CLASS OF 1984
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Perry King as ANDREW NORRIS
Merrie Lynn Ross as DIANE NORRIS
Timothy Van Patten as PETER STEGMAN
Roddy McDowall as TERRY CORRIGAN
Stefan Arngrim as DRUGSTORE
Michael J. Fox as ARTHUR
Keith Knight as BARNYARD
Lisa Lanlois as PATSY
Neil Clifford as FALLON
Al Waxman as DETECTIVE STEWISKIS
Studio: Scream Factory
Directed by: Mark Lester
BY KEVIN CARR
Even though I grew up in the 1980s and went to high school in the decade, I was a little young for the events of “Class of 1984,” which was made in 1982. I was still slumming it in elementary school while this horror story of high school violence was released in theaters. Consequently, I was unaware of the movie until I caught part of it on late-night cable when I was in college. Oddly enough, what first caught my eye was a young and chubby Michael J. Fox, who had become one of the biggest box office stars of the day.
It’s been decades since I’d seen the film, and possibly never in its entirety, so viewing “Class of 1984” on Blu-ray gave me a new perspective. Here we were, more than 30 years past its contemporary existence, and the movie managed to be both daring by today’s standards as well as cheesy at times.
The film tells the story of an idealistic music teacher named Andrew Norris (Perry King) who takes a job at one of the worst high schools in America. There, he faces resistance from the punks of the school who use the campus as a free-for-all with drugs and violence. When he finds himself nose-to-nose in conflict with the group’s leader, Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten), he soon finds his classroom struggles to bleed over into his personal life, causing things to come to a violent head with revenge and blood.
I was buffered from much of the problems that fraught the urban decline of schools in the 1980s simply because I grew up in a good suburb with a static community. However, that didn’t stop me from hearing about it on the news every night. And while the events in “Class of 1984” were larger than life for the purpose of cinema drama, they were not unheard of in some of the worst schools in the country.
Director Mark Lester, who later gave us the bonkers action film “Commando” and the better-than-expected Stephen King adaptation of “Firestarter,” managed to be somewhat prophetic with his ultra-violent cautionary tale of the youth of that day. He also managed to inject a fierce level of humanity into the film, much of it on the shoulders of Roddy McDowall who delivers a predictable but powerful performance full of pathos. This helped raise “Class of 1984” from a simply genre grindhouse release to a bona fide thriller.
While time has caused some of the film’s lesser moments to seem silly and corny by today’s standards, “Class of 1984” has something in it that can be taken away in today’s world. It’s not a feel-good inspirational educational film like “Lean on Me,” “Dangerous Minds” or “Stand and Deliver.” However, it’s grounding in reality along with its ability to appear to be any school in Anywhere, USA as well as its strong cast and violent but cathartic ending makes it more than a weak wannabe like “The Principal.”
This new Blu-ray falls in line with many of the excellent re-releases of Scream Factory’s library. The new transfer isn’t pristine, but the grain works well for the film which builds on the gritty subject matter and its low-budget nature. No doubt, it’s far better than what you’ve seen on late-night television over the years.
The bonus material includes new interviews with director Mark Lester as well as actors Perry King, Lisa Langlois and Erin Noble, plus some words from composer Lalo Schifrin. There’s an audio commentary with Lester as well as a theatrical trailer, TV spots and a still gallery. Finally, the vintage featurette “Blood and Blackboards” is on the disc as well with interviews with the cast and crew.