Timothy Van Patten
Merrie Lynn Ross
Think Welcome Back, Kotter…if Mr. Kotter actually stuck that rubber hose up Vinnie Barbarino’s nose (amongst other, less friendly areas).
The plot, what little of it there is, has no doubt been done before (and was ripped off many times after…think THE SUBSTITUTE), but that’s not what’s important here. What’s important is the hellacious ass-kickery on display throughout CLASS OF 1984—almost to the point of feeling like a 70’s exploitation flick. Director Mark Lester, who would go on to make COMMANDO, doesn’t hold back on the gratuitous violence and disturbingly controversial scenes. (Poor kitty…) However, it isn’t all just pointless carnage; there’s a pretty strong commentary on violence in society and the media, and where the youth culture is headed as a result. (As a graduate of a high school with metal detectors, I’d say Lester’s predictions are sadly accurate.) The film’s “exaggerated” portrayal of out-of-control teens just doesn’t seem that far fetched by today’s standards, which makes the movie all the more relevant.
The film can be cheesy in an “I Love The 80s” kinda way, but I was still digging the retro-punk vibe, especially the outrageous outfits and the concert scene featuring the “Canadian Ramones”… the oft-forgotten Teenage Head! If that’s not enough to convince you to see CLASS OF 1984, how about a) a fantastic nervous breakdown by Roddy McDowall, b) a fight scene that was stolen by FIGHT CLUB nearly two decades later, or c) seeing a young, chubby Michael J. Fox get licked by a disease-ridden prostitute?
Commentary by director Mark Lester: Lester is really passionateabout this film and speaks openly about its anti-violence message, using the word “prophetic” more than once. Since it’s important to him, he remembers a lot of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the prop master used real dead animal carcasses for the lab scene. (Yummy.) I also appreciated the fact that the DVD producer sat down and recorded with Lester so he had someone to bounce off of, which is always far more interesting than a person talking to themself for two hours.
Blood and Blackboards (35:32): A long and detailed retrospective on the film, featuring current interviews with cast and crew. Lester first gives a quick history of the high school movies that influenced him to make CLASS OF 1984, and what he was trying to accomplish with it (“No one listened to my warnings…and here we are.”) The director and actors also cover specific sequences in depth, telling plenty of behind-the-scenes stories. A must for fans of the film.
Trailer (2:16): A surprisingly graphic preview that gives away a lot of the film’s surprises. Don’t watch it before you see the actual movie.
There’s also two TV Spots, an extensive poster and stills Gallery, a Biography of director Lester, a copy of the film’s Screenplay (if you have a DVD-ROM), and Previews for some bad 80s movies.
NOTE: The DVD case boasts of a second commentary with director Lester and actors Perry King and Merrie Lynn Ross, which was conspicuously absent from my review copy. I feel violated by lies.