Unless you're the kind of film fanatic that spends hours scrabbling through those big wire baskets crammed full of £1.99 DVDs in a petrol station, you might not know that the 'American Pie' movie series has a whopping eight instalments.
The eighth ('American Pie: Reunion') has just come out of the oven and is cooling off on a shelf at your local multiplex as you read this.
[Related content: Read our review of 'American Pie: Reunion']
[Related gallery: The cast of 'American Pie': Then and now]
Now you probably don't remember all those Jim, Finch, Kevin, Oz and Stifler-based comedies hitting cinemas over the last decade or so. And with good reason. Four of them (numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7) limped straight onto DVD to be bought along with £20 worth of unleaded, a Sunday Mirror and a Twix. Let's reach into that bargain bin and have a little taste of some of those forgotten ‘Pies’ now, shall we?
It all kicked off with the massive success of the original, 1999's raucous virginity-obsessed debut. It cost just $11m to make and made a tidy $235m back. Naturally, a couple of sequels were made off the back of that and they fared even better – both commercially and critically.
By 2003 though, with the characters ageing and the actors looking to move on with their careers (which, in retrospect was a bad idea), the gross-out comedy movie king looked to have downed its last brewski. Until producers realised that they could bin the stars, retain the name, slash the budgets and churn out Pie-esque versions under the banner 'American Pie Presents', that is. Kind of like what the 'National Lampoon' film series did.
[Related story: Cast of 'American Pie' reveal disgusting on-set prank]
There was 'Band Camp' featuring Stifler's younger brother and some amateur porn films; 'The Naked Mile' with Stifler's cousin and a nudey jog; 'Beta House' with another cousin and - for some reason - an ostrich and finally; 'The Book of Love' with someone who once met a Stifler and a dead prostitute. All very tenuous, all very mucky.
Muckiness isn't the only constant in the 'American Pie' series, though. Oddly, the character of Noah Levenstein (the ever-brilliant Eugene Levy) pitches up in every single outing. And he's arguably the funniest person in the first three 'real' movies. The first film made the Canadian quite the star and he’s fond of the theatrical efforts. But the straight-to-DVD flicks? Not so much.
He told Vulture: “The DVDs came along, and I don’t want to sound too crass, but it was too good of a job to turn down… they were paying a lot of money for not a lot of work, to be honest.” He also said he wanted to protect the character, and he was allowed to re-write on the spot raunchy scenarios that he felt would disappoint fans of Jim’s dad, such as him “standing next to naked women”.
There's a final spine to these sequels, though. And it's this: they're not very good. The more the series goes on, the worse the films seemed to get (despite the very best efforts of an increasingly-embarrassed-looking Mr. Levy). But strangely, they continued to make money - even without cinema releases and a keg-full of negative reviews. There's no accounting for taste, is there?
Some more facts about the spin-offs:
- In 'Band Camp', when Little Stifler flashes to the girls during the trivia game, the actor playing him really did expose himself. No jokes about oboes, please.
- The clothes-free running seen in 'The Naked Mile' was based on the real-life antics of the senior students of the University of Michigan who used to run or cycle naked every year before graduation. Then people started filming them and uploading it onto the internet, so the university had to put a stop to it in 2004.
- 'Beta House' was so risqué, it was rated 'R' in the US for its 'pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and excessive drinking'. This rating would've been cinematic suicide. Good job it never made it that far, then.
- 'The Book of Love' features a cameo from Britney Spears' ex, Kevin Federline. An indication of the film’s quality, perhaps.
Have you tried any of these American Pies? Inedible rubbish? Or tasty, guilty treat? Do let us know below...