We Are The Future!
…And Nothing Can Stop Us!
CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
An idealistic pacifist music teacher named Andy Norris (played by the bearded and sensitive looking Perry King) is transferred to Lincoln High, an ultra violent and dangerous inner city high school. Unfortunately for Mr. Norris, the teachers at Lincoln High have a very dangerous problem…their students! After settling into the neighborhood with his pregnant wife (Merrie Lynn Ross) he immediately runs afoul of the local teenage gestapo, led by the brilliant yet twisted student Peter Stegman (played by Timothy Van Patten of “White Shadow” & “Master Ninja” infamy).
Stegman is a sensitive, classically trained pianist AND a ruthless kingpin of crime who controls the booming high school drug and prostitution rackets. His slightly less than impressive gang consists of: Drugstore: the skinny and strung out drug dealer and wisecracker, Fallon: the muscle who beats people up and breaks in the new prostitutes, Barnyard: the token fat slob (played by Keith Knight, who also played the token fat slob in “Meatballs!”) who loves The Clash, and Patsy: the punk rock skank. The five of them somehow manage to control the entire school population and staff AND dominate other rival gangs via intimidation and brutal violence.
There’s an awesome racially fueled gang fight between the Swastika sporting punks and a Black gang highlighted by the young Caribbean accented gang leader saying “No one messes around with my man Leroy. I’m gonna cut you white meat!” We’re also treated to an extended sequence where Stegman auditions prospective prostitutes and drug dealers. A fresh faced and non twitchy Michael J Fox appears in an important supporting role as a lovable band geek who takes a shank to the kidneys after narcing on Drugstore for selling his pussy best friend a lethal dose of dust.
Mr. Norris tries his best to do things by the book and keep the kids in line but it ultimately proves useless. He tries to turn the kids in but the police are unable to do anything because the kids are underage and there’s no real evidence. The school’s Principal and security staff are equally worthless. His only ally in the school is the burnt out and booze addled Biology teacher – Terry Corrigan (played very convincingly by the legendary Roddy McDowall). After a sick and disgusting act of retribution where the vicious punks skin every cute little bunny in the bio lab, Terry eventually snaps and decides to teach his class at gunpoint! Mr. Norris barely manages to talk him out of blowing the students away, and he will soon regret that decision.
Terry tries to get the last laugh by running the punks over but winds up crashing and burning. After a bizarre bathroom showdown with Mr. Norris, Stegman violently smashes his own face into a mirror and convincingly blames the teacher for it. Andy finally gets pissed off and destroys Stegman’s beloved automobile in return. Stegman then declares all out war on the teacher. “Life is pain. Pain is everything. You will learn. I will teach you.” The movie reaches a whole new level of nastiness when the punks show up at the Norris household and gang rape his pregnant wife!
This unspeakable act leads to the final showdown at the big band recital. The punk rock skank shows up and presents Polaroids of the dirty deed to Mr. Norris, which is enough to finally make him ditch his pacifist ways and start spilling blood like a man! Andy Norris: a teacher equipped to deal with students. But they pushed him to the limit that has gone too far. Now he’s about to teach the Class of 1984 the most dangerous lesson they deserve. This teacher will assure that the class of 1984 will earn a higher degree in pain!
I’m a HUGE fan of this masterpiece of prophetic punk rock perfection, which was written and directed by Mark L. Lester, who also helmed the all time 80′s action clas-sick “Commando.” Few revenge themed genre flicks are this satisfying. The gut crunching sequence where Mr. Norris has to fight his way though the high school and finally gets his revenge on the gang is fantastic. Arms are severed, table saws sever spines, people are set on fire, plummet to their deaths, and are crushed with cars! This flick is also exceptionally well made and acted. It almost plays out like an after school special, only with a really bad case of herpes.
This flick drips with a genuinely sleazy punk rock atmosphere. There’s a nifty scene where Stegman and his pals go to a punk rock club and skank to the ripping sounds of Teenage Head! The non-violent highlight of the flick for me has to be the incredible scene were Stegman “auditions” for Mr. Norris’s “asshole band” by unexpectedly busting out a stunningly beautiful classical composition on the piano, and then demands to know if he got “the fucking gig!” This scene is especially cool because Timothy Van Patten actually composed and performed the piece! Talented guy. Speaking of music, I almost forget to mention the incredibly cheesy theme song “I Am The Future” which was provided by none other than the incredibly cheesy Alice Cooper. Quite an embarrassment for old Alice, as it sounds like a very lame Broadway tune! But as much as I hate the song, I have to admit, it’s impossible to watch this flick without getting it stuck in your head.
Anchor Bay was the first to release a beautiful DVD of CLASS OF 1984 back in 2005. The goodies include the trailer, a commentary track with writer/director Mark Lester, the “Blood And Blackboards” featurette that includes interviews with Perry King and his on-screen wife Merrie Lynn Ross, and a killer booklet full of cool photos and extensive liner notes. This DVD was the best available release of the film for many years, until the good folks at Scream Factory recently topped it by unleashing their unbelievable collector’s edition Blu-Ray!
This brand new release features a stunning looking high-definition transfer of the film. CLASS OF 1984 has never looked or sounded better. This new Blu-Ray is much brighter and more colorful than the previous DVD release. The exclusive bonus features consist of new interviews with director Mark Lester, actors Perry King, Lisa Langlois and Erin Noble, and composer Lalo Schifrin. The rest of the bonus features, including the trailer and still galleries have been ported over from the Anchor Bay DVD. This collector’s edition is now the definitive home video release of CLASS OF 1984 and I highly recommend a purchase! This one definitely gets better each and every time I watch it, and I don’t think I could count how many times I’ve watched this one over the years. A true cult clas-sick!
Mark Lester went back to school in 1990 with his campy sci-fi semi-sequel CLASS OF 1999. Leaving the gritty realism of “Class Of 1984″ far behind, this one takes a one way trip into Goofytown. Set in the not too distant future, schools across the nation have become the setting for widespread bloodshed and gang violence. Some of the areas surrounding the schools have become so deadly, they are declared “free fire zones”with no police presence. One of the very worst is Kennedy High School, which is understandable because the Principal is Malcolm McDowell. There’s just one subject at Kennedy High…Survival!
Malcolm hires an especially creepy looking albino Stacey Keach to clean up the school with the help of his specially trained robotic “tactical education units.” These robot teachers include none other than Blaxploitation legend Pam Grier, John P. Ryan from “It’s Alive” & “It Lives Again” and the always awesome Patrick Kilpatrick of “Toxic Avenger” infamy. As to be expected, the androids eventually snap and start using their deadly force against innocent students. It’s up to a punk kid named Cody (Bradley Gregg – who also starred in “Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”) to avenge his younger brother Angel (the one and only Joshua John Miller from “River’s Edge!”) and to unite the warring student factions and uprise against the cyborg substitutes. It’s the last lesson they will ever learn!
This one fails as any sort of sequel or follow up to the far, far superior “Class of 1984,” but as a stand alone action flick it’s pretty entertaining. Especially if you have any fondness for familiar faces and the gloriously cheesy early 1990’s. The futuristic fashions in this one are absolutely ridiculous, and the fact that the lead character is named “Cody” doesn’t help me take things any more seriously. It’s interesting to note that this film was actually written by “Cody” himself – Bradley Gregg. It makes the flick seem a bit more of a vanity project, but also adds to the unintentional comedy. It’s hard to say how serious any of this was meant to be taken, but the flick is so silly & stupid that it doesn’t really matter. With lots of laughs and plenty of action, I can easily endorse this one for anyone who wants to kill a few brain cells. CLASS OF 1999 is currently available on a bare bones DVD from Lionsgate.
CLASS DISMISSED! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!