Andy is a new teacher and an inner city high school that is like nothing he has ever seen before. The students have to go through a metal detector when they go through the front door and everything is basically run by a tough kid named Peter Stegman. Soon, Andy and Stegman become enemies and Stegman will stop at nothing to protect his turf and drug dealing business.
The year is 1982, maybe a bit premature for a semi-futuristic film by the name of “Class of 1984″. Though in the tradition of gang related high school films “Class of 1984″ was a definite standout. The 1980’s were a different time of course, so gangs of our present are alot different than the typical high school model decades ago. Sure there was violence, fighting, bullies, and misbehavior, though what films like this one focused on was the small cliche groups who seemingly had a certain control factor in place. It also seems that 1984 was a target date for “change” whether that really transpired or not.
A new teacher arrives at a troubled school. Stop me if you heard this one….. This teacher, Perry King (Andrew Norris), has a certain affinity with children. He believes he can make a difference in their education. Hired as a music teacher, he discovers that one of his troubled stduents, Stegman is actually a talented piano player much to his crude attitude towards society
Ok, now flip to Peter Stegman played by the younger Timothy Van Patten. Peter, as it turns out is a pretty bright kid….skilled educated and from a decent home. Though his double life spells things out a bit different. As a leader of an inner city gang, he enforces the area with threats, violence and intimidation. His gang echoes a certain punk punk mentality which is better illustrated by its trendy memorable cover. The gang is presented with a certain Nazi edge but only to a lighter degree. The gang is comprised of Peter, Patsy, Drugstore, Barnyard and Fallon. Each contributes t the thug aspect of the gang as whole who deal in drugs, fight rival gangs and run a small prostitution racket.
Andrew gets caught up in the mess when he sticks his nose in areas, that best be left to those more suited. His vigilante good guy role only progresses the films dynamics which prompts the gang to pay visits to his residence. When Andrew’s wife is brutally raped, it becomes an all out war ground. One that only ends badly.
Michael J. Fox played an early role as vulnerable victim Arthur in this classic release. At the time he was just becoming a well known actor in his debut with Family Ties. Fox of course went on to great things while Van Patten seemed to fizzle in smaller roles and more TV related shows.
What is unique with this film is not only its punk cult-like presentation, but that it takes things into a level of violence that was un excepted at least from films like these in those days. It was noted in wikipedia that “Class of 1984 was banned in several countries due to its lewd content.” The film itself seemed to inspire a few more films of this time with titles such as “Tuff Turf” and “Savage Streets”. This formula of high school violence and the overcoming by the underdog were 2 aspects repeated in much of the 80’s film culture. Of course none quite as violent as “Class of 1984″.
Timothy Van Patten was probably the most surprisingly in this break out change of character. Coming off the success of TV shows “Eight Is Enough” and “The White Shadow”. Timothy’s former nice guy persona was forever changed as the bad ass Stegman. I believe Timothy Van Patten’s character served as inspiration for later newcomers such as Nick Stahl who also radiates a certain film-asshole-stereotype persona.
“Class of 1984″ provided a much needed counter cultural aspect in regards to high school films than lighter releases like “Fast Times at Ridgemont high” “Rock and Roll High School” and “Up the Creek”.. The 80’s were most remembered for the onslaught of teen comedy angst movies that found life to be one big joke, but “Class of 1984″ directed by Mark L. Lester gave us the dark side with a heavy helping of troubled teens who took things too far. A classic in my book, a much recommended watch and one to watch again.
Class of 1984 (1982)