Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Three O'Clock High (Phil Joanou, 1987)

This offbeat little gem about a begrudgingly scheduled after-school brawl between a likable nerd and a thuggish loner spread across my high school like a fungal infection. It seemed to gain strength by distributing itself around the halls via something called a "video cassette," a rectangle-shaped apparatus used for viewing everything from innocuous episodes of My Little Pony to bootleg copies of the Miss Macedonia pageant. Oh, sure, some people might argue that the lightweight License to Drive was the flick that satisfied our thirst for adolescent chicanery captured on film. But since they're not here, I can proudly say that Three O'Clock High (a.k.a. Faustrecht - Terror in der Highschool) was the pinnacle of high school cinema back in the day. I always figured the film briefly captured my friends' fancy because of its strong sense of honour. (Think of it as an old-timey western, except with puke green lockers and a well-stocked stationery store.) The film brilliantly dissects the role of male pride when it comes to confronting the threat of bodily harm. And it doesn't weasel-out in that regard, unlike the majority of John Hughes' films, where teenage fistfights rarely go beyond a heated exchange of verbal insults.

I thought the film realistically portrayed the fear of physical violence at your average high school. Okay, the documentary film crew and the bookie in the red beret were ridiculous, but for the most part, I thought it dealt with these issues in a honest and frank manner.

Something I didn't notice the first time around was the film's stellar direction. The technically proficient Phil Joanou keeps us guessing with all these different angles and inventive camera-work. The sense of urgency seemed to be a tad more intense as well, giving the film the air of a taut thriller at times. And the close-up shots of the various timepieces throughout the film were just plain awesome.

The unassuming Casey Siemaszko (syeh-mah-shkoh) is terrific as Jerry Mitchell; a dainty boy who is, like, having the worst day of life, and he hasn't even left the house yet. Playing the perfect everyman–he's cute, but not in a sickening "I wanna beat him senseless" kinda way–Casey deftly balances that fine line between being a good-natured nonentity to a nebbish anti-hero with three comely women vying for him. I liked the non-adversarial relationship that Jerry had with his sister Brie (Stacey Glick).

It was refreshing to see siblings get along for a change, especially ones with vastly different tastes when it came to sweaters.

A menacing force of nature in a leather jacket, Richard Tyson's Buddy Revell seemed like a real asshole when I last saw it ten years ago. But today, he comes off as just a long-haired fella who cherishes his personal space. And Tangerine Dream's score is more restrained than usual, but their trademark bubbly synthesizers come alive when they're needed.

If there was a way to seamlessly switch genders, I would change in a heartbeat. And if it were possible, I'd comeback looking exactly the way Annie Ryan does in this movie. I want her skin, her bob hairstyle, her eyes, her mouth, her nose...even the gap between her teeth. I know it's a big decision, but I think Annie is gorgeousness personified as Fanny Perrins, Jerry's stylish gal pal--you know, the girl who is constantly asking him to "bond" with her. Of course, I think it was pure insanity that Jerry rebuffed everyone of Fanny's attempts to "bond," but hopefully he came to his senses over time.

Uh, yeah, anyway, not only do I want to be her physically, but I want her sense of style as well.

Frannie's simple white shirt adorned with a terribly chic Yin and Yang pin was to die for.



  1. By Huron's Oversized Panama Hat, I love this movie RIGHT IN ITS FACE.

    And if Jerry's not interested in Frannie...I'll bond with her. ROWR.

  2. "By Huron's Oversized Panama Hat"

    That's a wonderful expression.

  3. I noticed Annie Ryan's character in Ferris Bueller. I had to know who she was. Not an easy feat given that her role in that film is simply listed as another Shermerite.
    By the process of elimination though, I found out her name. Too bad she never got that break out role.
    Be that as it may, she is absolutely STUNNING.

  4. You're absolutely right to capitalize every letter in the word "stunning," because that's exactly what Annie Ryan is in Three O'Clock High.

  5. When I saw her in those brief twenty seconds in Bueller, I was transfixed. I had to find out who she was. That led me to Three O'Clock High. She is simply spell-binding.
    I did a search on google.ie, and learned she emigrated to Ireland, starting her own theatre group called the Corn Exchange. Her comments about the ignorance and vulgarity of this country were especially poignant.

    I feel if I could meet a woman like that, I would complete. To wake up to those eyes and that mouth, wrapping in that lovely whote body of hers--that's strength through joy.
    Incidentally, I may put together a fan video. I will select either Love's Easy Tears or THose Eyes That Mouth by the Cocteau Twins. SImply put, this beauty brings me to tears.

  6. And...the hall monitor is none other than Paul Feig in a teenie, tiny role. Paul went on to create Freaks and Geeks, direct many episodes of Nurse Jackie as well as appearing in and directing many other TV shows and recently directed Bridesmaids. He is now in London set to direct Brigit Jones Diary III. He and I are old, old friends. That was before he was "PAUL FEIG," when he was just Paul Feig :-) We're still in touch as old friends are. He's an astounding talent, a good friend and a good man.