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CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Richard W. Haines and Lloyd Kaufman

Starring:
Janelle Brady
Gilbert Brenton
Robert Prichard
Theo Cohan

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
When a leak from the nearby nuclear power plant spreads to the water supply of Tromaville High School, weird stuff starts to happen (well, duh). After smoking weed contaminated by the leak, formerly wholesome couple Chrissy and Warren begin to screw like rabbits, but also exhibit other changes. Namely, Chrissy becoming pregnant and giving birth to a mutant bug thing that makes its way into the school basement to do monster stuff, and Warren doing an Incredible Hulk impression. The local gang who sold the couple the weed, The Cretins, are now trying to take over the school, leaving Warren and Chrissy to figure out how to stop them.

Is it good movie?
I'm no fan of Troma. I know some of you schmoes are perpetual fans of Lloyd Kaufman's baby, but I'm not. There's something about intentionally making a bad movie with bad effects and bad acting (and bad everything, really), that it becomes the equivalent of your kid brother trying too hard to be funny to be noticed. That said, given the recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems only fitting to visit this child of the 80s about big business shirking responsibility with 'hilarious' consequences.

The film is pretty stupid in an apparently good way. The whole thing is made up of stupid characters who are stupidly unaware of the happenings around them. An example of this would be how no one realized for months that the school's honours society went from being respectable citizens to the drug-dealing gang The Cretins when the power plant started up. Or, how the garden that grows weed really fast is surrounded by toxic waste. Or how when the nuclear plant workers begin dropping like flies, their co-workers ignore them and go about their own business. Throw in some other juvenile and politically incorrect humour, and the film becomes one of 'those' things you're to laugh at.

The other laugh factor comes in the form of the cheap gore. A few minutes after establishing what plot there is at the start of the film, we get the first cheap gore courtesy of a nerd spewing and squirting green gunk, jumping out of a window and having his head melt. Then there's the punching down someone's throat and into their chest, punching through someone's head, a head twisted off and other questionably-executed effects. They aren't all cheap, I have to admit. The monster effects are actually pretty well done from the glimpses we get of the critter, but I think that's where most of the budget went.

I tried to avoid being biased in this review, but in spite of that, there are some things I can't let go. The film screams the 80s, and is so badly dated that it's embarrassing. The editing is pretty choppy, too. One minute we're in an alley fight, the next we get an over-the-shoulder view of one of The Cretins' members riding on his bike in a junkyard. Of course, the lack of a plot, crappy acting and crappy effects with that trademark Troma humour won't appeal to everyone, either. As I said before, it's like the film's trying too hard to be funny. Maybe I'm just not in the mood. Maybe I have no sense of humour. I don't know, but I didn't laugh once.

Once everything went to hell, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH isn't one I'd see again, nor has it changed my view on Troma films in general. The film has a sense of humour reminiscent of a South Park/Beavis & Butt-head mashup (which limits the audience already, and yes, I'm a fan of the latter) and a look that's horribly trapped in the 80s. That said, if you're a fan of Lloyd Kaufman and his Troma troupe, then it doesn't matter what I say. If you haven't seen anything Troma-related before, I'd be reluctant to recommend seeing the fim, but you might, might, get a kick or two out of seeing it. Just beware the automatic weapons and cow bone.

Video / Audio
Video: Why this cheaply-made film warranted a Blu-Ray release, I have no idea. This 1080p 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't much of a step up from the standard-definition DVD, but the added vibrance in colour and clarity are nice. Unfortunately, with the upgrade in colour and clarity, the print damage and grain are magnified, almost to the point of distraction. Still, if this was DNR'ed, I have a feeling it would look worse. Fans of the film will be pleased, nonetheless.

Audio: The only sound option included is a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, which sounds thin in spots and isn't much for channel movement (plus the audio noise is pretty apparent in spots), but the dialogue is clear. Subtitles would've been a nice addition, in this case.

The Extras
Curiously, despite being labeled the Unrated Director's Cut, the Japanese DVD by Magnet clocks in 11 minutes longer than the 85 minutes here. I'm not about to find out what's missing, but I'm sure you diehard fans are up to the task.

A lot of the extras from the old DVD have been ported over, starting with the audio commentary by co-director Lloyd Kaufman. Strangely, main director Richard W. Haines is nowhere to be found, but can you blame him? Kaufman is entertaining and informative as a solo commentator, and doesn't shy away from saying that Haines was 'over his head' with the project. Still, Kaufman goes over a wide array of topics, including the idea behind the film's story (Three Mile Island), shooting locations, information on many of the folks involved in the film, the effects work and more.

Next up are seven Deleted Scenes in 480p full frame. Nothing really surprising, other than the fact that the quality is almost as good as the film's transfer. A nice inclusion, for sure.

Class Of Nuke 'Em High Sweethearts is a five minute piece with Jennifer and Robert Prichard who worked on the film. The two met while auditioning for and shooting THE TOXIC AVENGER, and wound up working on this film as well. They eventually married, and the rest is history.

The Man Who Made The Nuclear Power Plant is an interview with the camera man (really FX artist Theo Pingarelli), albeit a brief one that doesn't go into much detail about anything.

Following that are a couple of 'Tromatic Extras', starting with a PSA starring everyone's marble-mouthed metal singer, Lemmy from Motorhead talking about hermaphrodite discrimination, intercut with your typical PSA skit by two 'hermaphrodites' (played by Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame). Funny, in a weird way (if only because it's Lemmy doing the PSA).

Vintage Troma is a handheld fifteen minute interview with Kaufman shot in an office where Kaufman watches an uncovered tape of a Troma employee taking a whiz on-camera on company property, and commenting on whether the whole thing is real or staged. A head scratcher.

Radiation March is a minute-long piece involving dancers in spandex and shades doing a 'march' involving kids in yellow spandex. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be poking fun at something or not, but it's dumb.

Troma T&A has a Tromette of the week stumbling through lines about philosophical matter, while split-screen footage plays of her playing with her boobs. Eventually, she takes her top off and does the same boob-playing. She's cute, but not my type.

Finally, there's the film's fullframe theatrical trailer, as well as bonus trailers for SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, THE TOXIC AVENGER, COMBAT SHOCK, TROMEO & JULIET, THE LAST HORROR FILM and SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD. Overall, aside from the commentary, there's really nothing incredibly informative regarding the film, nor is there input from director Richard W. Haines.

One thing that really annoyed me about the extras: after each one finished, it went back to the main menu, but only after playing the 10-second intro to the main menu each time.

Last Call
It's not THE BREAKFAST CLUB, though I'm sure some fans rank it up there as some of the best 80s films, CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH is your typical cheap low-brow Troma film that's high on cheap gore as it is on Troma's signature brand of 'humour'. The Blu-Ray isn't a quantum leap over the DVD released a few years back, but fans wanting this film in HD have their wish, with 'meh' extras in my opinion (save for Kaufman's commentary).

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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