The 1980’s is generally the decade of the slasher film. It might have started in the late 70’s, but the 80’s really saw the peak of Freddy, Jason, and Halloween movies and an innumerable number of rip-off slasher films; so much so that a vast majority of 80’s movies looked kind of the same.
That’s why it’s kind of refreshing to watch a movie like Class of 1984, which was released in 1982. Instead of relying on shock and gore it actually has an interesting premise and has a strong team behind it that really make it work. Admittedly, I had not seen Class of 1984 before this release so I might guess that several others have not either. It’s a fairly simple premise.
An idealistic and trusting music teacher named Andy Norris and his pregnant wife move to a new area where Andy is to work at Lincoln High School. What he finds is a school run by gangs of students; these students are involved from everything from drugs to prostitution. He finds the other teachers unwilling to do anything about the situation and troubled Andy crosses path with the teenage gang leader of the school, Peter Stegman. While Andy works on trying to reform Peter all of the gang members declare war on Andy which culminates on the night of a big school orchestral event.
The premise should sound familiar; the idea of an idealistic teacher coming to a school and trying to make a difference has been done multiple times: To Sir with Love, The Principal, Dangerous Minds, and countless others. Where this movie changes is that it makes the new school just about the worst place in the world to be. What came to mind was if the anarchic world we see in Mad Max movies took place in a school setting (or what a lot of public schools actually look like today). This sets us up for more of an action thriller than an emotional journey. There is plenty of fighting and blood and we slowly see Andy veer into the animalistic side like the students he is trying to help.
What really helps this film is the people that are involved. Class of 1984 was directed by Mark Lester (Firestarter, Commando) and co-written with Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play) so that’s a pretty strong start to begin with. Perry King does a solid job as Andy Norris and is joined by Timothy Van Patten (pretty solid as Peter, but would go on to write for The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire), and most notably Roddy McDowall (Fright Night) who plays another teacher who both accepts things are the way they are, and at the same time is getting fed up and about to lose it.
We also get a brief glimpse of one of the earliest works of Michael J. Fox (Spin City) as a bowl-haircutted good kind who talks when he probably shouldn’t. The title song for the film, I am the Future, is provided by Alice Cooper and is a good fit for this movie’s grungy, punk feel.
The film is presented in 1080p definition with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For a movie that is so grungy and dirty it is presented in an extremely (visually) clean way. By that I mean all of the costumes are dirty, the school is in rubble and yet in this high definition you can see the details of the cracks of the scenery, the stitching of the costumes, and the dirt on the floor.
It’s really quite something to see all the details previous viewers probably never got to see. The colors are vibrant and befitting of the tone the movie is trying to achieve. I did not notice any areas of scratches, dirt, or general noise.
The dialog is crisp and clean and balances well with the score and sound effects, although on more violent scenes the effects seem to win out but it appears to be for added effect in those scenes. The low-end sounds work very well; explosions and gun shots sound very realistic with the right amount of kick (bass) to them. The tracks and subtitles are available in English only.
New High-Definition Transfer Of The Film From The Interpositive
New Interviews With Director Mark Lester, Actors Lisa Langlois And Erin Noble And Composer Lalo Schifrin
New Career Retrospective Interview With Perry King
Audio Commentary With Mark Lester
Blood And Blackboards Featurette – Featuring Interviews With Director Mark Lester, Actors Perry King And Merrie Lynn Ross
Original Theatrical Trailer
Overall, Class of 1984 is a solid movie on all fronts. It’s got a great director and writer. It’s got a strong cast and score and it makes great use of a premise that others probably wouldn’t want to touch. It’s something that is entirely its own and definitely worth a watch.
The film starts strongly and then builds to a colossal finale that will almost certainly excite and satisfy those watching. I think fans of Tom Holland are especially going to love seeing this early work before he became such a big name in the horror genre.
Class of 1984 Collector’s Edition is available from Scream Factory April 14th
Fun Fact: In the scene where Corrigan (Roddy McDowall) attempts to run down gang members, McDowall was actually driving the car. The camera was mounted on the hood as McDowall was allowed to drive the vehicle crazily down the street.
Photo Credit: United Film Distribution Company