SEPTEMBER 23 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CLASS OF 1999
It had been a while since I had watched this movie, but with it finally making its way to DVD, I was ready for a great time. Class of 1999 was one of those movies that I absolutely loved as a kid. It had everything a moronic high school kid could want in a movie, violence, made up narcotics, dudes in stretch pants pretending to be bad ass, and a dude with a white mullet and an obsession with eating bananas. Of course, when you grow up, it takes a little more for a film to be interesting. It’s kind of like when you used to see tits when you were a kid and you would get an instant boner… by the time you’re an adult, every chick in the world could walk around with their top off and you’d still be like “Let me see some taco.”
The film is a semi-sequel to 1982’s Class of 1984. While the films are totally disconnected, they both have the same premise. Violence has gotten out of control in the near future and the teachers must find a way to combat this growing violence and educate the youth. Their solution? Adapt military grade robots and turn them into strict classroom disciplinarians. Of course, the plan goes terribly wrong and the robots begin to wage a war against the gangs of hooligans that run the streets in their stretch pants and silly bandanas. Class of 1999 has all the makings for a killer film, but there is something missing here.
Mark L. Lester’s film feels very small. The environments are all pretty weak and have a cheap made up feel to them. Lester does nothing to alleviate the miniscule feel of the movie, which weighs it down and leads to a lot of stupid “warfare” scenes between rival gangs as they fight like old European soldiers with muskets, lining up across from each other and firing wildly. The characters aren’t as fleshed out as they were in 1984, which gives the film a generic feeling. It’s hard to enjoy a movie when you’re sitting there wondering, “Who the fuck is this guy with the white mullet, why are his eyes white, and why does he keep eating bananas?” Even more bewildering are some of the decisions that the characters make. For instance, the principal of the local school has a daughter… and after she is almost raped he tells her she must be an example for the other students, never stopping to even ponder the idea of not having her go to a school where everyone is in a gang and wacked out on drugs.
The best part about the film is the impressive cast. The actors that play the “teachers” in this film are awesome. Patrick Kilpatrick (The Toxic Avenger, Death Warrant) plays the android gym teacher, who likes to slap around kids in wrestling class. John P. Ryan plays the history teacher whose fondness for smoking pipes only comes second to his penchant for spanking naughty children’s asses until they lapse into unconsciousness. Pam Grier is largely wasted in her role as a science teacher, but when she is allowed to act, she is pretty solid. The kids in the film are uniformly terrible, which makes you wish they’d focus on the robots a little more.
The special effects in the film are mixed. The film certainly lacks the brutal punch of Class of 1984, and most of the special effects are explosions or smears of corn syrup on someone’s face. The reveal of the robots insides is cheesy and poorly handled. Even though people are firing off machine guns and rockets left and right, the kills are simply too tame to have much of an impact, an effect that is further compounded by the fact that none of the human characters are charismatic or likeable.
Class of 1999 has the story to be excellent, but its execution is subpar. This vision of the future is just plain weak. Honestly… stretch pants? Mullets? This is the future? Kill me now.
Final Synopsis: Class of 1999 is a bungled opportunity. I’m still pissed off that I liked this as a kid, but it is so average. There goes the conceit that I have always been a genius with impeccable taste. Damn you, Class of 1999! Skip this movie.
Points Lost: -1 for poor special effects, -1 for terrible dialogue, -1 for a shitload of loose ends and unanswered questions, -1 for weak characters, -1 for terribly weak violence and stretch pants
Lesson Learned: In the future, we will all be white trash.
Burning Question: If you were a teenage-murdering robot, would you want a rocket launcher, a flamethrower, or a slowly moving drill as a weapon in your arm?
SEPTEMBER 23 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CLASS OF 1999
Here we have an interesting amalgamation of 1980's themes - sort of like a poor man's Robocop meets The Breakfast Club. Starring lots of notable B-Movie actors and character actors - Pam Grier, Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach - and directed by Mark Lester - 29 movies in his IMDB credentials and I don't recognize a single one but for this - and you have what may end up being a direct to video disaster in the pre-direct to video era.
The New York Times actually gave it a good review but I can't say that I am as optimistic as that writer. Overall it was a mildly enjoyable take on the Robocop theme, the sets were all well done even without considering their obviously limited budget, and the story was interesting and moved along at a rather brisk pace.
My problems were with the absolute ludicrousness of the story. Hey, let's let some deranged psychopath with funky contact lens inserts design three robotic teachers (who also happen to be from a failed military robot program) come in and restore order to this school. I enjoyed the robots gone amuck story but it would have helped if they toned down Stacy Keach's character quite a bit.
The acting is another story - lots of Keanu Reeves School of Acting graduates here, including the lead, Bradley Gregg as Cody. I kept waiting for him to say 'Whoa.' He really does take the 'too cool for school' acting bit just a bit far.
According to Joe Bob Briggs, this was a sequel to the Class of 1984 but I don't really remember that one very much either. I watched it on Monsters HD and the print quality was good, slightly better than dvd but a little soft.
SEPTEMBER 23 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CLASS OF 1999
Ah, the films of 1990.
Combining the worst of the "Road Warrior" imitations with a cheap attempt at Robocop, this is one moldy oldie from the direct-to-VHS early 1990s and late '80s. "Class of 1999" was released in 1990 as a kind of follow up to "Class of '84", the superior revenge shocker from the same director.
Combining "Escape From New York" with "Robocop" and "Class of '84," the film buckles under the weight of too small a budget -- and too ludicrous an idea. In the future of 1999, crime is so rampant around American high schools that police won't go near them. The exterior cities become "Road Warrior"-like war zones of gangs wearing the kind of punker garb we saw in that Mel Gibson classic -- and driving souped up war machine cars.
Meanwhile, the high schools remain open (apparently for some kind of constitutional reason) but with little educational benefit. And it's strange that kids still show up for them -- but they do.
High school principal Malcolm McDowell is heartened by a new plan to keep the kids in line: Military model robo-teachers that look and act human, but have superhuman strength to enable them to crack down on unruly teens. The actors hired to play these handful robo instructors -- including Pam Grier and "It's Alive" alum John P. Ryan -- look and act about as far from robotic you can get.
Meanwhile, the goings on of the high school android teachers are monitored in a control room of 1980s TVs and men in white suits, led by expert Stacy Keach, wearning contact lenses to make his eyes look futuristic. Ultimately, the story takes a "Westworld" turn, with the teachers becoming too enthusiastic about disciplining their students.
There's gunplay, violence, bad '80s haircuts, a major warlike showdown between the students and teachers, and various so-bad-it's-funny moments to make the film watchable. McDowell disappears as a character. But "Class of 1999" is ultimately a pretty forgettable offering from the era when movies were made to cash in on the burgeoning VHS market.
It made its way back to DVD in 2008 courtesy of Lionsgate, but the film probably ins't worth your time unless you're a real fan of bad "Road Warrior"/"Terminator" imitations. Followed by "Classs of 1999 II: The Substitute."
SEPTEMBER 23 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CLASS OF 1999
I'll never forget 1999. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and boy bands ruled the radio. People were livin' la vida loca. THE SIXTH SENSE and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT scared the shit out of a lot of people. Then-President Bill Clinton was still denying sleeping with that young intern. And I was 18 years old and graduating from High School. Yes everyone, I AM the Class of 1999!
However while watching CLASS OF 1999, which came out in 1990, I don't remember my High School life being as violent. Gang wars before, during, and after school? Android professors? MULLETS??? If this is what the Class of 1999 would have become, I probably would have found that "Genie In A Bottle" and rubbed her ass the right way so everything can go back to normal! But thankfully, the film didn't come true, even if CLASS OF 1999 is a cool flick in its own right.
In the "future" [or is it "past"? or "future past"? aw hell, forget it!] of 1999, the American school system has gone to hell. Gangs who've watched THE ROAD WARRIOR too many times rule the schools. Violence and drug use are normal routines in and out of school. Guards and police barely are able to enforce any sort of rules. And no teaching ever takes place because the students are too busy fighting each other rather than learning from one another.
This all changes when the Department of Educational Defence steps in. They hire Megatech robotics expert Dr. Bob Forrest (Stacy Keach and his badass mullet) to sort this mess. With the permission of headmaster Dr. Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), Forrest brings in three robot teachers: Mr. Bryles (Patrick Kilpatrick), Mr. Hardin (John Ryan), and Ms. Connors (Pam Grief) - three badass ex-Army machines who love to discipline!
When the robots begin to do things on their own accord, recently-released-from-prison Cody Culp (Bradley Gregg) begins to notice that things aren't quite right with his new teachers, especially when the students end up being abused or even killed. With the help of Langford's daughter Christie (Traci Lind), Cody decides to see what's going on.
CLASS OF 1999 is sort of considered a "sequel" to 1982's CLASS OF 1984, which also dealt with violence in and around schools. The two films aren't really connected and are definitely different in terms of look, style, and message. I first watched CLASS OF 1999 in a theater back in 1990 in a double feature with LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III [which will be reviewed sometime in August hopefully]. And quite honestly, this film is the one I mostly remembered of the two. And watching it 20 years later, I see why because it's actually a pretty fun movie.
Mark L. Lester, who also wrote, directed, and produced CLASS OF 1984, seemed more inspired by TERMINATOR, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and the MAD MAX films this time around. We get killer androids. We get gangs that are distinguised by their neon colors. We get shoot outs, car/motorcycle chases, and huge explosions. It's more of an action/sci-fi hybrid rather than the more grounded exploitation style of CLASS OF 1984. In a way, I do feel that the sci-fi stuff dates CLASS OF 1999 a little bit [even though the message of technology taking over in a good and/or bad way is still ringing true even today], CLASS OF 1999 is still nevertheless an entertaining film.
While the story itself is barebones [humans vs. robots - nothing more, nothing less] and the character development not really there, except for the villains [who happen to be robots, go figure], the dialogue in the script is pretty humorous [although I'm not sure if it's intentional or not]. Here are some gems:
"These things are like a bad, fucked up George Jetson nightmare!"
"Do you trust him?
Like I trust a vampire to give me a blowjob."
If campy dialogue like that doesn't make you chuckle, then you're probably an android. And there are more of them in this movie, making a fairly straightforward script into something a bit more entertaining.
Like I said, the development of characters is fairly weak for the most part. We have a love story angle with Cody and Christie that isn't deep enough for reality dating shows such as The Bachelor or Rock of Love with Bret Michaels. They hang out. They fight. Theydistrust each other. Then they have to save each other. Nothing more than that. They were more brother and sister than romantic counterparts. I also wanted to know more about the gang rivalry between Cody's gang and Hector's gang. They just seemed to hate each other because that was in the script. Also, why was Cody in jail to begin with at the start of the film? When I know more about killer robots, it's kind of sad. But then again, you're not watching this movie for quality screenwriting, are you? Still, it would have been nice.
The special effects are actually very well done for a low budget feature. The androids, when their skin was peeled off towards the end, looked really cool and wouldn't be out of place in a TERMINATOR film. We get arms peeled off to reveal flamethrowers, drills, and a tommy gun. Plus students get murdered in really grisly ways, like being burnt alive and even being split in half. There are those who even get a hard spanking [literally] by one of the teachers. Plus one kid got drilled in the head that sort of reminded me of PHANTASM. The ending of the film is very violence with a lot of shit blowing up, and the effects team did a really great job making it come to life. The budget went to a good place.
The direction by Mark L. Lester is good, although his work on CLASS OF 1984 was better. He handles the action sequences quite well and the pacing of the film is excellent, meaning you'll never be bored waiting for something to happen. I love the locations used and the cinematography is also quite nice. I kind of wish these kids weren't wearing what they were wearing: bulky leather jackets, tight leggings that happened to be in neon colors, and stupid headwear. It looked out of place with the seriousness of the rest of the film. But at least it made me laugh and glad that these fashions never came true.
The acting is good as well. Bradley Gregg, who many horror fans remember as Phillip the human puppet in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, as well as River Phoenix's older brother in STAND BY ME, does very well as the lead character Cody. Gregg's character wants to change from his bad boy ways by doing something right by the end of the film, and Gregg brings that out quite nicely. He carries the film well and has nice chemistry with Traci Lin [who does a capable job as the token girlfriend] as well. Malcolm McDowell is pretty much wasted as Dr. Langford, the school headmaster. Honestly, anyone could have played this role and they would have all been interchangable and unmemorable. That's not McDowell's fault, as he's a great actor. I blame the screenwriter for not giving the man material worthy of his skill. Stacy Keach has more to do as the evil Dr. Forrest, showing off the maniacal nature of his character with ease and glee. I kind of wish McDowell had this role, but Keach pulled it off.
As for the actors playing the androids, they were probably the best actors in the film. Patrick Kilpatrick [nice name there buddy] brought a mean, intimidating presence as the nutty gym teacher. John P. Ryan as Mr. Hardin cracked me up with his pipe smoking, one-liners, evil sneer, and his spanking techniques. But the best one was Pam Grier as Ms. Connors, the badass History teacher who took no shit. These actors had the best and more entertaining stuff to do.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE FILLING MY CUPBOARDS WITH MORE CANS OF WD 40
- In 1999, cellmates threw toilet paper at those who got released from prison. That's a really shitty to do. What a bunch of asswipes!
- Don't ever tell Pam Grier to "fuck off". She'll go FOXY BROWN on your ass! And I don't mean like the rapper, although that would be just as bad, if not worse.
- Mr. Hardin, the math teacher, spanked his students for misbehaving. And for those who get aroused by this abuse, anything under 12 inches doesn't constitute bringing a ruler to class. You're still unprepared!
- Mr. Hardin enjoys teaching about The Trojan War. I think more students should learn about this time in history. Knowing the origins of teenage pregnancy, safe and unsafe sex, and the rise in power of one Maury Povich would have saved people a lot of trouble.
- Mr. Hardin made of the students ingest his own drugs to end his addiction. Dr. Drew should take note for the new season of Celebrity Rehab.
- Angel's gang colors are black, yellow, and purple. Either the confused kid is colorblind, or he's one of the new members for Prince & The Revolution. Hmmm...maybe it is the latter. You gotta party like it's 1999, right?
- The battle boys showed Malcolm McDowell how they discipline others. I think I just viddi'd some ultraviolence, my little droogs.
- Hector said that Ms. Connors had "bionic tetas". I wonder if the Six Million Dollar Man had a bionic... you know what? I don't wanna know.
THE FINAL HOWL
If you're a fan of CLASS OF 1984 and expecting this semi-sequel to be as memorable or as meaningful in its message, you're gonna be disappointed. But if you want to see humans and robots destroying each other in cool action sequences without thinking too much as you watch, CLASS OF 1999 is definitely your film. Sure the story is lacking, has some needless exposition, and campy dialogue and fashion sense. But CLASS OF 1999 never takes itself seriously and knows right away which audience it's targeting. On all accounts, this is a bad movie - but it's an extremely fun one that you can't help be charmed by. Just relish in the campiness of it all and you'll have a good time.
SEPTEMBER 23 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : CLASS OF 1999
It’s not a well known fact, but Mr. Movie Jesus Troy Anderson and myself not only attended the same high school, we also graduated in the same year. As the last class to have a cool double-digit numerical abbreviation (at least until 2099), we were fortunate to avoid the ugly double zero of our progeny and the non-unique ’98 of our predecessors. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) “Class of 1999 II” is not a documentary about my days at Louisville Male High School, but a movie about… well, let me get into it now.
Sasha Mitchell, TV’s Cody from “Step-by-Step,” is not just a retarded surfer guy who lives in a van parked in Suzanne Somers’ driveway. Before he ever put on the biceps-concealing sweater and loose flannel combination, it turns out Sasha was an ass-kicking karate guy nonpareil. I guess with a name like Sasha, you learn to beat up your tormentors pretty early in life.
Not that I’d ever make fun of him for his name, as he’d kick my ass seven times before I hit the ground bleeding, though he’s never struck me as the type of guy who was violent (or even struck me).
Speaking of beatings, I’d like to clear up something once and for all. Sasha Mitchell is not a wife-beater. I’ve seen other reviews of things he’s in make reference to him beating his wife, but if those lazy hacks would do a little research, they’d see his wife needed to have her ass kicked, because she was hooked on drugs and beating their kids. Believe me, if he was a wife beater, it’d be the sole component of this review (see my review of “Jeepers Creepers” for my take on pederast and future castrati Victor Salva), but as it stands, she gets five supervised visits with the kids per year, and if CALIFORNIA won’t let a woman see her kids, she’s a fuck up.
This is one of those movies in which you don’t have to see the original to get the sequel, because it’s explained to you in the first five minutes of the movie, and it’s not like the plot matters anyway. In the original “Class of 1999,” some government killbots were reprogrammed as teachers to beat the kids of America back into line. Needless to say this works well for about five minutes, then all the robots go crazy. Perhaps the robots weren’t all destroyed…
John Bolen (Sasha Mitchell) isn’t your ordinary substitute teacher. For one thing, he’s clean, well dressed, and not drunk. Oh yeah, he’s also a serious badass, like that slightly crazy history teacher/Vietnam veteran who you didn’t want to ‘sneak up on’ because he might snap and break your arm. Late to class? Get your ass kicked. Smoke in the bathroom? Ass kicked. Write in your book? Ass kicked. Needless to say, he makes “Lean on Me” principal Joe Clark look like Elmo.
You don’t even want to know what happens when some local toughs kill a kid and threaten hottie teacher Jenna McKensie (the lovely Caitlin Dulany and her excellent rack) with unpleasantries. John doesn’t like that sort of thing, as he’s an English-teaching, rampaging murderer with the soul of a poet (and a book of actual poetry he reads in between watching Jenna get down sexually with her boyfriend Emmett [Nick Casavetes] from the front porch). Suffice it to say, things get out of hand as John starts showing what may or may not be the symptoms of love, or at least lust, only to have his nascent robot emotions heartlessly twisted, like a yak’s testicles caught in a box fan.
This movie has all the makings of a Living Corpse Classic. Karate guy action supplemented by awesomely bad one-liners, a hot chick with hotter funbags, and robots teaching the Humanities to glorified prisoners? It doesn’t get much better than this, folks, and even the out of nowhere, Deus Ex Machina ending cannot put a dent in the awesome, bloody, and satisfying spectacle of B-movie goodness that is “Class of 1999 II.”
They don’t really get much better than this, gang. They definitely don’t get any better than Sasha Mitchell killing people while spouting war poetry. This is a movie that satisfies all the requirements.