Class Of 1984 (Collector's Edition)
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: April 15th, 2015.
Director: Mark Lester
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Perry King, Roddy McDowell, Timothy Van Patten
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Andy Norris (Perry King of Slaughterhouse Five) is the new music teacher at a Lincoln High School. Unfortunately for Mr. Norris, the school is overrun with juvenile delinquents who run drugs, pimp girls, and basically keep the staff and faculty of the school in fear. In fact, one of Norris' associates, Terry Corrigan (the late Roddy McDowell of Planet Of The Apes), is so stressed out by his job that not only has he become an alcoholic, but he even carries a loaded gun to school with him each morning... just in case.
Norris makes the mistake of standing up to the thugs though, insisting that he can in fact make a difference and educate those students who are at least attending the school to learn. And there are a few of them, including Arty (played by a very young Michael J. Fox of Back To The Future and of course, Family Ties) and his friend Deneen (Erin Flannery of The Incubus).
But when the thugs, lead by a punk brat named Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten who stared alongside two of the coolest tough guys ever, Lee Van Cleef and Sho Kosugi, in the TV series The Master!) are responsible for the death of one of Norris' students after selling him some angel dust that he takes, it's the last straw. He won’t stand idly by while the principal and cops turn a blind eye to this, no siree! The battle is on as Norris tries to convince Arty to testify against the punks, until he too ends up on their shit list and ends up in the hospital from a stab wound. Nothing seems to be doing any good, it doesn't matter how hard Norris tries to play it straight - the punks always get away with everything!
Eventually though, the kids go too far when they brutally rape and assault Norris' pretty and pregnant wife Diane (Merrie Lynn Ross) after breaking into his house. Where’s he during all of this? He's at the school coordinating the music assembly. This time Norris is going to get his revenge and he is going to teach them all a lesson that they will never, ever forget.
Class Of 1984 is very much a product of the early eighties. It reeks of the decade in which it was made and the hallmarks of the era permeates it. The fashions, the music, the expressions - they're all evidence of when this film was made. But aside from that, the movie has aged reasonably well. It still holds up well more than thirty years since in unspooled in theaters and remains a decent little cult film. There’s an anger and an energy to the movie that moves it along at a nice, brisk pace and Lester, probably best known for directing Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, isn’t above throwing in a fair bit of violence and some welcome nudity now and again to ensure that the movie earns its R-rating. The script, co-written by Tom Holland, fleshes out the characters just well enough without overdoing it, meaning that we like the good guys enough to want them to win and like the bad guys enough to want them to keep it up!
King is sympathetic and likeable as Norris and he does very good work here. He only wants to teach for the noblest of reasons and really does want to make a difference with these kids. When he realizes how disenfranchised his friend Corrigan has become, and when he ultimately finds out what happens to him later in the film, we feel for him. And in the last twenty minutes of the movie, when he's going after those who have done him wrong, we want him to succeed and we want him to get revenge. Likewise, Van Patten is sufficiently despicable in his role as the main villain as he twists the words of others and lies his way out of trouble all through the film - kissing up to all the right people and beating the crap out of everyone else. Throw in a great supporting effort from McDowell and from Happy Birthday To Me’s Lisa Langlois (who is quite appealing all trashed out in this picture!) and you’ve got a pretty decent group of people going at it in front of the camera for this one.
The movie also has some nice atmosphere. Some great city street shots are scattered throughout the film and those of us who remember the Toronto (specifically Young Street) from the early 1980s will instantly recognize some of the landmarks. Keep your eye open for shots showcasing a certain strip club, the long gone Vinyl Museum, A&A Records And Tapes, Mr. Submarine and of course, the iconic Sam The Record Man flagship stores. Ah, Toronto, who you’ve changed over the years.
Canadian punk rock pioneers Teenage Head can also be seen and heard playing in the background during a scene in a club. At one point during their performance, a lovely young lady flashes her hooters at the band, shaking them about in a special, special way. I saw Teenage Head play in the mid-nineties and sadly, none of the ladies in attendance were flashing the band that night. Then years later I saw Gord Lewis from Teenage Head open for The Dictators – again, sadly, no breasts. Maybe female nudity wasn’t as common at Teenage Head shows as this movie would lead you to believe. Alice Cooper also contributes the song that plays over the opening and closing credits - We Are The Future - so the movie has that going for it too, and hey, dig the awesome score from none other than Lalo Schifrin.
Shout! Factory debuts Class Of 1984 on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in 1.78.1 widescreen in a new transfer ‘from the interpositive.’ Generally speaking this is a pretty solid transfer. Some minor print damage shows up – specks and the occasional scratch as well as what looked like a blink and you’ll miss it cigarette burn but for the most part the picture is pretty clean. Colors are reproduced really nicely here, all of the garish hues of the wardrobe shine nicely and skin tones look nice and lifelike. Some shots look a little softer than others, the movie has always had that sort of soft look to it in spots. Generally speaking though, detail is definitely advanced over that older Anchor Bay DVD release, as is texture and depth. Black levels are fine here too, and there are no issues to note with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction (so expect a bit of grain, as you should). All in all, the transfer is quite good.
Audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, both tracks in English with optional subtitles provided, also in English. Purists will no doubt opt for the 2.0 track and it’s hard to fault anyone for that but the 5.1 mix does spread the music and effects around a bit while keeping the dialogue pretty much front and center where you’d expect it. Regardless of which option you go for, the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow, the levels well balanced and the score/soundtrack appropriately punchy. No issues with any hiss or distortion to note either.
Extras start off with a commentary track with director Lester joined by Perry Martin, the guy who produced the DVD release that came out from Anchor Bay some years ago (and where this track first appeared). It’s a good track, Martin is able to keep Lester talking throughout and they cover the origins of the project, the financing behind it, casting the picture, some of the themes that run throughout the movie and how the film did at the box office when first released. Lots of good stories here, the track is nicely paced and quite detailed.
From there, check out The Girls Next Door, which is an interview with actresses Lisa Langlois and Erin Noble running just over sixteen minutes. Langlois talks about how over-the-top the movie seemed while it was being made, while Noble notes how being Canadian gives you a different view of America than Americans probably have (when this movie was made you didn’t have to go through metal detectors to get into a Canadian high school!). The actresses talk about how they were cast (Langlois wanted to play the punk rocker after always playing the girl next door), about working with their respective co-stars, King and McDowell in particular, and more. Both actresses look back on this fairly fondly and share some fun stories about the making of the film and seem quite pleased with the fact that it has earned a cult following over the years.
History Repeats Itself is a featurettes made up of interviews with Lester and Schifron running twenty-one minutes. Lester talks about how the movie was intended a warning of sorts and how the film has proven to be prophetic. He also talks about the influence of fifties JD/high school movies, the script, working with the cast and crew, how the film works as pop art, the violence in the film and more. Schifron (who is wearing an awesome sweater with a tiger’s face on it!) talks about how he went for a ‘kind of acid rock’ sound for the picture, what he thought of the dark story being told and how it would be a challenge to score it, his thoughts on how to best score a movie and his working relationship with Lester on this particular project.
Do What You Love gets leading man Perry King in front of the camera for a mammoth forty-seven minute piece in which he talks about pretty much his entire career. He discusses how he got into acting, the early days of his career and the importance of persistence and the importance of Slaughterhouse Five in his filmography. As the piece goes on he discusses auditioning for The Lords Of Flatbush with Richard Gere and working with Stallone on the film, what it was like acting in the infamous Mandingo and of course, his appearance in Class Of 1984. He shares some interesting details here about the fight choreography, the violence in the movie (and how he has come to despise violence in movies since making this picture), working with Lester and the rest of the cast and crew before closing things off with a great story about meeting Claude Rains. This is a very detailed and interesting piece, King is quite animated and easy to listen to and a great storyteller. He would probably be a great guy to have a few beers with and just get talking…
Also carried over from the aforementioned Anchor Bay DVD is the Blood And Blackboards featurette. This thirty-five minute featurettes includes interviews with King, Lester and Merrie Lynn Ross (who plays King’s wife and who also executive produced). It covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary and other featurettes but Ross’ involvement helps to take it into some different directions. Lester also goes into a good bit of detail here about the Teenage Head scene and how all of the slam dancing that you see in that scene is real and shot with a bunch of local punks. If you haven’t seen it before it’s very much worth revisiting.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer and some TV spots, a still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray case features some nice reversible cover art with the original one-sheet on one side and the newly created Shout! Factory artwork on the other side. The case fits nicely inside a slick little cardboard slipcover too, a nice touch.
The Final Word:
Class Of 1984 remains a rock solid cult film, a well-paced and intense film that takes things seriously enough to work while still managing to offer up enough good old fashioned exploitation to keep things interesting. The performances are great, the soundtrack is killer and Shout! Factory have done right by the film and its fan-base with this fully stacked special edition Blu-ray release.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
class of 1984,
michael j. fox,
timothy van patten,
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