Andy Norris (Perry King, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW) begins work as a music teacher at Lincoln high School. He is immediately struck by the violent aura permeating throughout the place - the foulmouthed teenage pupils are subjected to metal detection searches and frisks upon their entrance to the school.

Andy witnesses one kid, Drugstore (Stefan Arngrim, FEAR NO EVIL; THE FINAL CUT), smuggle a knife past the armed guards in the foyer. When Andy reports this to the guard, he simply shrugs and lets the kid go.

Striking up a friendship with sickeningly passionate students Arthur (Michael J Fox, TEENWOLF; BACK TO THE FUTURE) and Deneen (Erin Flannery, THE INCUBUS), Norris holds the respect of most of his class. That is, aside from Peter (Timothy Van Patten, ZONE TROOPERS) who seems intent on making his presence felt before leaving the class prematurely, with his punk rock disciples in tow.

Peter runs a drugs racket in the school and at the local punk night-club where he holds court in a back-room, sat behind a desk like Brando's Godfather, listening to the promises and pleas of drug-hungry teens desperate for their fix.

When not pushing drugs or pimping girls, Peter and his goons are defending their turf by kicking the shit out of anyone foolish enough to chance their luck. Cue some decent WARRIORS-style fight sequences.

Norris observes the gang's unruly behaviour quietly at first, taking heed of biology lecturer Terry (Roddy McDowall, PLANET OF THE APES; FRIGHT NIGHT) when he advises that the best way to stay alive at Lincoln High is to turn a blind eye.

Even Terry loses his cool though when his beloved animals are slaughtered and left skinned in his classroom.

Events escalate further when a kid Peter sold smack to dies, and Norris puts pressure on Arthur to act as a witness to the drug deal. With the police constantly telling Norris "we can't do anything because no-one saw it happen", Norris and Peter seem bound on course for an almighty battle of wits and brawn ...

Long overdue on UK DVD, CLASS OF 1984 is one of THE cult classics of the 80s. Rough, raw and violent - it stood somewhere between trendy gang movies of the time like THE WANDERERS and more bloody fare. It even had a dash of DEATH WISH-style vengeance to bolster the final act, ensuring it was a big hit during the video boom of the mid-80s.

More so, it spoke to jaded youths back then, and although it's a tad dated in it's look this is undoubtedly even more timely now in these post Columbine times. Which is all rather sobering.

Whatever political bent the film may or may not have, it's undeniably a great piece of exploitation filmmaking. The script is filled with highly quotable lines - mostly hate-fuelled and nihilistic. And the gusto with which the young cast deliver said dialogue (especially Van Patten, who is brilliant here) is a joy to behold.

The cast, in fact, are uniformly excellent. Even the usually vomit-inducing Fox is tolerable. King and McDowall, along with Van Patten, provide the heart of the film though, elevating the script from enjoyable hokum to truly gripping drama.

Director Mark Lester (FIRESTARTER; STEALING CANDY) films with a flair for gritty realism, evoking a real atmosphere of violence and paranoia. The pacing is just right too - with things building up nicely towards a rousing final half-hour where Lester goes all-out to cover the screen in spit and blood.

Musically, Lalo Schifrin (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE; STARSKY AND HUTCH) was a catch for such a low budget film, and provides a distinctive, apt electronic score. And, yes, the Alice Cooper track ("I Am The Future") IS here, playing over the opening credits as it should be! Although personally I think it's crap, and would've preferred FEAR's "Let's Start A War" - heard later in the film ...

The last time the film was available in the UK was on Thorn EMI's pre-certificate videotape. That version was an overly dark, pan-and-scan version censored by a whopping 4 minutes.

Well, the good news here is that the print used is terrific. The film has scrubbed up really well in this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Colours are a little diluted, but that's more due to the source material - and seems to be part of the intentional look of the film. Images are sharp and free from any grain. A really nice job.

The 5.1 audio track is a good effort too, thankfully avoiding the common trap of sounding too artificial and contrived. Although, there's no mono alternative. There's no subtitles either, which is unusual for a Warners release.

And, yes, this is the full uncensored director's cut of the film. Rumours abound shortly after the DVD's release that the film had been pre-cut by the distributor ... these rumours have been quashed on the Net by Lester himself. This version is identical in content to the French DVD release, and the forthcoming Anchor Bay US release.

The film can be accessed by a static scene selection menu offering access to the main feature via 12 chapters.

Of the extras, the best by far is Lester's audio commentary track which is great stuff. Lester rabbits away to the moderator about all aspects of the production, gushing over Roddy McDowall, offering insights into casting and location shooting - the whole kit and caboodle. It's a highly interesting listen, nice and fluent, including titbits of trivia such as the fact that the film owes it's title to George Orwell's book rather than the year the action is set in. As Lester indicates, it was the Big Brother schooling system that earned the movie it's title, and a theme that he expanded in the sequel CLASS OF 1999.

A theatrical trailer and TV spot round off things, both being enjoyable relics of advertising, the likes of which we rarely see these days. Sensational, hideously dated and huge fun.

A great film, looking swell on DVD with a nice surround audio mix and excellent commentary track from the director.


Review by Stu Willis

Released by Warner
Region 2 PAL
Rated 18
Extras : see main review