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Director: Mark L. Lester
Writers: Tom Holland, Mark L. Lester, John Saxton
Cast: Perry King, Timothy Van Patten, Roddy Mcdowall, Lisa Langlois
Length: 98 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master 5.1 and 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary with Mark L. Lester
- Do What You Love: Newly Commissioned Interview with Perry King
- The Girls Next Door: Newly Commissioned Interview with Lisa Langlois
- History Repeats Itself: Newly Commissioned Interview with Lalo Schifrin and Mark L. Lester
- Blood and Blackboards: Ported over featurette from Anchor Bay, featuring interviews with Cast and Crew
- Trailer and TV Spots
- Stils Gallery
Add one part revenge film, one part punksploitation, one part social commentary, and one part crazy together and what you get in return is Mark L Lester’s 1982 cult classic Class of 1984. Since its release, Class of 1984 has worked its way into the hearts of diverse fans across the world. However, despite the love, the film has remained rather overlooked. Today, however, that may change as Scream Factory delivers the it for the first time ever on Blu-Ray, giving the film a chance to reach new and wider audiences. While the prior Anchor Bay DVD of Class of 1984 featured a decent transfer and a series of nice special features, Scream Factory has really delivered what I think is — and may be — the definitive release of the film.
When Andrew Norris (Perry King) finds a new, permanent music teaching position at Lincoln High, he finds that the school is more than he had bargained for. Immediately upon entering, Norris’s naivety is shattered by the sight of a gun-toting biology professor, metal detectors, and the school’s lewd, crude students. It is clear, or rather it is made clear, that Norris’s role is more security guard than professor, as he is assigned daily shifts monitoring the halls. Norris’s attempts to reach the students are met with conflict when a ragged group of punks under the beck and call of Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) aim to disrupt and break Norris. Norris isn’t going down without a fight, but it is a fight that comes with a hefty cost…
Growing up within the punk scene, I’ve always had a fondness for films from the early 80s, especially genre films, because they inevitably always features a group of punks engaging in some heinous act. While there are a few examples of films that feature positive depictions — Suburbia has always been a favorite —, they more often than not form the basis for genre villainy in urban/modern films starting around 1981 or 82. Far from being able to identify with these lunatics, rapists, murderers, or, sometimes, just losers, I nevertheless love seeing them on screen. Say what you want, but they are almost always worthy of at least a laugh; overacting elevated to a level of craftsmanship (see Repo Man). Perhaps with the exception of Savage Streets, Class of 1984 is the arguably principle example of — I guess you’d call it — punksploitation. Filmed in 1982, the title foreshadows Mark L Lester’s humorously lofty concept of the film’s importance, depicting a not-too-distant future where our public school system is dismantled by teens run afoul (as evident in Stegman’s chanting that he is the future, it’s as if Lester is beating us over the head). While, for Lester, Class of 1984, is elevated to a socio-political level, for the rest of us it is first and foremost a romping good time. That is not to say that the political undertones of Class of 1984 are not prominent, they are, but that Lester’s grasp is perhaps a bit far reaching.Another cliché of this film is that it equates punk rock with Nazism. Sure, Sid Vicious branded a swastika proudly in the late 70s but this was always more of shock than for any true political ideology. I think that the film actually attempts to depict Stegman and his gang as neo-Nazi wannabes though, but it is hard to tell. Stegman first introduces himself in German, and the characters proudly dress in Swazi-covered clothes (humorously all backwards, although that may have been intentional), but beyond this, there is little sign that the gang adheres to Nazi tenants. I guess it is safe to say that they want to embody an image of violence but it comes off as somewhat misguided in a film that — at least tries to — aims at verisimilitude.
Beyond this small misstep, the film is more than entertaining. I would say that Roddy McDowall as Terry Corrigan steals the show. The British actor delivers all of his lines with an upmost sincerity and really is quite moving. In perhaps the film’s most famous scene, Corrigan holds a class hostage by gunpoint — allegedly based on a true story — and has to be talked down from rising to violence by Norris. If not McDowall, then surely King will be the most rewarding aspect of the film, as he is also very committed to the project. In fact, performances across the board, with a few exceptions, are rather engaging. You also get a very early appearance of a young, chubby, and bowl-cut Michael J Fox, putting in an honest, if not somewhat melodramatic effort.
Fans of horror will definitely appreciate the film’s last act as it switches gear into a sort of revenge-horror, when certain events lead Norris to take matters into his own hands and rid the town of its teenage problem. While Lester’s vision of ridding the streets of violence — akin to Taxi Driver, Death Wish, and leagues of other vaguely conservative vigilante films — has a political edge to it, Lester’s work ultimately fails to live up to its lofty goals (perhaps that’s for the best). You must keep in mind that Lester saw this as his response to Blackboard Jungle and A Clockwork Orange; for him it was a film that was going to capture the nihilism and violence of teenagers, as demonstrated by the film’s opening title card. In this light, perhaps the film is a failure, but for everything else it is a raging success.
When compared to Anchor Bay’s earlier DVD release, the Scream Factory Blu-Ray really shines. Much of the color and warmth of the film’s natural look was washed out in the DVD release, leaving a colder looking film. Since I think it is safe to say that a large majority of readers probably have never had the chance to see this film in theatres, watching this Blu-Ray will feel almost like a completely different experience. There does not appear to be any digital tinkering at work, leaving a fine amount of grain intact. Some may claim that the film looks a bit soft but I would believe that this is more a result of production than restoration — as even Langloius admits in the included interview, Lester hardly shot more than two takes for any scene. The color, as mentioned, gives us nice and warm skin tones while still allowing the structural elements to appear colder and concrete. There is the occasional scratch and bits of dust present but, overall, it is a fine print with little to complain about.
Similar to the video track, the audio restoration is finely handled. As per usual, Scream has provided us with two DTS-HD Master Audio mixes (both a 5.1 and a 2.0), that each offer a natural representation of the original audio elements. There are a few moments where dialogue clips but, again, it is hard to know where this problem occurred originally (without sitting down with the original tracks, or various releases.
Those who snagged the Deadly Eyes Blu-Ray will inevitably remember Lisa Langlois’s interview. Again, Scream has contacted Langlois to share her experiences, and while a great deal of her (shall we call them) eccentricities are still present, I think she is a lot more balanced on this interview. In fact, she comes off as extremely likeable and charming, with only a few instances where her namedropping gets in the way. Additionally, I think that she remembers Class in a lot more fond light than Deadly Eyes, as Lester allowed her to break from her archetypical roles to play the more tantalizing character of Patsy. While it would have been fantastic had they been able to track down Michael J Fox, that is both unlikely and unrealistic, and the rest of the interviewed subjects (Lester, composer Lalo Schifirin, and actors Erin Noble and Perry King) do a fine job developing a vivid picture of what it was like to work on the film, and how the film has aged. King’s interview is surprisingly long, as he works us through his entire career. While he is articulate, the interview does become a bit grating, and it would have been nice had it been more focused on Class. Nonetheless, there are a great deal of funny quips and anecdotes, as well as, informative bits about his varied career. Lester, in any of the included material, is fun to listen to because of his absolute love of the film. He mentions numerous times that he’d be ecstatic to revisit the film in a current setting, but let’s hope that this never comes to fruition because I do not think he would be able to recapture the same essence he did in ‘82. It is nice to see that Scream ported over the mini-documentary that Anchor Bay commissioned for their DVD release, as it is definitely worthy of a revisit.
For those who have seen the film and are fans, the decision is obvious, but I think that, despite the film’s large cult following, Class of 1984 has managed to escape many people’s radars. For those who have yet to see the film, I could not recommend it any more. While both Lester and screenwriter Tom Holland are better known with other genre films, Class of 1984 has tremendous value. One thing that can never be taken away from the film is that, despite it corniness, it really does seem like the actors take it very serious. This allows the film to work on two levels, maintaining a campiness inherent it is excessiveness, while also appreciating what was attempting to be done. While I will not go as far as to say that Lester was necessarily on to something all that ingenious, he nevertheless crafted a bold and entertaining film, one that still works.