Class of 1984 (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 9, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Beyond (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mark Lester
Starring: Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Stefan Arngrim, Michael Fox, Roddy McDowell
Screenplay: Mark Lester, John Sexton
Country: USA
External Links
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I'm a high school teacher. No, really, I am. In my time of being a teacher, I've had numerous death threats, windows broken at my house, had a handful of nails thrown at my face, had a knife pulled on me and had someone swing a baseball bat at me with the intent of pummelling my pasty white arse. Watching a film like this, I do tend to turn on the derision-o-meter, and sit back with the general air of "come on – shock me."

Last year there were 280,000 incidents of violence by students against their teachers and classmates in our high schools.

Unfortunately, this film is partially based on true events.

Fortunately, very few schools are like Lincoln High…yet.

Now if that isn't true exploitationer huckstering, I don't know what is. As the credits roll and we're treated to one of Alice Cooper's worst ever songs on the soundtrack (fuck off – "I Am The Future" is utter shit, and the album it was off, Zipper Catches Skin is the absolute nadir of his career, after Lace and Whiskey, of course), we get random images of teenagers being bad in and around Lincoln High. Andy Norris (Perry King) is a new teacher here on his first day, imagine his surprise when he walks through the parking lot to find Biology teacher Terry Corrigan (can we give it up for Peter Vincent vampire-hunter? It's Roddy McDowell, folks! Put your fuckin' hands together!) is packing an ACP .45 auto in his briefcase. Not exactly inspiring. Neither is the metal detector the students have to walk through as they enter the school. This was probably shocking back in the day, but in some schools in America, they're de rigeur, which is kind of sad, but as we live in a post-Columbine world, nothing should be surprising.

Norris goes into his first class and runs immediately into the gang who run the school, led by Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten). They don't exactly make life easy for him. Once they fuck off, Norris shows that he's a nice guy, and the kids respond in kind, but then assault our ears with the worst version of "Moon River" I've ever heard in my life.

And so our two story-arcs move ahead: nice-guy Norris trying to be Mr Chips at work, and the dependable hubby at home to his three months pregnant wife; Stegman and his gang trying to amass a whole load of fat cash as quickly as possible, and protect their turf – their clash with Juju's gang has some very satisfying Warriors-style violence, although it ain't long enough for my liking.

Stegman & co razz Norris at his home, and then head off down to the local punk rawk club – exploiting another societal fear from the early 80s, that the punks would take over. The band is apparently called Teenage Head, which certainly suits the film, but they certainly don't sound like the Flaming Groovies to me. Stegman and his gang indulge in the kind of slam-dancing that would have got you beaten to a bloody pulp when I went to punk gigs in the late 80s, but then again, I guess I'm not here for cinema verite. The gang run their scam from the back of the club – drugs, violence and sex – all the dependable usuals, and it kind of makes them a glamour item.

Norris tries to motivate his senior classes by having them participate in a local competition of symphony orchestras and Stegman reveals the fact, much to the surprise of his gang, classmates and teacher that he's an exceptional pianist, really very talented. He also sells bad drugs outta the bathrooms of the school, which leads directly to the death of Jimmy, one of the nicer students of Lincoln High, in one of the film's more memorable moments. So much for patriotism.

Norris and Corrigan have a run in with the gang while they're threatening other students out of class, and that certainly marks them out as targets – acting as the knight-errant does not pay off. Corrigan gets slashed badly across the hand, but being more worldly wise than Norris knows that hospital = cops, and so off they go, back to face another day at the coalface.

Stegman & co raise the ante, torching the fuck out of Norris' car. Is he going? Is he, fuck. But he tries to get his wife to leave town – she doesn't – this is a bad idea on her part. Stegman's gang have mercilessly slaughtered all of Corrigan's laboratory animals, positively butchered them. This leads to badness, and the film takes a turn into even further nastiness.

Stegman Fight Club-style beats himself up in the school bathroom, claiming it was Norris who did the damage. Now, from an objective point of view, would you believe a student who claimed to have been beaten on by a teacher, or a teacher who claimed a student beat themselves up? Yep. About what I thought.

Norris makes an ill-advised house call on Stegman and his mom (who thinks that her precious little boy couldn't be responsible – how many times have I heard that before?), and things go from bad to worse. He trashes Stegman's car, and the boy naturally wants revenge. He gets it, tangentially, but in a way that is guaranteed to hurt Norris.

Roddy MacDowall always seems like the loneliest man in the world, but as a biology teacher with a gun, his sadness speaks volumes. Basically, Corrigan is broken, he's had enough, and wants to get the hell out of Lincoln High, and while he doesn't want to specifically want to kill anybody, he still wants to teach, goddammit! Albeit teach with a .45… It's actually quite a successful teaching tool – I must remember to bring one to my next Year 12 lesson. The threat of imminent death is a wonderful tool for bringing back the old memory. MacDowall's performance in this film positively bleeds pathos; he's a sad and tragic figure.

Norris has his kids perform at the concert, without poor hospital bed-ridden slashed and gashed Arthur (Mihael J. Fox), and without, sadly, his wife in support. She gets raped by Stegman and the gang, brutally and extremely nastily. This is not family viewing, to put it mildly. Blackboard Jungle meets I Spit on Your Grave this movie becomes, but at the last minute.

I can't give away the ending – watch and learn, basically. But it is brutal, and will stay with you for some time afterwards.

Preseented in a 1.85:1 aspect ration with 16:9 enhancement, the transfer is top-notch. Absolutely worth-your-while.
Yep, a good quality audio track. Class of 1984 doesn't actually need 5.1, but while the full sounstage is rarely utilized the movie does benefit from the new remix.
Extra Features
Besides the commentary with director Mark Lester, there's surprisingly little for such a popular film. There's a neat essay in the booklet that comes with the film about Lester and his career, the Theatrical Trailer, some television spots, a photo gallery and some text cast and crew filmographies. The Region 1 disc from Anchor Bay also includes a 35 minute documentary which is missing from this release.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Class of 1984 is a good film, but by no means a great one. It has a reputation it does not deserve based on a mis-placed notoriety worth bullshit, given its deliberately provocative nature. While I have seen better films, I've also seen a fuck's sight worse. Save your money and shop elsewhere, unless you're really curious.

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