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  Class of 1984 Problem Pupils
Year: 1982
Director: Mark L. Lester
Stars: Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Roddy McDowall, Stefan Arngrim, Michael J. Fox, Keith Knight, Lisa Langlois, Neil Clifford, Al Waxman, Erin Noble, David Gardner, Steve Pernie, Robert Reece, Joseph Kelly, Elva Mai Hoover, Vincent Abbatino
Genre: Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The time is the near future and it's the first day of his new job for music teacher Andy Norris (Perry King), but the inner city school is a lot tougher than what he's used to. Once he arrives, he gets talking to veteran biology teacher Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowall) and can't help but ask about the handgun he has noticed he carries. Corrigan replies vaguely, but Norris gets the idea that he is in for a rough experience when he sees the metal detectors and security guards at the school doors. Visiting the principal, he is given his schedule, but put out that he's expected to patrol the corridors during his free periods, although he doesn't know the half of it...

Remember The Blackboard Jungle and the way it was one of the films that ushered in the juvenile delinquent movies of the nineteen-fifties? Well Class of 1984 had a similar effect on the eighties, cashing in on fears that schools were becoming more unlawful, the difference being that in the fifties, Glenn Ford didn't hunt down the delinquents through the halls of learning with a view to bumping them off when he's pushed too far. This was not so much a commentary on a social problem than an exploitation flick designed to sensationalise its subject matter.

Norris's nemesis is Stegman (Timothy Van Patten with big hair), who gatecrashes the music lesson with his unlovely gang and causes a measure of disruption before being persuaded to leave. That's not the end of it, however, as Stegman decides he really doesn't like the firm but reasonable (at this point) teacher, and a game of tit for tat is what builds up throughout the running time, with Stegman going that bit too far in his determination to get his own back. Spraying fake blood in Norris's face, or blowing up his car is second nature to this tearaway.

Naturally, the police can do nothing, even when Stegman is caught selling drugs to his fellow pupils in the bathroom - there's not enough evidence, you see. A lot of teeth-gritting ensues, with a hefty dose of "go ahead, I dare ya!" posturing, but there's an absurd item of symoblism when one drugged pupil (thanks to Stegman) climbs a flagpole and falls to his death wrapped in the American flag (although this is a Canadian film). So the good kids are being sacrificed by the bad guys, not only their education but their lives as well. What's the solution?

Class of 1984 posits a reactionary one that appeals to the worst aspects of the audience's character - Stegman's gang even attacks little Michael J. Fox at one point. Fight violence with violence is the answer we're supposed to believe, but whether anyone in the real world could get away with the behaviour seen in the last half of this film is seriously doubtful. So over the top does it become that you're starting to laugh when Stegman is revealed as piano-playing prodigy gone bad or Corrigan, whose lab rabbits have been killed by the gang, takes his next class at gunpoint until Norris wrestles the firearm from him. "It's the only language they understand" is the moral of this, and while it can be enjoyable in a campy way nowadays, it's manipulative and dubious if you pause to think about it too long. Music by Lalo Schifrin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Mark L. Lester  (1946 - )

Prolific American director/producer who specialises in crowd-pleasing B-movies, usually action or horror. Earlier films include more serious works like the award-winning documentary Twilight of the Mayas and Steel Arena, plus 1976's hilarious exploiter Truck Stop Women, Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw and Roller Boogie, with Linda Blair.

The 1980s was Lester's most successful decade, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Commando, Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Armed and Dangerous all finding huge success on home video. Other films include Class of 1999, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Night of the Running Man and Blowback.

 
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