The Star Wars of smut-tinged coming-of-age comedies, Bob Clark’s Porky’s finally gets a new high-definition lease of life this week courtesy of cult connoisseurs Arrow Video. Unlike The Last American Virgin, another recent acquisition of theirs which covers similar terrain, the years have been much kinder to this 1982 US-set, Canadian-funded production. It’s a better-acted and immeasurably funnier film then the countless imitators it spawned (including two inferior sequels). Set around a fictitious area in 1950s Florida named Angel Beach, the film follows a group of libidinous high school buddies who are forever cooking up ways to lose their virginities.
After one disastrous attempt (which in reality, is a dark prank devised by a couple of members of the gang) they hit upon an idea of paying a visit to the titular venue – a deeply unappetising redneck-themed bar/bordello out in the swamps. When they are duped by the proprietor and his brother, the corrupt local sheriff, they hit upon an idea for revenge. That confluence of broad puerility and insightful adolescent growing pains has cropped up in a number of subsequent teen comedies since Porky’s first hit big at the box office, perhaps most notably in the American Pie series, the first of which was initially pitched as an updated semi-reboot. Yet underneath the sexual content those modern offerings feel ultimately innocuous and anodyne, whereas Clark’s film is deceptively more grown-up.
It’s rare to see a teen film tackle the subject of bigotry (a Jewish classmate is at first treated with outright contempt), and the then popular choice of casting actors in their mid-twenties to portray feckless teenagers offers another unexpected adult dimension. The accusations of misogyny levelled at Porky’s feels a little unfounded, however. There’s the obligatory, mildly gratuitous nude female shower scene (it’s interesting to note that Brian De Palma’s more aesthetically-charged Carrie seems exempt from criticisms in this area), but the main female characters never feel like shrinking violets and more than hold their own against their similarly horny male counterparts. What resonates most, though, is the strong ensemble and the memorable performances that Clark coaxes from his cast, including a young Kim Cattrall who shines in a brief but memorable early role. No one could accuse Porky’s of being high art, but it remains an humorous snapshot of an era when Hollywood first capitalised on the overriding preoccupation of their intended demographic.