Summer of '82: Class of 1984 -

Summer of '82: Class of 1984

Mania Grade: C

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  • Starring: Perry King, Timothy Van Patten, Merrie Lynn Ross, Stefan Arngrim, Michael J. Fox and Roddy McDowell
  • Written by: Mark Lester, John Saxton and Tom Holland
  • Directed by: Mark Lester
  • Studio: United Film Distribution
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Series:

Summer of '82: Class of 1984

"I am the future!"

By Rob Vaux     August 21, 2012

 To every generation, there comes a teenagers-gone-wild movie. From the drive-in beginnings of The Blackboard Jungle to the art house narcissism of Kids, filmmakers just can’t resist warning us about those lousy young punks ruining everything for everyone. Class of 1984 is just one in a long line, benefitting mostly from its Reagan-era fashion sense and a buggy-eyed performance from a slumming Roddy McDowell. It applies the same feverish paranoia about the young that other movies of its ilk do; it simply pushes the hot buttons a little harder than most.

In this post-Columbine era, it looks positively quaint, but back in the day a couple dozen countries actually banned it from screens for its sex and violence. Its gaggle of punks sieg heil their new teacher, engage in copious drug use,  rape their way through underground clubs, and generally act like the evil little bastards the poster promises. Against them stand an array of terrified teachers, held virtual hostage at their inner city high school while their supposed charges run roughshod over Mom and apple pie.

Into this trap steps Andrew Norris (Perry King), one of those bright-eyed young teachers dedicated to making a difference. He soon crosses swords with the school’s drug kingpin (Timothy Van Patten), who exists primarily to remind us just how much we can hate and loathe a movie character. He and his gang rule the school with an iron fist – and indeed seem to be the only real no-goodniks in the vicinity. The film plays the basic revenge card as we watch them engage in increasingly brutal acts of depravity while Norris responds with understanding and tolerance until even he has to face them on their own terms.

The plot holes pile up almost too fast to count – notably when Van Patten and his thugs commit overt acts of assault, and yet no one thinks to simply call the cops on them. Like a lot of teenagers-gone-wild movies, Class of 1984 exists in its own self-contained universe, where good and evil do contrived battle without any pesky interference from reality. McDowell makes the most of it during a scene when his biology teacher holds his class hostage with a pistol. But other gleeful guilty pleasures litter the landscape, such as the brutalization of a pre-star Michael J. Fox (playing one of the school’s good kids) or a gangland rumble that has more in common with West Side Story than any actual street violence. Alice Cooper puts a cherry on top with his wonderfully awful theme song, turning this supposed cautionary tale into a whacked out piece of unfiltered exploitation.

One could make a case for its prescience, of course. Class of 1984’s insistence on its own pertinence feels far more at home in our era of routine school shootings than it did in 1982. But one hesitates to ascribe any kind of grander scheme to a film this simplistic. Time and again, it eschews more nuanced ideas in favor of flinging blood in our faces, revealing in the horrors of its seemingly unstoppable villains to better emphasize how dearly they need to be destroyed. We gain no lessons from the cartoon characters on display.  It’s simply a matter of enduring the little monsters’ horrors until their proper comeuppance: as brazen a case of button-pushing as you’re likely to see.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just a warning to lay aside the filmmakers’ obvious pretense in favor of their true purpose. Class of 1984 succeeds far better as a bit of drive-in sleaze than as a message picture of any kind, buoyed by its relatively unique status in the era that spawned it. It earns points for pushing its concept farther than other films might take it, but it’s a joy ride, not a life lesson. We don’t regret taking it, so long as there’s plenty of soap nearby and we’re willing to snicker at its absurdities a tad more than it does. 


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Walker 8/21/2012 5:22:09 AM

 The plot holes pile up almost too fast to count – notably when Van Patten and his thugs commit overt acts of assault, and yet no one thinks to simply call the cops on them.

This was an artifact of the era.  Short of extreme physical harm, student-on-student violence was almost never classified as assualt.  Even today, it is controversial on some circles to call it assualt.

phantomx69 8/21/2012 6:48:55 AM

the 80's good times, good times, never duplicated, only  imitated.

DarthoftheDead 8/21/2012 10:57:32 AM

 F-ing LOVE this MOvie, lol, Let the cheese fall where it will, lol.

monkeyfoot 8/21/2012 12:50:08 PM

I have never even heard of this movie. The trailer is really fun though.

Also of note, actor Timothy Van Patten (brother of actor Dick Van Patten) is now a director. Among his work are episodes of Game Of Thrones and The Pacific mini-series. I think he's been Emmy nominated, too.

As I recall, he was part of the cast of the 80s show "The White Shadow" about a white coach teaching basketball in a predominately black high school. Van Patten and two other members of the basketball team, Kevin Hooks and Thomas Carter, are now directors.

almostunbiased 8/21/2012 5:04:47 PM

Never saw this movie.  I guess I thought it looked stupid back then.  Watching the trailer now I think it might be ok, but I doubt I'll ever watch it.  Way to many other movies I am more interested in seeing.

ElBaz13 8/21/2012 7:34:42 PM


I remember White Shadow and watched it. One TV household back then so you were forced to watch what daddy was watching. :) Not bad show. God I feel old.

Anyhow, I remember seeing Cable Guy at the movies and during the basketball scene, Chip tells one of his opponents "let's see what you got White Shadow" ha ha ha! I think I was the only one who got the joke in the theatre.


thezillaman 8/21/2012 10:35:05 PM

cool movie, you guys remember the movie class of 1999 i think thats what it was called. the one with the crazy robot teachers.. now that was fun cheeeeeeese all the way love it.

smoke62 8/29/2012 5:51:25 PM

 MONKEYFOOT: Timothy Van Patten was Dick's SON, not brother.  His brother Vincent was THE BIONIC BOY on The Six Million Dollar Man.


Shellhead88 9/5/2012 2:46:20 PM

Dam I forgot all about white shadow until you guys said something. I watched it as a kid also.



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