CLASS OF 1999 **** USA 1990 Dir: Mark L Lester. 92 mins
Mark Lester’s non-sci-fi CLASS OF 1984 gets filtered through a nihilistic, post-ROBOCOP sensibility: in the near future, gang violence in schools has escalated to the extent that Kennedy High in Seattle is a Free Fire Zone the police refuse to enter. In response, technological mastermind Stacey Keach (whose silver mane might be the best haircut of the 1980’s) creates a group of cyborg “super teachers” approved by Principal Malcolm McDowell.
Enter ball-busting chemistry teacher Pam Grier, pipe-smoking, smiling history professor John P Ryan (options for punishment include “rap knuckles”, “twist ear” and “corporal punishment”) and Patrick Kilpatrick as the ultimate Bastard P.E. teacher. Showcasing one of the finest casts of any 1980’s exploitation movie, this sadly gives too much screen time to Bradley Gregg’s dull-ish ex-con hero and doesn’t quite maximise the full potential of casting the likes of Grier and Ryan as short-fuse robo-teachers dealing out rough justice to errant youth. Nonetheless, it’s fast paced and constantly inventive, with explosions, full body burns, gags about WD-40 and human appendages that transform into cannons and power tools: the (once-censored) highlight is Ryan grinning “I love to mold young minds…” as he drills through a pupil’s cranium. The spectacular climax features plenty of impressive special effects for this budget level – notably a full-scale, TERMINATOR-esque puppet of Kilpatrick’s exo-skeleton. The soundtrack includes an early Nine Inch Nails track and Midge Ure’s awesome main song “Come The Day”.
Review by Steven West