Getting It On (1983) from Tuna

Getting It On (1983) is a teensploitation film originally called American Voyeur. It was made on a microscopic budget, yet had a substantial theatrical release. It is currently rated 2.8 at IMDb, but that is based on only 22 votes, and is simply not a fair rating because this is neither better nor worse than other typical low budget teensploitation films of the era. It managed a decent box office, even though there was no drive-in market left in 1983, and was even favorably reviewed at the time by Hollywood Variety.

There is a main plot, and an intersecting sub-plot. A high school geek lacks the experience and confidence to approach women, but that doesn't stop him from spying on his new neighbor. Binoculars are ok, but he convinces his father to finance a video taping business and, assisted by his best friend, sets up some spy cams. His best friend is not the favorite of the school principal, and the two plots begin to converge when a school assembly features a home video of the principal's daughter "getting it on" with the best friend's brother.


Kathy Brickmeier and Kim Saunders show breasts. There is also a scene with for girls having a pillow fight in their dorm room. One shows breasts, and another full-frontal, but the four are not identified separately.

Will our hero get the girl? Will his friend be thrown out of school?

The plot is fine, but of more interest to me was the feature length commentary from director/writer/producer William Olson, who elected to focus on the technical aspects of making a low budget independent film. He first released it to local theaters, and it did well enough that he picked up a distribution deal, with an opening in 350 theaters. The distributor forced him to change the title to Getting It On, a phrase that was used once in the film, but really doesn't say much about it. I have often wondered where some movie titles came from. He used Fuji stock, mostly because it is 20% cheaper than Kodak, but also because it "has a more pastel look." I also preferred Fuji when I shot film, as it has a cooler color temperature, tending more toward blue than toward red.

He shot almost no closeups or coverage shots, and this was also a matter of budget. This film was made on expensive 35mm stock in an era before digital video. The cost of film is not just in the actual footage that ends up in the final cut. Each take has lead-in, marker, and lead-out footage, so the amount of wasted film is directly proportionate to the number of cuts. Olsen decided to tell the story with long takes and careful blocking of the actors rather than frequent cuts and varying camera angles and lenses. He was very honest about how much having a good DP saved him. One of the requirements was to shoot TV screen scenes. The DP developed a technique of projecting the clips onto tracing paper covering the front of a gutted TV chassis, using a projector with a frame rate that synched with their camera.

DVD info from Amazon

  • excellent commentary

  • excellent re-mastered transfer.

Olsen's candor was refreshing, and he was not shy about pointing out the mistakes he made, such as an audio cable visible in a mirror, and the shadow of a boom mike on the wall.

This DVD is the best looking edition of the film ever seen. When the techies re-mastered it for DVD, they were able to digitally enhance and lighten some dark scenes, and to reset the cropping in other scenes (to eliminate a visible boom mike, for example).

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 2.8/10, but that is based on only 22 votes.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, the film is a classic C by our scoring system, as a good enough genre effort without crossover appeal, but the commentary is well worth the time for those interested in the hows of budget movie making.

Return to the Movie House home page