World's Funniest Critic - Class of 1984(1982)
I am writing this in haste, so I apologize if you are underwhelmed. After losing volumes of literary work to a hard drive crash, numerous technical difficulties, followed by weeks of crying while clicking the hammer of my replica Civil War pistol, I am finally back online, expounding my opinions of film. I am doing so based on the assumption that you care what I think. While we’re at it, assume that I care what you think, too. What's the harm?
This movie opens with an apocryphal warning about teen violence: “Last year there were over 280,000 incidents of violence by students against their teachers and classmates in our High Schools.”
I don’t know what classified as ‘violence’ in the 80’s, but being familiar with the popular music of the era, I have a suspicion that the bulk of it was keyboard-based. The popularity of the Casiotone line of instruments for kids provided a creative outlet for hundreds of thousands of teens to defensively cluster together in what were once called ‘garage bands’(now called ‘gangs’), armed with weapons that spat out primitive consonant sounds to plant the seeds of a shockingly violent culture. It was a time when the very whiff of hairspray, or the low, thumping beat of a Human League album, would send terrifying waves of paranoia tearing through the ghettos. This was there era that begat The Crips, The Bloods, and the Miami Sound Machine.
Public Enemy’s little known first single, entitled White Boyz, said it best:
“Prisoner in my own mind,
I feel safer in jail.
Where there ain’t no Timothy Van Pattens pickin’ up on my trail.”
Released in 1982, Class of 1984 created a startlingly accurate, dystopian picture of what the future would be like. A world where an entire generation of poor, inner city ethnic minorities were pushed around by white, permed, middle-aged teenagers in multi-pocketed leather pants.
Picture this: It’s your typical all white, Canadian, inner city, war-torn hell hole(basically Vancouver). It’s run by arch-criminal, and former haircut model, Peter Stegman(Timothy Van Patten), who controls the high school's lucrative drug and prostitution rackets. Enter a new teacher, Mr. Norris(not THE Mr. Norris)into this 10th circle of Hades. Aside from looking like Prince Valiant, Mr. Norris is quite unprepared for the trials he’ll face at...whatever the school's name is.
Class of 1984 paints the morbid picture of youth gone irrevocably out of control, which is what youth does when you overlook the telltale signs of criminal influences, such as:
- Teen boys wearing blush
- Teased hair
- Well-accessorized outfits with an abnormally high zipper-to-buckle ratio
- Extremely angular facial features that hover somewhere between handsome and Scott-Caan looking
- Being caught, on more than two occasions, physically abusing veteran ‘Planet of the Apes’ actor Roddy McDowall. This one, regretfully, is far too common. To the shame of us all.
Peter Stegman, the movie’s villain, is a snotty rich kid, in his mid-to-late 20’s, who’s supposedly some kind of genius. Although, the movie doesn’t exactly go out of its way to back that up. In fact, neither does the Van Patten who plays him. He could have at least tried to mimic an intelligent person. I'm not sure where he would have done his research. Certainly not at a family reunion. And I very much doubt he has smart friends. Anyway, Stegman has got it coming from the very beginning.
His gang is the typified gaggle of goons one expects from 80’s teen criminals. All sporting a punk-derived style, blank, vacuous expressions, a total disregard for human life, plus a tendency to deliver snarky lines followed by tongue-wagging. They are deviants.They're a lot like your older brother's friends when you were a kid. They were pretty smug when they were over your house, telling you to shut up or get out of the room, but now you get to watch them slice your bagel when you eat lunch at Panera. And, of course, you tip them a dollar and make sure they know it.
You also get a behind-the-scenes look at the clockwork of their criminal junta. When 14 year old ne’er-do-wells come seeking criminal employment, or late-teenage girl junkies want to hook for them, they conduct interviews just the way any well-established business would. They tell you right away whether or not you are qualified for the position. If you have to toss a salad or two to get the job, they tell you right up front. You simply strip down to high heels and bush, right there, and they lead you to a creepy back room where a thin mattress set atop a creaky spring frame awaits you. No big deal. Just close your eyes and pretend it's your summer camp counselor. (if you stayed at camp Kon-O- Kwee in the late 80's, then that was me. So...what's up?)
Honestly, what is worse than waiting weeks, even months, just to find out you are STILL unemployed, unoccupied, and unfuckable?
Tongue-wagging(a.k.a. blowing the raspberry), by the way, is punk-classic to the core. Throughout this iffy music’s history, showing your tongue to any nearby camera was essential for conveying your society-bucking, rebellious intentions. It was an act of supreme individuality that absolutely everybody did, back then. I know it seems lame, but you had to be there. Which, I wasn’t.
Like a lot of 80’s films…well, like ALL 80’s film, C-84 shows us that diplomacy and reason NEVER work. Don’t bother telling the principal, or calling the police, not when you’re dealing with punks. Punks have to be killed. End of story. Although, our hero doesn’t wise up to this old axiom until the last act of the film, we see hints of his brutal vigilante style early on. How would I classify his particular style of ‘they pushed him too far’ vengeance? Well, it’s kind of a cross between 1950’s-style whitebread basketball, where you pass the ball 70-80 times a minute, and Junior High School shop class, where you saw off kids’ arms if they spill woodchips on the floor.
Now, was Mr. Norris actually pushed too far? Definitely. From the second he arrives at, uh, ‘____’ High School, Stegman and his cohorts are rude to him, they disrupt class, they make snarky remarks(followed with classic tongue-wagging), they shout not here! during roll call and they pound out entire Chopin impromptus, flawlessly( yet can’t remember what an amphibian is). Were they asking to be brutally cut down in the prime of their lives? No. They were way past their prime. Most of these 'teens' are older than my grandparents. And Mr. Norris? Look, you simply DO NOT tempt a married man, who has to wear a Sears’ sport coat to work every single day of his life, into a blood feud. Such a man has already peeked into the abyss, and is ready to vent some spleen by booting a jar of Vlasic pickles up your ass.
Okay, so it starts out small like that, but the situation escalates when Mr. Norris finds them pushing drugs in the bathroom, but can’t prove it, which sets his blood aboil. After that, when a tripping student gets himself waxed pulling a numb-skullish stunt on a flagpole, something right out of a cautionary episode of ABC’s After School Playhouse starring Scott Baio and Maureen McCormick, the teacher appeals to the dead kid’s friend, Arthur, to testify against Stegman and his baddies for selling him the drugs. Unfortunately, Arthur(played by Michael Fox, now known as Michael J. Fox)is immediately slipped the shank in the cafeteria for being a rat. This is followed by Stegman beating himself up in the bathroom right in front of Mr. Norris and framing him for the assault. And yes, Fight Club did, in fact, rip this off. Palahniuk fanboys can deny it all they want, they live in a dreamworld with gingerbread houses and pussy-flavored pancakes.
On the very last night of many a student’s life, Stegman and his crew taunt Norris relentlessly while he is on his way to a High School band recital. Now, if you’re a grown man who has to spend his Friday nights doing things like watching Michael(J.)Fox playing the recorder, you are, most likely, already plotting the savage murder of at least half a dozen people. Maybe you even have a couple under your belt, and have developed into an experienced killer with a matured, distinct Modus Operandi of your own. Even if you haven’t, just BEING an inner city music teacher makes you as ready to pop and gush like a frothy can of Milwaukee’s Best all over the tits of an Ohio State Cheerleader. Stegman gets right in his face and says “I AM THE FUTURE”. Okay, that’s kind of fruity.
Before Mr. Norris can actually be ‘pushed too far’, something has to be done to someone he loves. The act that, finally, pushes Mr. Norris just far enough to be ‘pushed too far’, is when they break into his home and spring some surprise sex on his pregnant wife. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t see this coming. He apparently has not seen even ONE Charles Bronson film in his entire life. Not too long after that, Stegman’s senior class starts getting seriously reduced in headcount.
Maybe the title, Class of 1984, is supposed to be ironic, since he downright murders half the graduating class and assures that very few, in fact, will be alive enough to hold a diploma. The only students remaining after his bloody rampage are the ones that have never shot smack, teased their hair, hit their 40th birthday, or publicly admitted to having any blood connection to the cast of Eight is Enough. I SERIOUSLY recommend this film. It is just ridiculous enough, obtuse enough, and immature enough, for most adult audiences of today, and it hammers home the still relevant message that all teenagers should be systematically butchered.