The perfect blend of a very well done movie with thoughtfully put together extras.
Seen as just an exploitation picture it is easy to write off Mark Lester’s Class of 1984 as a piece of violent filmmaking. This story follows teacher Andy Norris (Perry King) as he goes from trying to understand a group of bad students to eventually trying to kill them. These students, led by the magnetic Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten), do everything in their power to make Norris’s life a living hell. In a nutshell, this film is a slow escalation of two forces that are drawn together in the most brutal way.
This is a very prophetic tale and while on occasion it finds itself going a tad over the top, it’s statements about the disintegration of our school system is one that cannot be denied. Thankfully, the creators of this DVD and director Mark Lester have pushed this idea and made it a prominent point in the superb supplemental features. As a result, the release of the Class of 1984 on DVD is more than just a long overdue 80s movie coming out in this format.
It is a document of not only Lester’s vision but of his warning to a society that didn’t listen.
Blood and Blackboards Featurette
This is a very in-depth featurette that is sadly void of Timothy Van Patten. Featured here are Mark Lester, Perry King and producer/actress Merrie Lynn Ross. (She plays Diane Norris in the film). While most of the attention gets focused on Lester, it is well deserved because his anecdotes really put the story of this film in perspective.
Mark Lester provides a very insightful commentary track. While he covers a lot of the same ground that he discussed in the Blood and Blackboards Featurette, he also talks more about the film in the sense of giving the listeners more stories. This is the kind of commentary that one could listen to over and over again, simply because it is filled to the brim with the director’s remembrances.
Poster, Still Gallery and Screenplay
The final bonus features are still shots from the movie as well as a bunch of variations on the poster artwork for the film. All of them pretty much show Stegman and his group but viewers are treated to how the one sheets looked in other countries. An awesome bonus is the inclusion of the movie’s screenplay on the DVD-Rom. This is an invaluable source that screenwriters can utilize to write their own tightly constructed thrillers.
Widescreen Presentation - 1.77:1 - Enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Having watched this movie for many years on VHS, there is a noticeable quality difference on DVD. I am beside myself with how good the transfer of this movie is. It is over 20 years old but they have really cleaned up the picture quality. As a result, I watched this film and noticed things I had never seen before. Also, this movie isn’t nearly as darkly colored as I once thought.
Dolby Digital - Dolby Surround 5.1 - This may sound weird but I never had any audio problems with the VHS tapes I watched this movie on. Still, it’s nice to be able to watch this film on DVD and rewind back and forth on it, and not have to worry about degrading the sound quality any further. Also, there isn’t a layer of hiss over the sound like I was used to hearing on VHS. It seems like they have done everything in their power to take this film and clean it up as much as possible.
This features some of the most in-depth packaging I have ever seen, yet, it doesn’t go overboard in any way. On the outside is a black cover with purple lettering. Silhouetted in this is Stegman’s gang. The back cover has three shots from the movie, a description of the film, a “Features” section, cast list and some technical specs. The cover on the actual DVD case gives us the original artwork for the VHS release (I think), and on the back cover are some more shots from the film, as well as a shot of teacher Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowall) pulling a gun on his class. Inside is a booklet with an essay on the film and poster for the movie (behind the DVD) with Corrigan pointing the gun at his class.
Great job, Anchor Bay.
I have such a connection with this movie it is almost hard to put it in perspective. At the time I first saw this film it was 1985. I was in a very rough school (though not nearly as bad as Lincoln High) and as I watched this movie, I couldn’t help but relate to the situations that Andy Norris and Arthur (Michael Fox before he was Michael J. Fox) were going through. In fact as I am now making my own animated film, 1985-1986, which documents those times, I can’t help but thank Anchor Bay for releasing the movie which greatly inspired my own.
Class of 1984 gets so much right that hopefully on DVD it will get the artistic respect it has long deserved.
Class of 1984 was released August 20, 1982.