Sunday, October 27, 2013

Class of 1984 (Mark L. Lester, 1982)

Believe it or not, but you can learn a lot by watching Class of 1984--written and directed by Mark L. Lester (Roller Boogie), co-written Tom Holland (Fright Night)--from start to finish. For example, did you know that Elm St., a smallish thoroughfare just off Yonge St. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is rife with no good punks? It's not, but according to this film, it totally is. Wait, if it isn't rife with, what did you call them? No good punks. Right, no good punks. If it isn't rife with them, how did you learn anything? Who said anything about learning? You did! Like five seconds ago. I don't remember saying that. In fact, it sounds like something you just made up. Look, you said that you learned a lot by watching this film. Prove it. Arrgh! Hello. The sensation you're currently experiencing is similar to that in which the new music teacher at Central Tech School experiences during his first week on the job. You see, unless he can prove that a gang of no good punks are going out of their way to make his life a living hell, he's going to have to grin and bear it. I'm sorry, but I think you're reading the film incorrectly. How so? Well, I saw the no good punks as the victims, and the new music teacher–the one with the fancy house in The Annex–as the film's primary troublemaker. Really? You bet. I mean, all the no good punks wanted to do was make money selling drugs. Don't forget their lucrative prostitution ring. Oh, yeah, if you can't afford to pay for your drugs, you can sell your body to them (if it passes muster, that is). Yet, this namby-pamby music teacher seems to go out of his way to muck things up for the punks who may or may not be up to no good. Yeah, but what they're doing is illegal. Since when has enforcing the law been the realm of namby-pamby music teachers? Besides, since when has it been legal to teach troubled teens to play the clarinet? What's that? It's always been legal. You don't say. Well, fuck that noise, man. It should be illegal. Why? Because I fucking said so; clarinets are bogus.

You better be careful what you say about clarinets, your girlfriend might overhear you. Shut up. She's not my girlfriend. Yeah, right. You're totally in love with her. I see the way you look at her. The short hair, the unruly eyebrows, the stubby soft and creamy, Deneen (Erin Noble) is just your type.

First of all, we're just friends. And secondly, the girl I like plays the saxophone. The sax player? Yeah, baby. I dig her look.

Her look? Yeah, check this out. Sometimes she wears tiger-print tops, and sometimes she wears tops with a musical note theme. Big deal, lot's of chicks have tops like that. No, I don't think you understand what I'm saying. The saxophone girl wears the tops I just mentioned at the same time. You mean one over the top of the other? Again, no, she changes tops when you're not looking. Creating the illusion that she is wearing a different top every time you look at her; which, in my case, is every eight seconds.

Oh, I see what you're saying. Actually, what I think you're referring to is a continuity error on the part of the filmmakers. It happens all the time. Granted, what you just said makes a lot of sense. However, I'm going to continue to believe that the sexy sax player with the long black hair and the dynamic nose in Class of 1984 was changing tops every time the camera would turn away from her for my benefit.

Now that I've established that I am in fact completely mad, you might have noticed that during all that verbal hullabaloo that I casually chose to pretend that this film takes place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Even though I'm the one who just said it, I have take issue with my use of the word "pretend." The reason I decided to do this is because the film does take place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I know, just because it was filmed there, doesn't necessarily mean it's set there. And, yes, the American flag does fly proudly atop the school's flagpole. But this film, despite the fact it was made as a commentary on the upswing in violence in American high schools, is the quintessential Toronto movie.

The opening song by Alice Cooper asks, "When does a dream become a nightmare"? I have no idea, but my dream of being inundated with teenage thighs in the process strangled by black fishnet stockings is definitely coming true.

The complete opposite of the character he played in Andy Warhol's Bad, Perry King plays Andrew Norris, a naive music teacher who's starting his fist day at Central Tech. An idealist at heart, Mr. Norris can't wait to mold some young minds. However, his enthusiasm is short-lived. In fact, he seemed disenfranchised before he even gets out of the parking lot. And who do you think is to blame for that? The great Roddy McDowall, that's who; Mr. Norris can't help but notice that Roddy's Mr. Corrigan is carrying a gun in his briefcase.

If Roddy's cynicism doesn't completely dishearten Mr. Norris, the sight of the students walking through a metal detector most definitely will. It's at the school's Draconian entrance where Mr. Norris has his first brush with the no good punks I mentioned earlier. He tries to alert a security guard when he spots one of the punks sneaking a razor past the metal detector, but both the security guard and Roddy laugh at him as if to say, big deal, narc.

As expected, Mr. Norris' first class doesn't go as smoothly as he had hoped, as he comes face-to-face with Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) and his gang of [no good] punks. While Stegamn is supposed to be in this class, his pals are not, so, when Mr. Norris asks them to leave, things get a tad heated.

If you liked it when Patsy (Lisa Langlois), the lone female member of Stegman's gang, gave the security guard's security wand a playful handjob in the previous scene, you'll love it when she performs fellatio on Erin Noble's clarinet while Michael J. Fox watches.

I'm surprised you didn't try to convince us that Patsy was your girlfriend. I mean, she's leggy, she has pink bangs, she wears different size stockings on each leg, she's not afraid to use glitter, what's not to love? I think she's a lesbian. Really? Well, after getting in a rumble with a rival gang underneath the Gardiner Expressway and spraying fake blood in Mr. Norris' face outside his home in the Annex, the gang head out their favourite punk club to catch Teenage Head.

What's all this have to do with lesbianism? I'm getting to that. You see, the punk club (featuring some intense slam dancing) also acts as the gang's hangout/headquarters. And it's here where I picked up a definite lesbian vibe coming from Patsy. Waiting in the hall outside their office (the backstage of the punk club acts as their office), a line up of punks and freaks has formed. Each has their reason for being there, and the reason a female named Sally (Helena Quinton) is there is because she desperately wants to become a coke whore.

After allowing her to sample their wares, it's Patsy who suggests that Sally should take her clothes off. Wait, why does she want to become a coke whore. Haven't you been paying attention? She likes cocaine, some might say she's addicted to it. And since she has no money to pay for the stuff, whoring for Stegman's gang is a viable alternative. Anyway, the look on Patsy's face as Sally removes her black stockings and garter belt practically screamed fashion-forward lesbian in heat.

Unfortunately, Patsy won't be sampling any of Sally's shapely wares on this day, as Stegman assigns that awesome task to a male gang member; and, no, not "Drugstore" (Stefan Arngrim), my favourite male punk in this movie.

On the bright side, however, Patsy is allowed to watch. Inspecting her womanly body, the male gang member (the tall one with the slight unibrow) agrees to take Sally's pussy for a test drive, as they say. You'll notice as she's being lead away to be fucked on a [no doubt] stained mattress that she is still wearing her gloves; which, just like Patsy's stockings, are delightfully mismatched.

Long story short, Patsy digs chicks. Sexual orientation aside, her look in Class of 1984 is inspirational.

Employing a tit for tat strategy, Stegman and Mr. Norris seem determined destroy one another, as acts of vandalism and animal cruelty lead to instances involving rape, kidnapping, the guy from The King of Kensington, vehicular homicide, cafeteria stabbings, flagpole-based suicide, and eventually the granddaddy of them all, table saw amputation.

There is, it should be noted, a moment when it seemed like Stegman and Mr. Norris were bonding (the classic scene where Stegman plays the piano), but that lasts about ten seconds.

In the film's strongest scene, Roddy McDowall shows why allowing teachers to carry firearms isn't such a good idea. But then again, he does seem to get results. The greatest line in the film is uttered by Timothy Van Patten: "Life... is pain. Pain... is everything. You... you will learn!" Sure, it might not seem like much on paper, but Timothy Van Patten (who now directs for HBO - The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, etc.) says it with such menace, that you would be no doubt quaking in your boots if you were on the receiving end of such a line.

Fashion-wise, I would have to go with the leather number with Betty Rubble frays that Lisa Langlois wears during the final showdown; you can also see a variation of the outfit on the film's iconic poster. In fact, the poster is so iconic, it was used as the cover for a book about the history of punks in movies (Destroy All Movies).


  1. I remember seeing a poster for this in my local video store. It's what turned me gay, I'm guessing.

  2. I like the idea of iconic film posters shaping the sexual identity of young whipper-snappers.

  3. This is one of my all-time favorite movies (I want Lisa's leather number in a variety of colors).

    I'm so glad I stumbled upon this rabbit hole of cinematic oddities while searching for pics of Aunt Martha in 'Sleepaway Camp'.

    This is a fantastically curated blog. I've seen a number of the films reviewed, but goddamn do I have some catching up to do. So yeah... thanks!

    p.s. Jessica Harper is a goddess.

  4. One of my all-time favorite films. I want Lisa's leather number in a variety of colors.

    I stumbled upon this rabbit hole of cinematic weirdness while looking for pics of Aunt Martha in "Sleepaway Camp". So glad I followed it down! I've seen a number of the films reviewed (p.s. Jessica Harper is a goddess) but goddamn do I have some catching up to do.

    So yeah... thanks!

  5. People who search the internet for pics of Aunt Martha from Sleepaway Camp are okay in my book.

    Note to self: Re-watch Suspiria.