CLASS OF 1984
Reviewed by: JimmyO
Mark L. Lester
Timothy Van Patten
What's it about
An idealistic music teacher moves into a community to start a new life with his wife who is expecting a child. He finds that his new job at Lincoln High School is much more than he bargained for, as a group of new-Nazi punk rockers terrorize him and those around him.
Is it good movie?
I vaguely remember watching Class of 1984 back when it was 1982. And after watching it now, I’m guessing I never actually sat down and reveled in this cult classic slice of movie heaven. From the ridiculously Eighties opening titles with a groovy Alice Cooper song called “I Am the Future”, to the final, bloody conflict that ends with a bang, this is one class I’m glad to have a reunion with. Although at its time, this was considered controversial due to the violence, and of course, we have seen much worse since. But it is not only the violence, or the rocking performance from Perry King, or the punk rock nightmares that are called students, that make this a fascinating film. What makes this a treasure is the surprising amount of humanity in its characters that drive the film. While it is not perfect, it is as close as any of these type of revenge pictures can get.
Perry King is Andrew Norris, a bright-eyed, bushy tailed teacher from Nebraska who arrives to teach music at Lincoln High. When he arrives, he makes friends with another teacher named Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowall in a wonderful performance) who happens to carry a gun for protection. This is the kind of inner city high school that is covered in graffiti with a teaching staff terrified of its students. Namely, a group of neo-Nazi punk rockers played by Timothy Van Patten, Lisa Langlois, Stefan Arngrim, Keith Knight and Neil Clifford. Each of these actors offer up some awesomely evil characters that are so vile and terrifying, that it is easy to root for teacher. Both Timothy Van Patten and Stefan Arngrim do some really solid work. Van Patten is such a menace as he is clean cut enough to make it look like he may not be the monster that he is. And Arngrim is so convincing as the appropriately named “Drugstore”, that he stands out as one of the best baddies in Eighties cinema.
Mark L. Lester has the wonderful ability to make Class of 1984 a suspenseful and sometimes chilling portrayal of high school hell. Even though the violence only kicks in somewhere in the last half hour or so, the first couple of acts build with a satisfying tension, while Norris slowly begins to lose what self control he has. In one scene, when we learn that the bad ass leader Peter Stegman (Van Patten) is a beautiful pianist, you can see the hope in teacher, until after only a moment, Stegman proves that there is a monster beneath his cool interior. While it might be easy to just write this off as another cheesy Eighties teen flick, it is also a sad disrespect for an undeniable cult classic. And of course, I would be remiss to not mention Michael J. Fox as the good kid who gets caught up with a few nasty punk rock fiends. He is pretty good here, and it’s no surprise that he found a successful career afterwards.
Aside from all that is good about this film, there are moments that might not quite work. The biggest problem I had is the performance by Merrie Lynn Ross as the suffering wife to Norris. She seems a little too “soap opera” for this type of film and it didn’t quite work for me. But for some reason, near the end, she grew on me and I bought it. This could be because she didn’t really have any lines of dialogue. She was just there to scream and make for a decent lady in peril. And aside from her, there are a couple of things that I found hard to believe. I don’t think there has ever been a police department this useless. But hey, they say that juvenile crimes are a little harder to prosecute, so again, I could deal with that also.
Video / Audio
Video: This is a damn fine 1.77:1 Widescreen Presentation that is as good as you could possibly want for this underappreciated gem.
Audio: Also quite good is the Dolby Surround 5.1. It is terrific to have this classic available with this terrific DVD.
In regards to Special Features, I’m happy to report that this class makes the grade… for the most part.
First up we get a Commentary with director Mark Lester and DVD Producer Perry Martin. I really enjoyed much of what Mark had to say and the two of them keep the information coming. But he Lester does seem a little self important as he mentions that nobody listened to his warnings of where schools were heading. Although… maybe he has a point on that one.
Next up is the terrific Blood and Blackboards: an all-new featurette containing interviews with Director Mark Lester and Actors Perry King and Merrie Lynn Ross (35:26). It is a very cool look at where Class of 1984 came from and how Lester considers it his best film, which is surprising, with Rollerboogie under his belt. But do not watch this if you haven’t seen the movie yet, yes, spoilers are involved.
We also get the original Trailer for the film and a couple of T.V. Spots. Plus a Mark Lester Biography and a Poster and Still Gallery. You can even check out the screenplay with the DVD-ROM feature.
Last but not least, there are some damn cool Trailer included on this disc. I’m talking “Vice Squad”, “Bad Boys” and “Heathers”, all of these flicks are favorites of mine.
While I would have liked to have a bit more on the disc, like possibly a commentary with some of the actors and what have you. This is still a real treat.
Class of 1984 holds up incredibly well as an influential cult classic. The performances are mostly terrific, most notably Perry King, Roddy McDowell, Timothy Van Patten and Stefan Arngrim. It is also fun to see Michael J. Fox as the good kid in a bad situation. If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend it. The final sequence is brutal enough for a modern day audience, because you really get to know these characters. Mark Lester created a classic film that I’m glad to see live on thanks to DVD. A definite must see. And by the way, am I the only one who found Lisa Langlois to be damn sexy in this flick?