Class of 1984 (1982)


Playing at the Alamo Drafhouse Yonkers, January 17th

New teacher Andrew Norris is fighting the rising tide of what would later become the future of the youth. “We are the future,” chants leader Stegman with his gang of punks. “I am your future,” he consistently tells Mr. Norris, and whodathunk he’d be correct? In “Class of 1984” (the prophetic remake of “Blackboard Jungle”) envisions a not too far future where the youth have all but spiraled out of control and our schools are now warzones with the potential for death at every turn. In 1982, “Class of 1984” was something of an exploitation revenge film, but decades later after utterly horrific accounts of school shootings, and students victimizing their teachers, “Class of 1984” is actually ahead of its time.

“Class of 1984” pictures a world where the teachers have all but given up as well as the authorities, the latter of whom are so beaten by regulations that protect minors from the law, that they seem almost reluctant to take on Peter Stegman and his gang of rapist, drug selling, vandals and their growing crime ring involving prostitution and murder. They rule their high school and keep everyone under a petrified state to the point where nothing is off limits to them. They run drug dealing circles in bathrooms, and are even allowed to assault teachers without so much as a scoff from the principal. We’re still in a world where the youth is protected by the laws that somewhat minimize the horror they’re capable of and Andrew Norris decides to fight the rising tide of what will become an inevitability. Norris is probably the last hold out in his ring of adults that have submitted to the notion that youth rule the world, now.

One of the few allies that decide to fight the rising tide of Norris’ friend Terry Corrigan, who completely cracks after Stegman and his gang drive him one step too far. In what would become a normal occurrence much later, Corrigan brings in a gun to school and decide the only way he can keep his students under control is by putting them at gunpoint. It’s a harrowing and brutal scene that Roddy McDowall delivers with utter brilliance. Stegman is the picture of the modern youth who has all but given up even trying to work hard for a bright future and has submitted to slimy crimes and vicious acts of violence all while shielded by a mother oblivious to his persona on the streets. She waves around words like “lawsuit” and “assault” to Vincent Norris when he insists on explaining why Stegman is such a dangerous culprit.

Stegman also cockily brags to Norris that he’s untouchable mainly because in his world, he’s able to do whatever he wants so long as youth is on his side, and his parents coddle him. Despite being a brilliant pianist oozing with potential, Stegman instead seems hell bent on securing a future filled with crime and easy money, and quickly transforms from a potentially redeemable youth, to a loathsome monster who cashed in his future a long time ago and is beyond the point of no return. “Class of 1984” ratchets up its tension significantly when Stegman and co. sell to local students drugs, one of the students accidentally falls to his death. Knowing the accident is directly related to Stegman selling the pair the drugs, Norris races to convince someone to out Stegman, ending his reign of terror.

All the while, Stegman advances his own campaign of violence in an effort to protect himself from all liability from the death, knowing full well he can’t depend on his youth to bypass the law forever. Timothy Van Patten is definitely one of the most charismatic movie villains of all time, the epitome of punk anarchy and chaos who battles Norris who is more about order and maintaining some form of humanity, even when his friend is pointing a gun at Stegman’s face. Only in the climax when Stegman and Norris face each other leading to the final scene does Norris reveal the ugly result of a life led by Stegman and his gang. Perhaps all hope isn’t loss thanks to the horror witnessed. It’s a brutal and vicious result, but you take what you can get.