Friday, March 30, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Teacher, Leave Them Kids Alone

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody speaks out of school after digging for treasure.

Last week, I was a man on a mission. A mission that began when I became aware of the existence of this:

Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College, Chopping Mall, Slaughter High, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D., 976-Evil 2, Class of 1999, The Unholy, and Waxwork, all in one collection. 8 movies for $5 at WalMart.

Recently, I've really lost my passion for collecting movies. Except for very special new releases that I have to get the day they come out, I don't buy much anymore. I've always been frugal, lately I've become downright cheap, handing over money causes me actual physical discomfort. So after realizing that I hardly ever watch most of the movies in my collection, I'm not in a hurry to add much to it. Most movies that I want, I figure I'll just get them eventually, when they're as cheap as possible. But when I saw this collection, it reignited the old collecting passion. I had to have this immediately. I already owned Waxwork, in a double feature release with its sequel, but seven out of eight is enough.

I searched a WalMart, digging through the $5 movie bins for nearly hour, but had no success. The next day, I drove around to two other WalMarts and dug through more bins. Again, no luck. I ended up spending a lot of time and gas, and almost $100 on other random DVDs I encountered in my search, but the set with the matriculating Ghoulies eluded me.

So I took to eBay, and at first the only copy on there was being offered by someone who wanted $70 for it. That wasn't going to happen. But then a copy went up for $27, shipping included. This was $22 more than it would've been if I had found it in a store, but I was willing to pay that much extra to save myself from spending any more time desperately digging through WalMart bins.

To complete franchises, through eBay and Amazon I also bought the first 976-Evil, a double feature of Ghoulies/Ghoulies II, and a double feature of Prom Night/Ghoulies IV... that one's a very odd, unexpected pairing, and that makes me all the happier to own it. Here's the full Ghoulies collection in the new home that I've given them:

Several of the movies in the set of 8 will end up being mentioned on the blog at some point in the future, but since my search for the set was over by Friday and I found myself in the presence of Pam Grier at the Horrorhound Weekend convention in Columbus, OH on Sunday, I figured the first one that I would write about would be -

CLASS OF 1999 (1990)

This film from Mark L. Lester gives us a look into the frightening future, the year 1999. American high schools were overrun by violent youth gangs over the course of the '90s, the gangs branching out and taking over large sections of several cities around the country. Many schools within gang territories were shut down, and the areas controlled by the gangs became known as Free-Fire Zones, where no law dare enter. Now "the Department of Educational Defense has been formed to re-open the schools and control the gangs."

Kennedy High in Seattle is taking an experimental approach. Imprisoned gang members are being paroled to go to school, so in addition to the armed guards stationed around the premises, Kennedy High's Principal (Malcolm McDowell) has turned to the robotics specialists at Megatech - represented by a silver eyed, white rattail sporting Stacy Keach - to provide them with three one million megabyte cyborgs to place in the classrooms. These cyborgs will teach, but are also programmed to discipline students if they get out of hand. Physically discipline with their enhanced strength, if necessary. The most problematic students will be assigned to their classes. As the cyborg teachers we have Patrick Kilpatrick (history and phys ed), who I always remember as the villain in Scanner Cop II; John P. Ryan (history) of It's Alive; and badass blaxploitation beauty Pam Grier (chemistry).

One of the parolees being released into the student body is Cody Culp (a hero named Cody!), played by Bradley Gregg (Stand by Me and Nightmare on Elm Street 3.) Cody's home life is no great shakes, he's caught up in tussles between his former gang the Blackhearts and their rivals the Razorheads, his family is strung out on a new drug called Edge, and his friend and younger brother (Darren E. Burrows of Northern Exposure and Joshua Miller of Near Dark) are also caught up in gang life. He has no intention of returning to prison, he just wants to play by the rules, stay out of trouble, and hopefully save his loved ones from themselves. Life gets even more complicated than he imagined when the cyborg teachers escalate their disciplinary measures to beating the hell out of students and then even killing troublemakers. Something's wrong here, and it's up to Cody and his love interest/the Principal's daughter Christie (Traci Lin) to stop it.

Soon the teachers fully switch over to military mode (they were originally designed as BattleDroids), and even replace their limbs with claws, rocket launchers and flamethrowers as they wage war on the Blackhearts and Razorheads.

This is an entertaining platter of cheese with a good cast and some awesome lines of dialogue: "A mind is a precious thing to waste, Cody, don't make me waste yours!" - "You trust him?" "Yeah, like a vampire giving me a blowjob." - "Inside this school are three inhuman teaching monsters" - the teachers are referred to as a "George Jetson nightmare." It's not a standout like those, but something about the way Joshua Miller, always a unique screen presence, asks "Wanna shoot some hoops?" had a friend and I asking each other that for days after a mid-'90s viewing on cable.

Class of 1999 is sort of a spiritual follow-up to director Lester's 1982 movie Class of 1984, but there is no direct connection, they just both deal with gangs in school. The screenplay for '99, based on Lester's story, was written by C. Courtney Joyner, a Full Moon regular who I'm a fan of from his work on Puppet Master III and Trancers III.

Looking at Mark L. Lester's IMDb page, seeing his directorial credits, which also include Firestarter and three movies that I watched repeatedly throughout childhood - Commando, Armed and Dangerous, Showdown in Little Tokyo - and the fact that he's a fellow Ohio boy, I'm starting to think that this guy should be one of my heroes.

Since the collection that Class of 1999 is in also provides me with a DVD copy of the April Fool's Day slasher Slaughter High, I will be watching that this Sunday, in a double feature with the film that I consider to be required viewing on April 1st, April Fool's Day (1986), starring awesome Valley Girl Deborah Foreman.

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