• Three O’Clock High

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: October 17th, 2017.
    Director: Phil Joanou
    Cast: Casey Siemaszko, Annie Ryan, Richard Tyson,
    Mitch Pileggi, Jeffrey Tambor
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    Phil Joanou’s 1987 film Three O’Clock High tells the story of a high school student named Jerry Mitchell (Casey Siemaszko). He is, for all intents and purposes, a nerd. Not a nerd in the modern day way, but a nerd in the eighties sort of way, and as such, he gets picked on and made fun of sometimes – but he’s smart. At any rate, he’s assigned a writing job for the school newspaper where he has to detail the new kid in class, Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson). Word around the school is that Revell is nuts… dangerous even.

    When Jerry, quite by accident, winds up touching Buddy the new guy with something to prove tells Jerry that it’s on – they’re going to fight in the parking lot beside the school when class ends at 3pm. Jerry, quite understandably, doesn’t want to do this and basically spends the rest of the movie trying to figure a way out of all of this.

    This is a fun watch, an eighties ‘teen comedy’ that doesn’t get as much love as some of its better known counterparts (maybe because it’s eschews a lot of the sex inherent in the genre), which isn’t really fair. Three O’Clock High is clever, it’s nicely paced, it shows controlled direction and it’s nicely shot. Barry Sonenfeld served as cinematographer on this one and there are a lot of really interesting, quirky compositions on display that help keep up the off kilter mood and enhance what is essentially Jerry’s ongoing meltdown. Special mention should also be made of the editing employed in the film, which does a great job of emphasizing the passage of time throughout the picture, effectively setting up large parts of the film as a countdown of sorts. This builds tension nicely. We want to know as the story progresses if Jerry is going to get the shit kicked out of him or not.

    The thing is though, we don’t want him to take that beating. He’s a nerd, sure, but he’s not obnoxious or unlikeable. Casey Siemaszko – who many will recognize from Back To The Future and Stand By Me – plays the part well. His character never overdoes it, he is believable here. Anyone who didn’t quite fit in when they were in high school should be able to relate to the character well enough and Siemaszko makes him seem real enough to work. On the flip side, there’s Richard Tyson. He’s big, he’s tough, he’s a bit scary – you wouldn’t want to cross this guy let alone go head to head with him in a parking lot. A fun supporting cast made up of Annie Ryan, Stacey Glick, John P. Ryan, Mitch Pileggi and Jeffrey Tambor adds to the film’s entertainment value. A strong script containing a lot of well-written and occasionally very funny dialogue give the cast a lot to work with here, and Phil Joanou manages to do a fine job exploiting their abilities coaxing great work out of pretty much all involved. Interestingly enough, this was Janou’s feature film directorial debut – his next film? 1990’s State Of Grace with Sean Penn and Gary Oldman, quite a drastic shift in tone! He’s also worked extensively with U2 over the years, directing Rattle And Hum and a bunch of their music videos, but we won’t hold that against him.


    Three O’Clock High arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory’s Shout Select imprint in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. The transfer won’t floor you but it looks okay. It’s a little soft in spots but generally the image is pretty clean. Detail rises above would DVD could provide to be sure but never hits reference quality levels. There isn’t any obvious noise reduction to note and any print damage that shows up is minimal. Color reproduction is also pretty decent, as are black levels and skin tones.

    The only audio option provided is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. It sounds just fine, with clean, clear and properly balanced dialogue throughout. There are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion and the film’s ever important soundtrack has some nice punch to it. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    The first of the extras on this release is an audio commentary featuring director Phil Joanou that is moderated by Michael Felsher. This is a pretty interesting talk with Janou discussing his background working on Amazing Stories, how the project came to him because of connections made on that series, his initial thoughts on the script, what it was like shooting the picture, his thoughts on the contributions of the cast members and a fair bit more. Any time it sounds like Joanou is going to go quiet, Flesher is there to ask a decent question and get him back into the swing of things, though for the most part this is genuinely engaging and a well-paced, informative talk.

    From there, we move on to the interviews starting with Head Of The Class, another segment with Joanou. It covers much of the same ground as the commentary, the Spielberg connection in particular, but it’s interesting enough to watch. In Passing The Test we sit down with screenwriters Richard Christian Matheson and Tom Szollos who detail what went into the story, where some of the ideas came from, their thoughts on the finished product and more – again, touching on the Spielberg connection. Thirdly, there’s School Clothes, an interview with costume designer Jane Ruhm who, after giving us some background on her career including early work with Roger Corman, discusses what was involved in creating the costumes used in the feature.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Three O’Clock High is really well done, an effective black comedy with a distinctly eighties vibe that makes it a whole lot of fun. Shout! Factory has done a nice job bringing this to Blu-ray in a more than respectable presentation with plenty of genuinely interesting extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I watched this last year, and it's still so awesome.