Class of 1984: Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Mark Lester
Written by Tom Holland, Mark Lester and John Saxton
1982, Region A, 98 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on April 14th, 2015
Perry King as Andrew Norris
Timothy Van Patten as Peter Stegman
Roddy McDowall as Terry Corrigan
Merrie Lynn Ross as Diane Norris
Lisa Langlois as Patsy
Stefan Arngrim as Drugstore
Keith Knight as Barnyard
Neil Clifford as Fallon
Michael J. Fox as Arthur
Erin Flannery as Deneen
What’s with kids today? At Lincoln High School, the majority of the student body is made up of decent individuals looking to get a quality education, but there are a few bad apples in the bunch determined to spoil things for everyone. When music teacher Andrew Norris transfers to Lincoln, he is thrust into a tough new reality, as this school comes with metal detectors, security guards, gangs and lots of graffiti. He is immediately at odds with a group of tough punks led by the charming Peter Stegman, who threatens to sabotage his lesson plans. Mr. Norris’ efforts to regain control of the classroom from the delinquents are met with vandalism of his property and an unwanted visit to his home. Norris refuses to let these kids get in the way of others’ learning, but the administration is either unable or unwilling to help. His main ally, Terry Corrigan, is a fellow teacher so intimidated by the bullies that he carries a pistol in his briefcase.
Stegman’s crew, a menacing quartet with names like Barnyard, Drugstore, Fallon and Patsy, continue to terrorize the school with no relief in sight. Their daytime antics include selling drugs and bullying the weak, while at night their crimes include destruction of property and prostitution. Corrigan’s attempts to restore order via extreme teaching lead to his dismissal and Norris is left on his own. As threats escalate at work, he visits Stegman at home to reason with the boy’s mother, but the woman has been manipulated to the point that she refuses to believe the teacher’s accusations. The hooligans are now incensed to personalize their vendetta by adding rape and murder to their list of fun times and no one is safe. Norris is forced to become what he abhors in order to protect those closest to him.
Director Mark Lester (Firestarter) delivers a nightmarish vision for parents and teachers with his film Class of 1984. Working from a screenplay he co-wrote with John Saxton (Happy Birthday to Me) that was based on a story by Tom Holland (Psycho II), Lester depicts a prophetic picture of a deteriorating school system filled with angry youth. Despite a heavy security presence, weapons and drugs continue to find their way inside. Teachers bring guns into the classroom for protection against the very people they are trying to help. The escalating scenario boils over into an unexpectedly violent conclusion that is truly disturbing. What makes this cautionary tale all the more powerful is how well written the characters are, offering developed personalities rather than empty stereotypes.
Perry King (Riptide) plays Andrew Norris, the dedicated music teacher, as an Everyman that audiences can easily relate to. He is neither heroic nor a risk taker, but rather a man simply trying to do his job in an increasingly hostile environment. Roddy McDowall (Fright Night) steals the film as the fragile Corrigan, whose best moments come when he finally commands his students’ attention by unorthodox means. McDowall could play this type of sensitive character in his sleep, but instead of simply “phoning it in”, he delivers another wonderful performance. According to the interviews on this disc, Timothy Van Patten (Zone Troopers) had little interest in pursuing an acting career, but his work here as the charismatic sociopath Stegman is pretty awesome. He has since moved behind the camera and is a prolific television director of shows including The Sopranos, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.
Lisa Langlois (Deadly Eyes) disappears in the role of Patsy, easily the most menacing character, as she seems to be having the most fun wreaking havoc. This is a particularly nice turn for the actress since she is usually typecast as the beautiful nice girl. Genre fans will be surprised to discover a virtually unrecognizable Keith Knight (My Bloody Valentine) as Barnyard, the muscle of the gang. Neil Clifford (Skullduggery) and Stefan Arngrim (Fear No Evil) round out the punks as Fallon and Drugstore respectively, but only the latter makes a lasting impression. The decent students of Lincoln High are represented by Erin Flannery (The Incubus) as Deneen and some guy named Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future) as Arthur. Both appear sufficiently helpless at the hands of the juvenile delinquents, as does Merrie Lynn Ross (The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood) as the unfortunate Diane Norris.
What would a tumultuous high school movie be without at least one rock song on the soundtrack? Luckily, Alice Cooper fills the bill with the unexpectedly haunting “I am the Future” title track. Class of 1984 was released at a time when the extreme antics of high school gangs seemed highly unlikely but have proven to be unfortunately accurate in today’s society. The picture is very well made and so much of the material is grounded in reality that it caught audiences off guard during its original theatrical release. Critics at the time were split, but the film has since gone on to develop healthy cult status. Mark Lester returned to direct the tongue-in-cheek sci/fi sequel Class of 1999 (1990), involving killer cyborgs as teachers. It is entertaining, but pales when compared to the original. A second sequel, Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994), followed without Lester’s involvement. If you haven’t seen the original ’84, do yourself a favor and enroll now, but hang on to your seats because the last act is a doozy.
Video and Audio:
Class of 1984 has received a new HD transfer from the film’s original source elements. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio and sporting both strong colors and solid black levels, this 33-year old movie looks surprisingly contemporary.
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track places audiences inside the crowded hallways of the troubled high school. Rear channels kick in effectively in the final act as the cat-and-mouse buildup haunts the empty corridors. Also available is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that faithfully presents the original audio mix and is equally serviceable.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need
The Mark Lester commentary from the Anchor Bay DVD returns, and this is a good one. There’s no time for silently watching the movie, as the man has a lot to say about the production. There are plenty of compliments for all involved and a bit of surprise that the film proved as prophetic as it has.
In The Girls Next Door (16 minutes), Lisa Langlois and Erin (Flannery) Noble discuss their time on set plus their fellow cast members and working with some intimidating extras. Both ladies are instantly likeable and their anecdotes are a lot of fun.
History Repeats Itself (21 minutes) is an entertaining piece with Mark Lester and Lalo Schiffrin reflecting on the production. Lester does most of the talking with some overlap of information from his commentary. He covers a lot of territory here, including working on location, the decline of the contemporary school system and meeting Sallah Hassennein for an unexpected distribution deal. Shiffrin’s comments focus primarily on the score and working with Lester.
Longtime fans of Perry King will want to check out the interview Do What You Love (47 minutes), in which the actor looks back on his lengthy career. He shares many memories and some of the highlights include anecdotes about his work on Slaughterhouse Five, Lords of Flatbush, Mandingo, Lipstick, working with Andy Warhol, and the television show Riptide. He has many fine things to say about making Class of 1984, his cast mates and director Mark Lester. I am glad to see King again and this piece is definitely worth checking out.
Returning from the Anchor Bay DVD release is the retrospective documentary Blood & Blackboards (35 minutes). The informative piece features interviews with Mark Lester, Merrie Lynn Ross and Perry King. It is nice to have this segment ported over as a nice counterpart to the more recent interviews (including King and Lester) that appear on this disc.
A collection of promo shots paired with poster art and lobby cards, newspaper ads, international video art and magazine covers make up an extensive Stills Gallery (56 images).
The original theatrical trailer and a pair of TV spots rounds out the special features on this disc.
Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.