It's been 20 years since the world predicted by the schlock punk horror science fiction film Class of 1999 passed us by, and while things in the education system haven't entirely descended into the rampant chaos predicted by this film, things are slowly but surely heading that way.
We might not have schools declared as no go zones where gangs of rampant wild kids dolled up in the worst of 1980s inspired fashion rule the corridors, or where evil scientists are easily recognised by their god awful rat-tailed hairstyles, but we do have ineffectual head teachers, and teaching staff run ragged by unruly kids, so maybe it is time to revisit Class of 1999 and the solutions that it proposes to bring the education system back under control.
Initially released in 1990 and starring Bradley Gregg as Cody Culp our reformed con hero looking to put his past behind him returning to a school that looks like it is the training ground for prospective candidates for a Mad Max or Clockwork Orange recruitment drive. The only problem is the school has been chosen to be the testing ground for new teaching initiative. We are not talking new teaching methods or a more practical testing system; this school now has three android teachers, provided by Stacy Keach in an awful hairdo and a pair of the most freaky contact lenses ever committed to film. Unlike most new teachers our android friends have no problem with discipline, and they soon start dolling out their own very unique brand of motivational learning techniques. These teachers don't believe in dentition or handing out 100 lines, they believe in going straight to the maximum level of punishment...DEATH!
It's been close to 30 years since I last saw Class of 1999, and while I enjoyed it when it was first released I have to admit that I was concerned going into it, would this middle-aged reviewer be able to appreciate what the impressionable 18 year old enjoyed first time around, and would the somewhat limited special effects prevent a now jaded reviewer enjoying the film for what it is?
Surprisingly Class of 1999 holds up exceptionally well. It's one of those films that defies its premise and age to provide what can best be described as a perfect beer and mates movie. While the acting will never win awards the performances from all of the lead actors are solid, yes Malcolm McDowell is playing Malcolm McDowell, but as an actor he never anything less than top notch. Stacy Keach is apparently having a lot of overacting as the sinister cyberneticist, and the three androids, especially Pam Grier bring a lot to their characters, levitating them from typical pantomime villains that were all the rage in 1990s science fiction films. Bradley Gregg is a touch to vanilla to really carry off the role of the film's hero, but he does enough not to be an annoyance.
Considering the budget of this film, the set design is exceptional, the sense of urban decay and a world that has gone to ruin feels realistic and escapes that filmed in a backlot feel that nearly every film of this era suffered from.
The special effects are even after 30 years are still surprisingly good, the androids have apparently come from the Terminator school of design, with there augmented reality filters and the targeting systems they employ when they go into murder mode, however, you are not left thinking what have I just witnessed. It's only when they go "full Terminator" and use a stop motion puppet that the cracks begin to show, thankfully they quickly ditch this to use a proper "fast puppet" in the final battle scenes. Funnily enough, it's not the special effects or set design that age this film it's a few lines of dialogue that do this, in particular, a classic example of an Austin Power Dr Evil line where Stacy Keach's characters proclaim that the androids run of a ONE MILLION MEGABYTES of processing data. So roughly the same amount of storage as my mobile phone. It's a classic line and one that will give you a chuckle as it is delivered with such gravitas, as could only befit such a line.
Class of 1999 was a lot of fun when it was first released, and thirty years later it hasn't lost any of its pulply trashy charms, yes it draws on many better films for its inspiration, but despite this, it is still a fantastic way to spend ninety minutes with or without your mates providing snarky comments.
Released on 25 February 2019 by Lionsgate UK as part of their Vestron Collector’s Series. Restored and remastered on Blu-rayTM and packed with hours of special features. Including a fascinating and enlightening Audio commentaries with producer/director Mark L. Lester, ‘School Safety’ – interviews with director/producer Mark L. Lester and co-producer Eugene Mazzola which add a lot of depth to the film as well as
• ‘New Rules’ – an interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
• ‘Cyber-Teachers From Hell’ – interviews with special effects creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
• ‘Future of Discipline’ – an interview with director of photography Mark Irwin
• Theatrical trailer
• TV spots
• Still gallery
• Video promo
CLASS OF 1999 (1990)
The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), the principal of Kennedy High School, decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units”. Human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!