A gritty 80s re-working of 50s high-school drama The Blackboard Jungle, Class of 1984 exploited its audience's distrust of the current rebellious youth culture-'punk rock-'much further than its rock 'n' roll predecessor, presenting a bleak, violent, dystopian near-future that may have seemed a tad far fetched on its release, but which these days appears to have been scarily prophetic.
An idealistic music teacher Andrew Norris (Perry King) moves to the suburbs with his pregnant wife to start a new job at an inner city high school, but is shocked to discover that his workplace is effectively controlled by gangs of juveniles, the worst being a group of punks led by psychotic genius Stegman (Timothy Van Patten). Desperate to make a positive difference at the school, whatever the cost, Norris clashes with Stegman and his cronies, and in retaliation, the gang make it their aim to torment the new teacher as much as possible. Inevitably, the trouble escalates, becoming increasingly violent, and when Stegman's gang turn their attention to Norris's wife, the normally placid teacher finally realises that the only answer to his problem is to fight fire with fire.
Although Tom Holland's script was obviously crafted to appeal to the same audiences who lapped up the violent right-wing retribution of Michael Winner's Death Wish movies, Class of 1984 is a little different to many of the revenge dramas that also followed in that film's wake.
Firstly, unlike Bronson's Paul Kersey, Norris never actively seeks revenge: his violent acts are committed in self-defense and in order to save his wife.
Secondly, the film suggests that it is previous generations' apathy and inaction that is to blame for social decay. The adults in '84 seem to have given up trying to solve the problems facing their community, and are now simply content in dealing with them as painlessly as possible (or simply by turning a blind eye altogether): the principal of the school refuses to enforce stricter punishments for rule infractions; likewise, the police's hands are conveniently tied by red-tape; biology teacher Terry Corrigan (Roddy McDowell) has turned to the bottle and is simply biding his time to retirement; and Stegman's middle-class mother is so ignorant that she refuses to believe her son could be anything other than a complete angel.
Finally, we have the intriguing notion that, given a little nurturing from his single parent mother, Stegman could easily have been a grade A student, but a combination of boredom and neglect (plus a dash of untreated psychosis) has made him the murderous nut-job that he is.
Still, a murderous nut-job he most certainly is, which means that he (and his gang) deserve to die, and Andy Norris turns out to be just the man to teach these scumbag kids a few lessons they will never forget...
Music: Norris succeeds in getting a decent tune from one punk by bashing him repeatedly over the head with a metal bar. Chemistry: the teacher demonstrates the flammable properties of gasoline by setting fire to a thug. Wood shop: Norris highlights the potential dangers of working with a table saw by chopping his attacker's arm off and then pushing him down on the still spinning blade. Physics: Norris allows Stegman to take part in a practical experiment about gravitational force, throwing the loutish gang leader to his death from the school roof.
If, like me, you're a fan of exploitative and gratuitously violent trash, then these scenes will most likely be your primary reason for tracking this sucker down, for they definitely deliver the goods when it comes to brutal and bloody action. You may be surprised, however, at how much you enjoy the movie as whole: the acting is uniformly superb, with convincing performances from Van Patten, McDowell, and a very young Michael J. Fox as a tubby horn playing nerd; the music is excellent, with a memorable rock theme song from Alice Cooper and a cool score by Lalo Schifrin; and the script is well written and absorbing, with the only weak point being a rather daft epilogue that claims that 'Andy Norris was not prosecuted because no one admitted to seeing what he did'. Like he'd be able to walk away scot free from killing several of his students...
Review by BA_Harrison from the Internet Movie Database.