Friday, April 01, 2011

Class of 1984

This film was made in 1981, but is titled Class of 1984. I think this means one of two things. Either, A, this film is set in the future, or B, the kids in this movie are sophomores. Setting a movie just three years in the future is kind of stupid. On the other hand, there is no way these "kids" are young enough to have three more years of school ahead of them.

Or maybe director Mark L. Lester was trying to warn us, the way Orwell was trying to warn us with his novel 1984. Well, if I've learned one thing, if we've all learned one thing, it's that Timothy Van Patten is just not believable as a villain. Let that be a warning to movie producers everywhere.

Mr. Norris (Perry King, he of Riptide fame) is the newest teacher at Toronto's Abraham Lincoln High. I had no idea they were such a fan of Abe up in Canada, but good for them. On his first day he runs afoul of Peter (Van Patten) and his band of hooligans. Now, they're not a scary bunch really, the gang is made up of a couple swishy guys including The Big Gay Antichrist from Fear No Evil, a lumbering oaf, and girl with absolutely no characterization. (That is unless we're counting pink hair as characterization.)

Peter runs the school's drug trade and prostitution rackets. All Norris wants to do is get his band class to the city finals. Or something. I was never sure what they were doing, but it seemed important to the class.

Unfortunately Norris and Peter's gang are on a collision course. Or something. The story is pretty standard issue 80s exploitation fare (or any decade for that matter). Norris and the gang have a series of run-ins, their drug dealing thinning Norris' band one woodwind at a time. Norris's attempts to have the kids expelled goes nowhere, as there are no witnesses to any of their crimes.

But Norris is clever enough to know what is really going on. Or something. Things escalate when the gang knifes a ruddy-faced little Michael J. Fox. But what really pisses Norris off is when they blow up Roddy McDowall. Though, that isn't entirely the gang's fault. McDowell had one of those cars that randomly flip over and burst into flames without provocation.

The night of the big concert, Peter and company attack Norris's wife. (If you've ever seen a horror movie from that era, you know what what entails.) They then kidnap her and take her to the roof of the auditorium. If Norris wants her back he'll have to fight his way through the gang. From then on it's a game of cat and mouse, with Norris being the cat and the gang being a bunch of really stupid mice. Or something.

Norris does in one of the guys on the table saw in the shop class: First he saws off the kid's arm then splays him out on the spinning blade. The only thing better would have been if Norris had used the dismembered arm to beat him a bit first. Norris sets another on fire with a blow torch in bodyshop (Flame on, Antichrist!) The other two get smooshed under a falling car, but not after Norris beats one about the head with a crowbar first.

It's mano-a-mano up on the roof as Norris tries to rescue his wife. But it's just bloody revenge at this point. The big concert is ruined, or maybe not, depending on your point of view, as Norris pushes Peter through the skylight, splashing him down in the middle of the auditorium. I guess the 1812 Overture never had such an exciting finale. Or something.

Class of 1984 is a dumb movie, from the title on down to the ridiculous villains to the postscript that informs us no charges were brought against Norris because there were "no witnesses."

Directed by Mark L. Lester • R • 1981 • 98 minutes

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