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Class of 1984 (Collector's Edition)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Mark L. Lester
Perry King
Roddy McDowall
Timothy Van Patten
Lisa Langlois
Michael J. Fox
Bottom Line: 
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While the slasher genre proved the dominant force in horror throughout the 80s, studios still churned out their share of creature-features, psychological shockers, and even the occasionally tasty exploitative nugget like 1982’s low-budget Canadian flick Class of 1984. Rooted in the same sort of hysteria that gave us so many fantastic adolescent angst tales in the 50s and 60s, Class of 1984 gave viewers a glimpse into the “near future” (two years, to be precise), where lax laws and apathetic parents and teachers lead to the creation of a more violent and devious (not to mention incredibly well-dressed) breed of teenager.  

Class of 1984 revolves around the goings-on at Abraham Lincoln High School – a rundown institutional looking building covered in trash and graffiti, with metal detectors at every entrance. The student body runs the gamut from denim-clad African American gangbangers in blue bandanas to 80s metal burnout types (look for the kid in the Styx ¾ sleeve shirt. He wears it in every scene he’s in) with pastel shirt and acid washed band geeks making up the sheepish minority. The big fish in this fetid little pond are the sociopathic quintet led by well-coiffed kingpin, Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) who, along with his drug-addled associate, Drugstore (Stefan Arngrin), sadistic gal-pal Patsy (Lisa Langlois), and two meat head enforcers named Barnyard (Keith Knight) and Fallon (Neil Clifford), run the school with an iron fist. Stegman and his people are virtually untouchable despite being the school’s drug suppliers, loan sharks, and pimps! The police can’t touch them, and the faculty is terrified of them, but all of that is about to change with the arrival of wide-eyed and optimistic music teacher, Mr. Norris (Perry King).

Norris arrives at Lincoln High School with visions of leading the school’s band to greatness, but, aside from a handful of cooperative students in Deneen (Erin Noble) and Arthur (Michael J. Fox, in one of his earliest roles), he’s immediately met with resistance from Stegman and his followers. While his fellow teacher and new friend Mr. Corrigan (Roddy McDowall) assures him of the futility in trying to make a difference, Norris immediately sets his sights on Stegman, aiming to get him expelled or arrested for his criminal activities that all of the other faculty seem to turn a blind eye to. This, of course, leads to a quickly escalating feud between the new teacher and his rowdy students that, ultimately leads to a violent reprisal that sends the once-good-natured Norris over the edge for good.

Hitting all of the beats of the classic juvenile delinquent flicks of yore, Class of 1984 is an oftentimes unintentionally funny, surprisingly violent, and wholly enjoyable action/revenge thriller that, given the colorful fashions and tribal nature of the punk/new wave movement of the early 1980s, lends this nasty little exploitation sub-genre a sense of style and substance that goes well beyond the leather and switchblade motif of films like 1961’s Anatomy of a Psycho or 1958’s Young and Wild. Sure, it’s Hollywood-style anarchy, meaning lots of designer duds, sculpted ‘doos, and meticulously painted on make-up, but there’s a feral nature to the proceedings that make Norris’ plight all the more relatable and terrifying, and leads up to a final confrontation that is as chilling as it is viscerally satisfying.  It was also surprisingly prescient, proving to be a hell of a lot more accurate in its depiction of life in an inner-city school than any of us wanted to believe.

Scream Factory brings Class of 1984 to Blu-ray for the first time, and, rightfully, as a part of their vaunted Collector’s Edition series. The film’s presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratrio in full 1080p, and, while the image is certainly a marked improvement over its DVD and VHS counterparts, I did find a few nagging issues with the transfer, including an overabundance of grain on occasion, as well as a somewhat soft image overall that masks some of the fine detail. It’s still a very nice upgrade, and there are moments where the image is quality is strikingly good, but, overall, it’s not as consistent as many of Scream’s better offerings. 

As has become par for the course, we’re given two options for audio tracks – the film’s original 2.0 mix, as well as a gussied up 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track. As has often been the case, I prefer the much more focused stereo track as, while it doesn’t pack as much of a whallop in terms of low end, it just sounds better to my aging ears. I will say that the 5.1 track does offer some fairly decent sound separation and environmental effects are mixed quite nicely, but, like many of the films from this period, such sonic fireworks don’t really do much to improve the experience and, actually, occasionally prove distracting.

Bonus features a previously released audio commentary track with director Mark L. Lester and Anchor Bay’s Perry Martin. It’s a great commentary that hits all the right notes, so Scream Factory can be forgiven for not going back to the same well in hopes of getting anything better as Lester covers just about all one can imagine here.

Other carryovers from Anchor Bay’s DVD release include the Blood and Blackboards retrospective featurette, as well as a stills gallery, trailers, and TV commercials, all presented in standard definition.

Scream Factory does, however, load up the disc with a nice collection of NEW interviews, including a whopping 47 minute sit down with star, Perry King, that is extremely entertaining and informative. King offers something of a master class on acting, here, and spends the bulk of his time discussing his craft, his admiration for others, and his career, with only a few moments dedicated to Class of 1984, but it’s a tremendously rewarding interview, especially for those of us who grew up watching the actor in dozens of film and television roles.  Other interviews include an all-new discussion with Lester that builds on his commentary track and sports more recent observations about the film and its cultural impact, as well as a segment devoted to Lisa Langlois and Erin Noble, both of whom look even better today than they did over thirty years ago! The highlight is the always likeable Langlois talking about how she had to prove to Lester she could be as tough as her onscreen persona to finally win the role as she was initially pegged to play Noble’s Deneen character. All of the above are presented in HD.

Class of 1984 is a standout genre classic from a decade where masked killers ruled the roost, and it’s nice to see this cult-classic finally get its due on Blu-ray. While Scream Factory’s transfer isn’t as polished as their best offerings, it’s still a huge upgrade over previous releases, and the bounty of new bonus material makes this an essential purchase for both fans of the film as well as those looking for a different flavor of 80s genre fare. Highly recommended.


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