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Class Of 1999 – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Eight years following his acclaimed cult film thriller, Class of 1984 (Which I reviewed the Scream Factory Collector’s Edition a few years back), Mark L. Lester decided to jump things into the future with another entry in the gangs overtaking their high schools series. Class of 1999 released in 1990 and in 2018 is becoming the latest in the well regarded Vestron Video Collector’s Series. You’ll note that Lionsgate had a horror 8-pack DVD set from years ago that this was featured in. In that same set, 5 other movies featured in it have been made into Vestron Video Collector’s Series releases. Now, there are only Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College and 976-EVIL 2 remaining. Could those be coming soon? One can only hope. Class of 1999 will make the jump on January 30th. Pre-order yourself a copy using the Amazon link at the end of the review.

Film 

The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford, the principal of Kennedy High School, decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest provides “tactical education units.” These human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!

Mark L. Lester had a heck of a run from 1979 to 1991 featuring some really notable and solid contributions with nary a misstep.  He’s not really a household name, but if you pile on the film during that period, you’d think he should have been. I mean, the man did Commando! That’s kind of the outlier, but if you have the rest of them together, he’s almost like a B-level version of John Carpenter. Its pretty apparent in films of his in a Stephen King film like Firestarter and this one. Heck, he even has a film called Showdown In Little Tokyo which kind of reminds you of the title of another one of Carpenter’s films. You could make an argument that the “Class of” films are like his Escape From series. A fun note to that, but sequels have Pam Grier and Stacy Keach and Class of has theirs set 15 years after the first and Escape From LA was made 15 years after the first. I’m starting to become fascinated with the Lester and Carpenter similarities.

Class of 1999 takes the previous film and ups it a few many levels. Whereas the previous took place in a fictional world, this one goes forth with the setting and giving it a much more visual futurized look. But, its in that competent B-level way that brings nothing but grit and charm. While we have the same topic and character types of before, this is a whole new realization of what Class of 1984 tried to tell. That film felt much more rooted and grounded where 1999 has bit more gonzo action and action one-liner bravado to add to it. Its still serious, but delivers in core thrills of the horror genre with its dripping gory details and make-up effects.

For genre fans, this movie boasts and pretty cool cast. There are two people in this movie I only know from really one other thing each. Bradley Gregg leads the film and he was the faux Corey Haim from Dream Warriors who had one of my favorite Freddy kills of all time. Traci Lind was Charlie Brewster’s flame in the underrated Fright Night Part 2. Both are pretty enjoyable and fitting to lead this kind of film. Pam Grier rocks as a vicious killing machine robot, but that also leaves me wishing they’d given her more to do. You also have Stacy Keach looking awesomely ridiculous. This movie also boasted Malcolm McDowell before he started being in everything. Fun, too, that the first film had Roddy McDowall in it.

If you enjoyed Class of 1984, I feel like you would like this one too, but then again, I don’t know. It keeps the core idea but goes much more sci fi with it and over the top in terms of gore and effects. I mean, this film’s third act is a gloriously cheesy and cheap Terminator knock off that you can’t help but smile and enjoy. Also, I didn’t mentioned, but the film has a nice soundtrack that features Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” at one point. The film is its own beast that requires no viewing of the previous film to fully enjoy. Its a great B-movie and cult film to visit and keep as a part of your collections.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Class of 1999 debuts on Blu-ray with a very nice look to it in term of a “hands off” approach to the transfer. Grain is present as well as specs and such. Details are pretty solid. Some shots appear a little blurrier as they probably always were.  If anything the image is very consistent with the previous efforts from the Vestron Video line.

Depth:  Dimensional work is solid. Movements are cinematic in nature and not real distortion problems with rapid action is an issue at all.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and do their best to uphold detail. Grain gets a little heavier in the very dark depths of any given night sequence. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors holda  solid, bold, but kind of a dingier worn look to them at times. Purples were a good stand out. There is a bit of a desolate look in the colors scheme that is well displayed and conveyed here as well. The vision graphics from the robot teachers really has some good pop to it to go along with some good saturation and burst from filtered lighting and some fires.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones were natural and consistent from start to finish. Details like tattoos, dried blood, make-up, wrinkles, blemishes, scars and more are all very present in close ups and most medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: No real noise issues, some grain, dirt and specs are present and in very few moments there were little streaks in the film.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Class of 1999 comes with fun and pretty solid stereo track and has a good clean and crisp sound to it. Sounds, vocals and music sound balanced and free of one another. Movement from side to side is done pretty decently and accurate.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clean and crisp.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer/Director Mark L. Lester

School Safety (HD, 22:33) – Interviews with Director/Producer Mark L Lester and Co-Producer Eugene Mazzola. The two talk about updating the concept of 1984, set scouting and design as well as the effects and the casting. One note I loved is that Pam Grier constantly spent her free time during this movie working at missions and other volunteer or help work.

New Rules (HD, 19:27) – An interview with screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner. He talks about crafting the story and how he’d be on the project then off again and lots of hands touching it. One common thread I like with the other interview is the touching upon working with Vestron on it.

Cyberteachers From Hell (HD, 19:30) – Interviews with Special Effects Creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton. The two go over their thoughts on how they were going to realistic bring to life this 7 million dollar film. Its funny the contrast in appearance of the two, but they had a great relationship as they were part of a 3 person team. The third of which was deceased but was a former DC Comics artist.

Future of Discipline (HD, 19:04) – An interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin. The man who shot some of Cronenberg’s best, Chuck Russell’s The Blob and other incredible feats talks how he worked with Traci Lind on Fright Night Part 2 and how he was the result of people discussing him in a meeting as being perfect for the film and giving him a call.  He then gives his take on it and how he wanted it to be similar to Robocop, low and behold he ended up shooting Robocop 2.  The guy has a real eye and understanding of everything you see and to tell the story purely visually.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, :59)

TV Spots (SD, 1:02) – Includes a long forgotten Taurus Entertainment logo.

Still Gallery (HD, 8:42)

Video Promo (SD, 7:47) – Meant to look like an old educational reel shown in a class, it just seems to be showcasing highlights from the film with narration.

Summary 

While Class of 1999 is technically a 90s film, it still delivers in that 1980s B-level sci-fi/horror hybrid bag of goof futuristic fun and gory thrills. Vestron Video has delivered it in probably its best release ever, with a solid audio and video presentation to go along with a nice slew of brand new extras (Wish they could have nabbed Stacy Keach or Pam Grier for an interview). Those who are continued fans of releases like this should be quite pleased as this one his those mark.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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