Around the time I brought this Vestron Video release home from my local video store, I had an adolescent fascination with how the punk rock subculture that influenced my development had been portrayed in the media. In everything from video games to television and films, punk rockers were mostly portrayed as villains. There was a mythological aura surrounding the way these rebellious thugs were portrayed and it's clear in Class of 1984 that filmmaker Mark L. Lester (Commando) had a similar fascination and knew that pushing the legend made for better cinema.
Lester proudly declares now that he was prophetically making a film that bares important social significance and considers it to be the best film he's ever made, but let's be honest and admit that this movie is pure sleazy exploitation. Don't get me wrong, I love some good fun exploitation and as far as that's concerned there's no reason for him to be ashamed of this cult classic for what it truly is.
Lester was in love with juvenile delinquent pictures that Hollywood previously made like Blackboard Jungle and absolutely adored A Clockwork Orange. When you take those two loves and marry them to a revenge subplot straight out of Death Wish and set out to make your vision against obstacles like budget and experience, Class of 1984 is what you end up with.
As the film opens to the appropriate jingle "We Are The Future" by Alice Cooper, we are taken on a visual tour of the high school campus that appears to be ruled by the kind of characters you'd find in the 80's arcade classic Bad Dudes. Andrew Norris, the new music teacher arrives and the outlandish setting, from the metal detectors to his dashing and sadistic arch nemesis (played by Timothy Van Patten) that rules the school, is all filtered through his innocent Reagan-era perspective of one extreme and the other. Roddy McDowall always gave a great performance and his portrayal of biology teacher Terry Corrigan is no exception. Corrigan is the voice of reason and the moderator to both points of view theoretically, but given that the amoral punks that serve as the antagonists have no redeeming qualities other than classic piano skills and flamboyant fashion sense, the pendulum of his philosophy always tends to swing on the side of Mr. Norris. The wholesome image that Michael J. Fox lends to his modest supporting character is a great example of the opposite side of the coin that helped reflect an image of society that politics and the media firmly planted in the moral diet of vulnerable suburbia clenching for a clear depiction of morality and values.
It was clearly necessary for Lester to take a straight-forward approach with his directing style for the majority of filming, which makes his creative lighting choices during the vengeance filled finale stand out in exciting ways. The soundtrack is unfortunately light on anarchy-filled anthems in comparison to punk rock classics like Repo Man, but they did managed to get a good FEAR song to add a punch to the atmosphere. Also notable is the contribution from Tom Holland to the screenplay not long before directing the masterpiece Fright Night and, if I were to speculate, I'd say much of the subtle dark humor in the dialogue most likely came from him. What really makes Class of 1984 stand out as more than entertaining exploitation sleaze is some top notch acting performances, simple and effective storytelling and, most importantly, a satisfying and surreal conclusion that doesn't drop the ball. Intentional or not is besides the point, Class of 1984 is a relic that captures the time it was created and transcends to the times we currently reside in a mirror that reflects the truth as an over the top exploitation cartoon.
Scream Factory has done an incredible job with this Collector's Edition and trust me that this is the best version Class of 1984 you're ever going to get. The new high-definition transfer of the film from the interpositive is gorgeous and this sounds great too. The new interviews with director Mark Lester, composer Lalo Schifrin (Cool Hand Luke), actors Perry King (The Lords of Flatbush) Lisa Langlois (Deadly Eyes) and Erin Noble are insightful and revealing. "Blood and Blackboards" is a behind-the-scenes feature that makes this a must own for fans by itself. I highly recommend adding this Scream Factory release to your exploitation library, it won't be complete without it.
Movie Score: 4/5, Disc Score: 4.5/5