serves as their chef and cleaning lady. Nerdy classmate Arnold (Rocky Flintermann), who is desperate to have sex with Sylvia, reveals one day that his employer—a reclusive, Nobel Prize-winning scientist—regularly receives more grant offers than he can accept. In exchange for diverting grant money to the four seniors, Arnold is given permission to sleep with Sylvia whenever he wants. The seniors then contrive a sex study, offering coeds $20 per hour to sleep with the seniors “for research purposes.” The study catches on, so the seniors rent a hotel and charge businessmen $50 per session for the privilege of sleeping with the coeds. And so it goes from there. Corporate entities buy a piece of the seniors’ lucrative project, the nonprofit organization behind the grant becomes suspicious, and Sylvia puts poor Arnold in traction because of endless sex.
          The movie’s jokes tend to be along the line of this slogan: “Schmucks graduate—smart guys copulate!” In other words, this is professional comedy of a sort, though none involved in the project has much reason for pride. Appraising the film’s acting and storytelling is pointless, since The Seniors basically a second-rate National Lampoon-type satirical concept stretched out to full-length, meaning that characterization is not a priority, but it’s worth nothing that Dennis Quaid—appearing in one of his first credited roles—plays one of the seniors.

The Seniors: FUNKY


D said...

Stanley Shapiro also wrote Pillow Talk as well many other Doris Day 60's romantic comedies. He also wrote a flop Broadway play entitled "The Engagement Baby" which closed on opening night. It was made into the film "Carbon Copy" several years later.

Booksteve said...

A surprisingly good list of character actors in this topped by, of all people, Alan (Fred Flintstone) Reed, who was actually ill at the time he shot his scenes and died before the film was released. Edward Andrews, Woodrow Parfrey and Ian Wolfe also appear (as do future TV character stars Larry Drake and Jim Beaver according to IMDB!)