Class of 1984 came out in 1982, when the director, Mark L. Lester, and co-writer Tom Holland wanted to an update of Blackboard Jungle with a bit of Lester’s favourite film, A Clockwork Orange, thrown in. It’s set in some kind of just slightly into the future—not so futuristic as its reboot, Class of 1999, which is much more of a science-fiction film. A music teacher played by Perry King goes to work in an inner-city LA high school where a group of punk kids are causing havoc in the classroom. Some the chaos expands beyond the school.
It has the good teacher vs. bad kids plot that you’ve seen in many other films. The teacher is a complete dick, though, so he’s too unlikeable to get much sympathy from viewers. But then again, so are the kids. Future star Michael J. Fox plays the straight-laced teenager who buys his drugs from the punks. Roddy McDowall plays another teacher, he even brings a gun to school because he’s so scared of his students.
Probably the best comparison would be Over the Edge, which is the better film. Both were inspired by news reports of escalating violence in urban high schools (which is now far worse than either film predicted). The “futuristic” element won’t seem like it now: a school so dangerous that metal detectors are needed…
It’s fun flick with a theme song by Alice Cooper during his “new wave”/freebasing cocaine period. It was shot in Ontario, so local garage punk band Teenage Head also appears, and there are a couple of songs by L.A. favourites Fear as well. Of course the extras were recruited from the Ontario punk scene, and allegedly they slam-danced so hard that some actors were injured.
It’s probably Mark Lester’s best film, and while I have a soft spot for Commando, I’d have to agree. When they tried to sell the film it was a tricky release as distributors were reluctant to pick it up, It was thought to be too violent, although by modern standards it’s pretty tame. In the UK it was seriously cut down.
This new release is of course uncut. It includes all the extras from the Shout Factory disc in the US, including commentary and interviews with cast ad crew, and a making-of documentary, plus much more. The two new extras from 101 Films are a career retrospective interview with Holland, a new booklet with an essay on ‘80s punk-rock sci-fi, and an interview with Lester about the film.