My first surprise came when it wasn’t totally awful. Aside from that everything flows along as you think it will with Class of 1984, a violent low budget cross between 187 and A Clockwork Orange.
When teacher Andrew Norris arrives at Lincoln High he is incredulous and astounded. Drugs are being sold in the toilets, graffiti covers the walls and every kid – even the nice ones – has a potty mouth and an open disdain for authority. Unlike his fellow faculty members Norris doesn’t develop a thick skin, nor does he turn a blind eye.
This does indeed come back to bite him.
Most nefarious among the seemingly endless parade of scurrilous types is Stegman, a handsome young lad with charisma to burn and the fashion sense of someone on a gay pride float who menaces the corridors of Lincoln High with his gang of similarly scummy students, many of whom appear nearer 30 than 18.
The film would have you believe that Stegman is a young lad of amazing abilities and a finger in very pie. He is an accomplished pianist, a street fighter extraordinaire, a pimp, a leader and motivator of the disenfranchised and a squeaky clean son to a doting mother.
All this despite the fact that he is not yet 18.
He resents Norris’ efforts to kerb his ways and slow down his ‘business’, and for his part Norris resents the facts that Stegman and his crew torch his car, wreck his class and threaten to kill him, his pretty pregnant wife and his students very five minutes.
Unfortunately for Norris both the police and the school principal are equal parts ineffective and gutless, leading to the inevitable stand-off.
Class of 1984 is just another film where a well meaning ‘teach’ must deal with ne’er-do-well students. It is clear from the outset that this is not a film where Norris will warm the cold hearts or convert everyone into believers. That ship sailed with Michelle Pfeiffer at the helm – albeit many years later. Instead we wait patiently until Stegman does something that pushes Norris beyond the point of no return and then see how Norris chooses to handle things. Amazingly this is where Class of 1984 shines, while the film hasn’t dated well – it’s over three decades old – the last 10 minutes are the best in the film. This still doesn’t make it worth chasing, the shenanigans of the first hour or so don’t seem nearly as subversive in light of today’s world and some of the acting is quite awful, but Class of 1984 wasn’t the crass and lazy exploitation film that the cover suggested.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. It’s trashy sure, and very dark near the end, but Class of 1984 is consistently sincere and clearly has aspirations of being more than just another exploitation film.