Monday, January 11, 2010

Class of 1999 (Mark L. Lester, 1990)

When I heard the line: "The year is 1999... there is no law" verbalized with a slightly robotic intonation, I half expected the thumping bass intro of a killer techno jam to immediately follow its utterance. When that didn't occur, I knew I wasn't listening to my well-worn copy of Kickin Mental Detergent, but instead watching a violent oddity about a dystopian future that has already occurred. Taking place in the youth crime saturated netherworld that is the late 1990s, Class of 1999 is a film for those who love the sight of unconventionally dressed teens firing automatic weapons at one another in an after school setting, while simultaneously being stalked by their history, gym and chemistry teachers. Helmed by exploitation master Mark L. Lester (Roller Boogie), the merriment-filled flick combines the herky-jerky head movements and self-contained flamethrowers that permeate the rafters of almost every cyborg movie ever made with the sullen sneering and bad boy posturing of your typical gang picture. In other words: a marriage made in cinematic resplendence. Cap it all off with a Midge Ure song and we're really talking a marriage made in... Okay, enough already with the marriage talk; I've got cyborg action to overly praise. Focusing mainly on the post-incarceration life of Cody Culp (a hard-nosed Bradley Gregg), a recently released juvenile delinquent, the boisterous film follows him as he attempts to make it through high school in the exceedingly tough Free-Fire Zone, a section of Seattle that is off-limits to law enforcement.

Wary of his gang past (a pushy lot called the Blackhearts), Cody is hesitant to reestablish ties with his drug-addicted pals, which include Sonny (Darren E. Burrows), Mohawk (Sean Gregory Sullivan, a.k.a. the hyperactive gun dealer from Who's That Girl), and his little brother Angel (Near Dark's Joshua John Miller). Instead, he finds himself drawn to Christie (Traci Lind from My Boyfriend's Back), a comely young lass who just happens to be the principal's daughter.

On the faculty side of things, the principal (Malcolm McDowell) has given the go ahead to Dr. Bob Forrest (Stacy Keach) and his trio of cyborg teachers, Mr. Bryles (Patrick Kilpatrick), Ms. Connors (Pam Grier), and Mr. Hardin (John P. Ryan), to do a trial run at his heavily fortified learning facility.

A more clearheaded educator would have taken one look at Dr. Forest's cloudy eyes and suspect haircut and said to themselves: "This doesn't feel quite right." But the mechanical teachers are thrust into the classroom despite the obvious dangers. Monitored by a group of smart-looking people in lab coats (one of which was played by Lee Arenberg), the robo-teachers are quick to employ physical force as a means of generating obedience from the school's rambunctious pupils.

Of course, their disciplinary actions become more and more extreme as the week progresses. For example, the pipe smoking history teacher goes from rapidly spanking two students for fighting to asphyxiating one with his own drug paraphernalia after being tardy while high. When two of Cody's buds are killed, he starts to suspect that these newfangled chalkboard jockeys aren't exactly what they seem to be. It's at this moment when the Class of 1999 really starts to really crank up the crazy.

Procuring the help of Christie, Cody tries to uncover the sinister goings on at their school by doing do some suburban sleuthing (I knew it was the suburbs by the lack of sporadic gunfire), only to have the rogue teachers out maneuver them by inciting a gang war between Cody's the Blackhearts and the Razorheadz, lead by Hector (James Medina), who has already felt the heeled wrath of Pam Grier.

The showdown at the docks between the two heavily armed gangs was hands down my favourite sequence in the entire movie. The way they both positioned themselves, utilized mounds of debris as cover, and waited until everyone was ready were the first things I admired about this shootout. I mean, to see unruly gang members behave in such a chivalrous manner was rather refreshing. However, I nearly lost it when the actual shooting commenced. A virtual wave of irregular machine gun fire coming from all directions, this is exactly what I look for when it comes to on-screen mayhem. Forget about trying to figure out who's who and just sit back and watch the bullet-fueled insanity unfold.

There's one thing I can't decide, and that this, were the characters that populated this ultra-bleak universe more like the audience at your average Front 242 concert circa 1991? Or were they more akin to the loose assemblage of weirdos you might catch stage diving at a My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult gig, again, circa 1991? The sheer amount of black leather, studs, military footwear, and sullied denim worn throughout this film was mind-boggling. (Yeah, my mind is easily boggled.)

Speaking of being boggled, I'm still trying to figure out why Traci Lind's character is sporting a turban during a brief hallway encounter. She wasn't wearing it when the day began, and she certainly wasn't wearing it ended. Did she convert to Sikhism at lunch but decided to go back to her usual belief system by the time the afternoon bell rang out? Either way, it doesn't make sense because female Sikhs aren't big turban wearers. As they say, a mystery for the ages.

Anyway, heads are drilled, motorcycles are driven through the school's hallways, and flamethrowers are...thrown. Fun flick.

video uploaded by xtheunknown71


  1. The first three-quarters of this movie just enraged me with its awful costuming and rambling "buildup"... but when shit finally goes all haywire and the action picks up in the last bit, I was won over. Great choice... Pam Grier = super-sexy as cold-blooded killer school marm.

  2. Malcolm McDowell, Pam Grier, and Stacey Keach? Where has this movie been all my life?

  3. I am kinda obsessed with the cinema of Mark L. Lester. You probably are aware of my obsession with Roller Boogie and I really love Class of 1984.

    I'd love to invite him over for dinner. Maybe serve big heapings of Mac and Cheese...

    I awarded you along with some other blogs the "Kreativ Blogger" and "One Lovely Blog" awards by the way.

    For like the Cinema Du Mark L. Lester, I am obsessed with your stuff as well.

  4. J. Astro: I feel the exact same way. Except I'd replace the word "enraged" with "mildly perturbed."

    Darius Whiteplume: Spending the last two decades languishing on the shelf of some mom & pop video store being not rented by you. ;)

    Cinema Du Meep: I have a keen sense of smell when it comes to being aware of the Roller Boogie-related obsessions of others.

    Class of 1984 has a lot great shots of early 80s Toronto.

    Cool, I'll make sure to head on over and pick those puppies up.

  5. Wow, that's quite a cast, and possibly the weirdest teacher movie I've ever heard of.

    The current Jeopardy! champ looks like Peter Griffin.

    I have a student from Toronto. Should I start singing the Pizza Pizza jingle?

  6. The scene where the pipe smoking history teacher spanks an unruly student in a comically robotic manner is probably one of the weirdest scenes I have ever seen.

    Peter Griffin? You mean the dad from Family Guy? I'll make sure to take notice of him later today. (Most contestants end up becoming a blur to me.)


    I can't believe you know the words that jingle. I haven't heard it in years (I don't listen to the radio as much as I used to), but it came back to me like a lightning bolt the second you mentioned it.

    I love Pizza Pizza, by the way. :)

  7. Need to see this film...Traci Lind is so beautiful. By the way, thank you so much for your reviews. I enjoy reading them all!