Dir: Mark Lester, 1982
Mindless action thriller or possible premonition?
Mark Lester’s unofficial remake of Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle updates the story to a contemporary/ near futuristic time.
Peter Stegman is a student at Lincoln High. But, he is no ordinary student. He controls the school with violence and drug dealing and prostitution rings, all enforced by his gang.
Lincoln High is an ultraviolent, unsafe place where the police provide the security, teachers carry guns and the pupils carry flick knives instead of pens.
New music teacher, Andy Norris, arrives at the school shocked at what he is seeing and the teachers’ turning a blind eye.
He clashes with Stegman and his gang who retaliate by raping his wife. Andy takes matters into his own hands.
It’s basically a comic book retelling of Blackboard Jungle complete with comic book names like Barnyard and Drugstore. The costumes are over the top sci-fi punk.
Sadly, it is prophetic. The film couldn’t have seen how true it would become.
Timothy Van Patten as Stegman doesn’t convey any real sense of menace. Just an annoying little brat. With a flash car and spoiling mother, he’s the archetypal rich kid turned bad.
Perry King plays Andy Norris as too nice. He’s the students best friend. Proud of the orchestra etc. Doting wife. He’s someone that you can’t root for.
The real star is veteran actor Roddy McDowall as biology teacher Terry Corrigan. He loves the animals in the school and has a desire for the pupils to listen and, actually, learn. He just wants to teach. Kind, gentle but near the edge.
It’s not as overly violent as its reputation would have you believe. It’s more the theme of the film.
Still, it was enough to get the video banned in Britain. Even though Thorn EMI, the distributors, put out the UK theatrical version in the early 80’s the BBFC still felt that the film could not be accommodated for home viewing. The version shown in British theatres had been cut by over four minutes.
It would be nearly twenty years before the film found itself back in the viewing room of Soho Square. Times had changed and the full uncut version was released on DVD without incident.
The theme tune by Alice Cooper doesn’t really fit the film. The lyrics do but the tune doesn’t. I find it kind of irritating. Something more hard and rocky would have been apt.
A notable point of the film is a young Michael J. Fox, here billed as simply Michael Fox. Judging by his rather wimpy performance in this it is quite surprising that he became the superstar her did.
It’s a great film. There is so much pleasure to be derived from this movie. The comic book element is the real selling point and is what makes it fun. Don’t take any of it seriously and you’ll have a good time.