Tuesday, April 30, 2013


By Diane Franklin

In the mid-eighties, I developed an unashamed crush on Diane Franklin. Nothing too remarkable or unique about a young film-lover harbouring a bit of a thing for an unattainable celebrity, the curious exception here being that I fell for Franklin three times in different movies before I realised I was smitten by the same actress, so effective was her ability to completely disappear, chameleon-like, into her roles (no matter how lightweight those roles may have seemed on paper). In Amityville II: The Possession (1982) she portrayed the teenaged Patricia, innocent and sweet yet aroused by dark, forbidden sexuality. In ‘Savage’ Steve Holland’s brilliant teen comedy Better off Dead (1985) she was the petite and intelligent French exchange student living next door to dumped, depressed everyman John Cusack, while in the live-action comic book horror of TerrorVision (1986) she was the exaggerated Cyndi Lauper-esque valley girl trying to deal with a dysfunctional family and a blob from outer space that was slowly devouring the whole household. While the mainstream media may have been touting Molly Ringwald as the queen of 80s teen cinema, for me that tiara always belonged to Diane Franklin. Apart from always being so much fun to watch, I think I identified with (and was attracted to) the ‘misfit’ side that inhabited most of her characters.

In The Excellent Adventures of the Last American, French-Exchange Babe of the 80s, Diane Franklin looks back on her childhood in Plainview, Long Island, her teen modelling career and early appearances on daytime soaps and TV movies of the week, and of course the 80s films which she is so fondly remembered for. Apart from the three films previously mentioned, Franklin also appeared in The Last American Virgin (1982), Second Time Lucky (1985) and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Each film is given a brief chapter, and in a fun little touch Diane gives each chapter a film-like ‘rating’ that warns younger readers about any upcoming racy material!

This isn’t some kind of tell-all, scandalous cash grab, nor is it an in-depth autobiography of Diane Franklin's private life, and I doubt it was ever intended to be either of these. It’s more like the ultimate souvenir scrapbook of her career, presented in a way that allows Franklin’s infectious personality to shine through. She just seems like such a genuinely nice, positive and upbeat person, happy with where she is in life and with an appreciative grasp on her contribution to 80s pop cinema culture.

Breezy but entertaining and filled with a wealth of terrific black & white photographs from all periods of Franklin’s life and career, The Excellent Adventures of the Last American, French-Exchange Babe of the 80s is – as the title suggests – a truly excellent 114 page volume that is bound to bring back nostalgic pangs and memories of all-night VHS marathons, sitting up with friends (or alone) by the light of the cathode ray, feeding tape after tape into the hungry VCR, while you sat back and snacked on chips and cola (or bongs, beer and pizza, depending on what the mood called for and the wallet allowed).

Order Diane Franklin’s book (published in large trade paperback format) exclusively from Amazon here:
Review Copyright John Harrison 2013