CLASS OF 1984 Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment Film Year: 1982 Film Length: 98 minutes Genre: Drama/Thriller Aspect Ratio:[*] 1.77:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround [*] English 2.0 Surround Subtitles: none Film Rating: Unrated Release Date: February 21, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Perry King (Andrew Norris), Timothy Van Patten (Peter Stegman), Roddy McDowall (Terry Corrigan), Stefan Arngrim (Drugstore), Neil Clifford (Fallon), Lisa Langlois (Patsy), Merrie Lynn Ross (Diane Norris), Michael J. Fox (Arthur) Directed by: Mark L. Lester We are the future! …and nothing can stop us.[/i] It’s hard to believe that a film from the early ‘80s would actually predict the violence that occurs in schools of the future. Class of 1984 did just that even though it was panned by reviewers for being overly violent and unrealistic. I guess events like Columbine has proved these reviewers wrong. Violence is increasing in schools each year. Gangs and individuals are turning to unreasonable and unnecessary solutions to their problems; the fist, the knife, the gun, and even plots with explosives. Whatever their motives are, be it hatred, loneliness, isolation, difference, or racism, children are turning to violence making school a Warfield rather than an educational institution. Are your children safe from bullying? Will they keep quiet from telling the truth fearing more repercussions for their actions? Is school staff safe from their students? What is law enforcement doing to protect individuals? Class of 1984 begins with a new naïve music teacher named Andy Norris, who starts his job at an inner city high school. As he walks in the school he is surprisingly greeted by security and metal detectors for guns and knives. During his first class, he is confronted by five gang members – four of them who do not belong in the class. They are arrogant and rebellious, and to what degree Andy doesn’t know. The gang is into group assults, drug pushing and prostitution (in the underground of a seedy hole where Teenage Head jams out their tunes). The gang has also been known for other crimes and rape, although the police don’t seem to have enough to press charges on them. Andy will also find out that the more he gets involved with these kids, the more dangerous they are to him, school staff, and his home life. His idealistic thinking that all students can learn and behave is transformed into one of self defence and anger. It leads to a shocking ending of teacher vs. student in the most unconventional way! Director Mark Lester thought that he would tackle the increasing amount of school violence for his next film project. While it seemed to be unrealistic at the time, he wasn’t far off the mark in terms of accuracy when showing today’s inner city schools. Shot on location in Toronto at Central High, the students here practice the punk attitude of riot, revenge, and revolt among the graffiti-ridden walls. Wardrobe is definitely ‘80s and the posture of people speaks of the era; so while the theme of the film doesn’t outdate itself (in fact it becomes more accurate as each day passes) the rest of the film does. Take a listen to the music; it’s laughable today but a staple of ‘80s thrillers. The theme song is written and performed by Alice Cooper. I can’t say it’s one of his best. There has been much discussion about an unrated/uncut version of this film and how at least one of the original cuts has been floating around Europe at one time. This is the R-rated version of the film and not the uncut one (even though the box says unrated). This is the first time I’ve seen the film so I don’t have a comparison to see if there have been any minor adjustments, but based on what I’ve read and by listening to the audio commentary, this is the theatrical version of the film without the longer rape scene (that gave the film an original X rating) or a few more seconds of violence with the circular saw and some beatings. Does it really matter? No. The film is fairly violent for what it is anyways, even though we are so desensitized these days it may seem rather tame. But just by listening to the commentary, it seems like these few seconds of scenes just weren’t available or may not even exist anymore. VIDEO QUALITY / The jacket of the DVD claims the aspect ratio to be reframed at 1.77:1 from the film’s original ratio of 1.85:1. When viewing this film, the actual aspect ratio seems closer to 1.82:1 with more of the “black bar” at the top of the screen than the bottom. The image has film grain scattered throughout but is not problematic because it is minor and noticeable only on my large screen. When viewing it on a smaller, direct-view monitor it’s hardly apparent. There is not dirt or scratches to mar the image giving it a relatively clean look. A minor amount of edge enhancement is noticeable. Colours are dated looking, not only because of the styles and costume design for 1982, but for the film capturing it as well. Black level detail is ok, although somewhat undefined too. Overall, the image is pleasing and beyond acceptable. AUDIO QUALITY / The original mono soundtrack has been re-purposed for a 5.1 presentation. The effect of this re-purposing is very good! There are many directional effects at the front of the soundstage while showing off left-right effects. Dialogue is kept in centre. The surround channels are also surprisingly active with many discrete left-right effects throughout. What makes this re-purposing more attractive than other efforts is the amount of imaging all around the soundstage. The surround effects are not ping-pong effects, they work coherently with the front channels to create phantom imaging along the side walls and along the back wall. I was very surprised to hear this and it made the listening experience better. I must also say that all channels are active almost all of the time. From hearing the rumblings in the offices to the eerie bone-cutting sound of the rotating circular saw in the shop class at the left of the soundstage, this soundtrack gets top marks for phantom imaging. The soundtrack is limited in fidelity. This is no surprise. The original mono soundtrack is limited in dynamics so the audio elements making it up were also limited in sound quality. So even though sounds are spread nicely around, they lack fidelity and detail of real sounds. I am happy that the soundtrack is not bright and aggressive, although the bottom end bass is lacking so it feels like a thinner soundtrack. LFE material is virtually absent. If there was some, I didn’t notice any. The audio encoding is Dolby Digital 5.1 and a second 2.0 Surround option is available too. The original mono soundtrack is not included. SPECIAL FEATURES / I love Anchor Bay for delivering such high-quality extras. I can always depend on them for a good production. All features are enhanced for 16:9 televisions so when 4:3 material is viewed (such as TV spots) it fits properly on widescreen televisions for those of us whose displays lock in an aspect ratio and cannot change it (such as mine, unless I enable the squeeze mode in my DVD player). There is an all-new audio commentary by director Mark Lester and he’s prompted mostly by Anchor Bay’s DVD producer Perry Martin to answer questions. From inception to filming, to cutting, almost everything you want to know about this film is included here. Not to better it, but it’s a tighter version of the commentary, the 35-minute documentary Blood and Blackboards is newly created for this DVD. Shot on HD cameras, it features interviews from director Mark Lester, and actors Perry King and Merrie Lynn Ross. It’s put together very well and looks slick and modern with high quality titles and editing. Excellent job at Anchor Bay! Lastly, you can also see the theatrical trailer, 2 TV Spots, 67 images in the poster and still gallery, a Mark Lester Biography, and read the screenplay via DVD-ROM. IN THE END… The tagline for this film in 1982 was We are the future! …and nothing can stop us”. Promotions for this film on DVD claims “No longer are the students of Lincoln High the future, for the future has arrived!” Sadly, this is the case. I don’t find it very funny either and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. Violence in schools is a result of many reasons and it wouldn’t be responsible to point fingers at one thing that is influential on the students’ mind. Since this is a DVD review I’ll offer no solutions; but I will say society should stop criticizing one influential body over another and get work on another approach. In the meantime, we can only hope that this “way of the future” will become a way of the past. It would be nice to believe that one day films such as Class of 1984 will be viewed only in history class as “previous lessons learned.” Michael Osadciw February 18, 2006.