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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New on Video: Reagan-Era Ruffians in Class of 1984

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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Punks!

If you’re of a certain age, do you remember when we were all afraid of punks? Seems like such a long time ago. It’s an era which is…well, I’m not going to say perfectly captured in Mark L. Lester’s 1982 cult classic Class of 1984 (which Shout! Factory is releasing on Blu-ray on April 14), but it's seldom done so entertainingly. Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline of Western Civilization may be the unimpeachable document of what punk once was, but that won't hit video until June.

For now, Class is in session, bitches.





I had the good fortune to see Lester’s own faded 35mm print of Class of 1984 at the Castro in 2010, and if you can’t turn back time and join me there, Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray — a stunningly crisp HD transfer from the un-faded interpositive — is the next best thing.

Andrew Norris (Perry King) is idealistic new teacher at Lincoln High, a crime-ridden stinkhole ruled by Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten, who’s since dropped the “othy” and has directed many episodes of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, and the first two episodes of Game of Thrones). Although he's the punkiest punk ever to punk out, he’s doesn’t look especially punky by any known punkometry. But he is deeply antisocial, as is the movie surrounding him.

Which is high praise. Class of 1984 is a deliriously seedy, fun, and occasionally disturbing story of teenagers (played actors and actresses of drinking age, per usual) running amok. In the new Making-Of documentary “Blood and Blackboards,” Lester describes his incredibly violent exploitation film as prophetic and a warning to the world, a warning went unheeded ‘cuz the metal detectors in the school in Class of 1984, which seemed far-fetched at the time, now exist in reality. At the end, he bemoans, “Nobody took my warning!” If it’s any consolation, nobody listened to Cassandra, either.

Elsewhere, Lisa Langlois, who plays the ever-present but largely silent punk girl Patsy, says that the real punk girls used as extras in a club scene thought she was inauthentic because her hair wasn’t just black and white. To which I say, if pink-and-blond hair is inauthentic, then "authentic" is hella overrated. And I'm not just saying that because I rocked that look myself a decade ago. (Nor am I implying that I rocked it anywhere as hard as Ms. Langlois, mind you.)


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Speaking of punks, the original key art for Class of 1984 is included on the reverse of the Blu-ray sleeve – Shout! Factory is one of the few video distributors that not only commissions new box art-art (as opposed to badly Photoshopped pictures), but they typically make the original VHS or theatrical poster art an option as well. This was also used for the cover of one of my most favorite film reference books ever, Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly's Destroy All Movies!!!: The Complete Guide to Punks of Film.

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Seriously, if you’re a film lover and haven’t read Destroy All Movies, you’re inauthentic. Among other things, it makes a strong case for the original Gremlins being one of the most punk-as-funk movies ever. More germane to the topic at hand, it devotes plenty of space to Class of 1984, including this:
Hundreds of films took the punks-as-villains route, but no others managed to make them as convincingly unstable and hateworthy as this. More importantly, Class of 1984 is just a perfect exploitation movie. Originally slapped with an X rating, it’s relentless seedy, overflowing with assault, suicide, racism, grimy sex, drug use and crime crime crime, all of which is perpetrated by minors!
Hells yeah.
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Sherilyn Connelly

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