Monday, 25 February 2019

CLASS OF 1999 BLU-RAY review

In 1999 there is no law. Society is crumbling, and Dr Bob Forrest (Stacy Keach) thinks he has the answer in the shape of highly advanced, lifelike robots that can keep the youth of the day in check. With gangs taking over his school, Malcolm McDowell's Kennedy High principal agrees to let the robots teach classes, as long as they can deliver what the children need most... discipline.

Released from juvie and headed back to school on the same day is bad boy Cody (Bradley Gregg), former leader of the Blackhearts gang, now eager to serve his time in school and keep his nose clean, until he learns that his younger brother Angel (Joshua John Miller, aka the late 80s answer to Edward Furlong) is about to be initiated into the gang. Hoping to keep himself and his brother out of trouble and away from the mysterious new teachers at school, Cody still finds himself landing on their radar. The three teachers, 'old man-bot', 'not Arnie-bot' and 'actual Pam Grier-bot' start doling out a variety of punishments, quickly escalating from spankings and a good shove, to actual cold blooded murder. In order to uncover the real truth about the new teachers and where they come from, Cody, along with the help of the principal's daughter Christie (Traci Lind) breaks into the teachers' apartment where the robo-conspiracy begins to unravel when he find cupboards filled with (dun, dun, dun)... WD40.

What's quite impressive in Class of 1999 is that cinemas favourite rent-a-baddie Malcolm McDowell isn't even that bad a guy. Heck, he isn't even the second most evil white haired man in the film. The top honours go to Stacy Keach, introduced to us with a bright white mullet and irises to match, later gleefully covering up the murder of children whilst chowing down on a banana. All his dialogue is delivered through a maniacal grin that would give schoolchildren nightmares.

Part of the fun of re-visiting "old" genre films is how wrong (and sometimes how right) they got their visions of the future. Now, I'm not suggesting that director Mark Lester saw this scenario actually becoming a reality, but it's an added bonus to look back on this film, 20 years after it was set and enjoy the many "thank god that didn't happen" morsels. Here Lester is doubling down on the concept of outlaw school kids he used for Class of 1984 (released in 1982), but at least this time he gave a good 9 years notice for his futuristic vision to come into effect.

I think it's fair to say that this film quite liberally 'takes inspiration' from James Cameron's The Terminator, but does it in a style that would please Cameron's former mentor Roger Corman. Class of 1999 takes Cameron's idea and says "what if school teachers were Terminators?", running with the concept to its illogical conclusion. There's also plenty to snark at in the vision of the future that begins with infographics straight out of Escape From New York and then features its three 'deadly' robots orchestrating gang warfare by driving around in a nice, functional Ford saloon car. It also doesn't have the same level of special effects as Cameron's original - less Cyberdyne systems and more like Jones from Police Academy 6 stuffing off-cuts of metal up his sleeve to pass as a robot - although there is a step up come the finale when the teens are pursued by a very Arnie-like walking metal skeleton. And yet despite all these moments of ridiculousness, Class of 1999 is not a bad film by any stretch.

The latest film to be given the hi-def upgrade as part of the Vestron Video Collector's Series, Class of 1999 is derivative of other, better films, for sure, and definitely doesn't make enough of having Pam Grier in the cast, but any film that has enough sense of humour to have a teacher profess how much he likes to "mould young minds" as he drills through a students forehead is okay with me.

Verdict
3.5/5

Special Features -
- Commentary by producer/director Mark Lester
- School Safety - interviews with Mark Lester and producer Eugene Mazzola
- New Rules - interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
- Cyber-Teachers From Hell - interview with special effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
- Future of Discipline - interview with director of photography Mark Irwin
- Theatrical trailer
- TV spots
- Stills Gallery
- Video promo

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