CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
'CLASS OF 1984': REVENGE ISN'T SO SWEET
Miami Herald, The (FL)
November 16, 1982
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Here's a scene from the dark near-future as drawn by a new film called Class of 1984. When teacher comes to visit the home of Petey, a teenage trouble student, mother sends him packing and turns to console her son: "Don't worry, honey, he won't bother you again. Now go back in and watch TV."
Yes, it's ghastly, and what's become of parents these days, anyway? While they're tuning the TV and voting Republican, the kids down at the high school are pushing drugs, misspelling their graffiti and commiting ritual sacrifice in the biology lab.
And who's in the middle? Teachers. Teachers like Mr. Norris the music instructor at Abraham Lincoln High (irony.). He gets these words of advice from Abe Lincoln's principal the day he arrives: "You're not in Nebraska anymore, Mr. Norris...teaching is something you do in spite of everything else." And this: "Surveillance is the name of the game around here, Mr. Norris."
And so it is. Mr. Norris loses his good students (the ones with the well-trimmed hair) to Petey's gang; they drop like flies, to drugs and the knife and terror in general. Mr. Norris loses his friend, the biology teacher, who immolates himself after Petey slaughters his rabbits. And Mr. Norris even loses his wife, who is raped by the delinquents and then, for no apparent reason (these kids.) dragged off to the school to be concealed in one of the home rooms. Surveillance may indeed be the name of the game here, but they're not very good at it.
If the movies have taught us nothing else over the years since Death Wish, they have taught us what will happen in situations such as these. The victim will rise up and strike back. Even a teacher, a kind man such as Mr. Norris, will have had enough and will resort to any means -- power tools, if necessary -- to get revenge on his tormentors.
Mr. Norris (played by Perry King) is no different. He does get his revenge, which -- despite some mid-film twaddle about the leniency of the juvenile justice system and the lethargy of parents and administration -- is what Class of 1984 is all about. Mr. Norris even gets to use a power tool (a wood-shop circular saw, handymen) on one of Petey's gang.
The director, Mark Lester, is able to generate a crude energy throughout the film, particularly in the early establishing scenes in which we get to feel afraid along the Abe Lincoln corridors. But his film is so clearly about getting even rather than about troubled youth or any other societal problem that it seems, like Death Wish II and a hundred others, a waste of that energy.
Class of 1984 does offer two notable elements, however. One is the scene in which Roddy McDowall, before succumbing to a killer dose of teacher burnout, holds his students at gunpoint for a final class -- an idea that despite its troublesome legal implications has a certain appeal.
The other is the reaction of young people in the audience, who might be expected to identify with the students on screen. They cheer loudly not when Petey cuts class, but when Mr. Norris grinds up the gang down in the shop. As the movies are busily and profitably proving, the righteous spilling of blood cuts across many lines.
Class of 1984 (R) *
Perry King, Roddy McDowall, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Vam Patten, Stefan Arngrim, Michael Fox
Director: Mark Lester
Producer: Arthur Kent
Screenwriters: Mark Lester, John Saxton, Tom Holland
Cinematographer: Albert Dunk
Music: Lalo Schifrin
A United Film Distribution release
Vulgar language, nudity, implicit sex, violence, gore
At Omni, Trianon, Apollo, Roxy, Marina, Movies at the Falls, 27th Avenue Drive-In, Movies of Pompano, Southland (Fort Lauderdale), Sheridan, Holiday Springs, Lakes, Movies of Plantation, Lakeshore Drive-In, Thunderbird Drive-In.