Private School (1983)
If anything, Private School serves as fair warning that just because a director makes a critically acclaimed cult movie (that very few people have actually seen) early in their career doesn’t mean that’s what the world will remember them for.
In 1968, Noel Black made Pretty Poison, a darkly comic thriller about a mentally ill man (Anthony Perkins) whose life is taken over and ruined by a very pretty teenage sociopath (Tuesday Weld). Fifteen years and several flops and made-for-TV movies later, he found himself at the mercy of producer R. Ben Efraim (the man who gave us Private Lessons and Private Resort) with Private School. I suspect he took the job assuming such a seemingly inconsequential project would remain as obscure as his other films. What he could not have imagined was that Private School would take on a life of its own in the then-new world of home video, where it easily became his best-known work.
The question, then, is why such a truly terrible teen comedy that only ever works as a desperate parody of itself succeeded when Black’s other films didn’t? The answer is simple: Betsy Russell riding topless on a horse. If you’re a heterosexual male between the ages of 30 to 40, you probably “watched” this scene at least a dozen times before you moved out of your parents’ house. And if you didn’t, you likely live a life of constant turmoil and regret.
Much like Black. —Allan Mott