Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I think Fast Times At Ridgemont High was the first movie in 1982 that I saw with just my mother. I'm not sure why my dad wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't, and it was just me and mom at the Royal Theater that Saturday in August, the day after the movie opened.

That was appropriate because I was with my mother when, about a year earlier, I bought the book the movie is based on. It was at a bookstore on Chestnut Street. Do NOT ask me why I remember that. I just do.

I LOVED the book. I read it many times before seeing the movie, and many times after seeing it, going so far as to underline bits of dialogue that are in both the book and the movie. For reals. Look.


Yes, I've still got my copy, and it's falling apart. But I'm keeping a firm grip on it because it's out of print, and copies go for beaucoup dinero.


In doing some perfunctory research in preparation for this post, I came across this assessment of the book, and have to say, I disagree with it almost completely. She seems to be criticizing it for not being more "journalistic," but then also seems to not like it when Crowe seems to be editorializing at times.

It's pretty obvious the book is not exactly in-depth journalism. It's a series of stories about one very fictionalized high school. (For the record, the real "Ridgemont" is Clairemont High School in San Diego.) And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. It's a young adult book, not a shocking expose on teenagers in the early 1980s.

She also gives short shrift to one of my favorite parts of the book: When the class goes to Grad Nite at Disneyland. Reading that part of the book is what ultimately convinced me to fork over the dough when my own Grad Nite came around. It wasn't as memorable an experience as they have in the book, (there was no hunt for hidden booze on Tom Sawyer Island, for example), and, in fact, I have almost no memory of the night at all. But I do know that a pre-super-famous-Michael Bolton was one of the musical guests. Check it.


OK, I realize I'm talking more about the book (and me) than the movie here, but that's mainly because I think, in the end, the book had way more influence on me than the movie did.

Which isn't to say I didn't love the movie. Of course I did! But since I was such a big fan of the book I couldn't help but be a little dissapointed by what wasn't included in the movie.

Also, some of the casting left a little to be desire. I think at the time, I kind of thought the actor who played Damone, Robert Romanus, was cute. But looking back, he's just all wrong. For one thing, he looks way too old. (Of course, they all kind of were; Phoebe Cates was the only lead who was still a teenager, but just barely, at nineteen.) And for another, he's got an East Coast accent that doesn't really make sense for a movie set in Southern California. In the book, he's from Philadelphia, but there's no mention of him not being a California boy in the movie. (Also, a bit of trivia: Romanus played a high schooler two years earlier in the movie Foxes, which featured Cherie Currie of The Runaways in her first movie role. Many years later, he would play Joan Jett's guitar teacher in the movie The Runaways.)

The actor (Brian Backer) who plays Mark Ratner is also kind of boring, and also seemed way too East Coast. This all may have a lot to do with director Amy Heckerling being from New York, though,

And speaking of Heckerling, bless her, because one of the other things about the movie that bugs is the soundtrack. If you listen to the commentary on the DVD release, she talks about how she was basically forced by producer Irving Azoff to include a bunch of music she hated, like Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Jackson Brown. She wanted more punk, new wave, and rock and roll, but only succeeded in getting The Go-Go's, Oingo Boingo, and Led Zeppelin in the movie. (The commentary is worth a listen, as it features both Heckerling and Cameron Crowe, and includes some interesting stories about casting, edits, and why "Kashmir" is played on that first date instead of a song from side one of Led Zeppelin IV.)

All that said, I still love it. I rewatched it a few days ago, and had forgotten how short it is. It barely clocks in at 90 minutes. Since some stuff has to be cut out, (nudity, etc.), when it airs on network television, making it even shorter, it's usually aired with some deleted scenes included. You can find all of them if you search "Fast Times at Ridgemont High deleted scenes" on YouTube, but I'm going to include my faves below.

Spicoli talks about partying with Mick Jagger:



Brad gives the guidance counselor a piece of his mind:



And what is probably the most controversial cut: Stacy in the abortion clinic. I wonder if this is something they'd still include in TV airings?



Finally, do you remember the really awful TV spin-off that lasted just a few episodes? You can watch that trainwreck here.

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