• Kelly M. Hudson

All Hail the Class of 1999!

Cody (Bradley Gregg) is let out of juvie hall to return to his old home and school, Kennedy High. He gets picked up by his younger brother and best friend, a fellow gang member. They’re excited to have Cody back because there’s been trouble with rival gangs, and Cody is just the leader they need to help them deal with the bubbling crisis. Cody, much to their chagrin, has decided to go straight, or as straight as he can. He just wants to go back to school, do his work, and graduate and move on. Besides, if he messes up again, it’s off to prison. Meanwhile, the principle of the school, Dr. Langford (Malcolm McDowell) has enlisted a strange scientist named Dr. Forrest (Stacy Keach) to help out with the discipline problems. Turns out, Dr. Forrest’s solution is to use three former military robots to act as teachers and enforcers (one of them is Pam Grier). Of course things go wrong, and Cody soon finds himself and his gang warring with the cybernetic death machines and trying to save Dr. Langford’s daughter—fellow student and Cody love interest—Christie (Traci Lind). Can the unruly gang defeat the terminator-style teachers and save the girl, or will they die in a rebellious rage?

This movie is absolutely a good time. You can’t take any of it seriously. It opens sort of like Escape From New York and we enter a very comic book world, where youth violence is an epidemic and city schools are on the fringes of falling apart. And then we get an albino, mulleted, milk-swilling version of Stacy Keach come swaggering in saying he’s got killer robots that will get the job done. From there it just gets more cartoonish and bless its little golden heart, this movie never fails to entertain. It’s supposed to be a sequel to the earlier Class of 1984 film, and while they are kissing cousins, this is a whole different ballgame. In that movie, it was teacher vs. gang, with the teacher being the good guy. Now the situation is reversed, and the gangs are the only decent human beings in the picture (besides the other students). Lots of ridiculous action ensues and we even get some stop-motion animation. Pam Grier chews the scenery in all the right ways, Stacy Keach is creepy and weird, and Malcolm McDowell plays a rare straight-man role. You get a flame-throwing fist, a missile-launcher forearm, and a beady-eyed terminator teacher who smokes a pipe and waxes eloquent about discipline. What’s not to love?

Class of 1999 is a hoot. Go in with your mind turned off and your popcorn hot and buttery, and you’re going to have yourself a blast. Sure, there’s some social commentary going on, and yeah, you really do get to know and care for the characters, but this isn’t Amadeus. This is wild and wooly exploitation at its finest, made at the cusp-end of the truly strangest independent era of genre filmmaking. Thank you, Mark Lester, for making a bang-up flick.


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