Class of 1999 (1990) — The teachers aren’t all right

“The mind is a terrible thing to waste — don’t make me waste yours.”

Wolfy’s review: 1999. The future. High schools in major cities across the US have fallen prey to gang violence to the point that they’ve been cordoned off and declared “free fire zones” where police dare not go. This is the setup for Class of 1999, the second of three movies set in a world where unruly gangbanger high schoolers are pitted against robotic murder teachers.

Class of 1999 follows the escapades of one Cody Culp, the de facto leader of the Blackhearts gang, who just entered parole and is being brought back to his old stomping ground near Kennedy High School, which is also the staging ground for a test featuring three high tech teacher androids developed by Megatech. As one would expect, the three teachers in question are forced to implement strict methods to get the gang kids in line, including but not limited to beating them up and spanking them (yes, literally), but things slowly devolve as their military programming takes hold and they decide that it’s a better course of action to just kill all of the students instead.

As absolutely mad as the whole film sounds on paper, it plays out even more insane on film, as the three teacherbots — one of whom is Pam Grier — just sort of go into a somewhat gruesome and grimly creative killing spree as the students become unruly and the principal of the school (played by Malcolm McDowell) tries to stop the whole thing.

All the while, the evil head of Megatech, Dr. Forrest, seems to just sort of grin at the entire proceedings, make vague references to how rich this whole experiment will make him, and eat and drink random things like a banana or some milk, all while sporting one of the most glorious, feathery rat-tail mullets ever witnessed.

Despite all of this campiness, the plot moves along at a reasonable pace for a low brainpower sci-fi action horror flick. All of the actors in the movie really try their very best with every scene, even if their characters have no more dimension than one-note hamminess. Furthermore, the production value in Class of 1999 is a lot higher than I was expecting, with some solid practical effects and puppeteering, good cinematography, and well-meaning if underwhelming action set pieces — the very first car chase involves a slightly modified Olds and some pickup with an “edgy” metal shell on it going at a brisk 50 MPH.

Overall, Class of 1999 was like watching the plotline of a ’90s side-scrolling beat-em-up game play out in real life. It had one of the goofiest setups ever, the climax just sort of happens and then the movie ends, and the gangbangers all have that late ’80s idea of dystopia about them which I find to be more charming than anything else. But at the same time, the level of craft evident in the settings and effects and the general pacing and writing of the film (even if it was threadbare at times) made this feel like a fun ride that really wanted to tell a story instead of someone’s first-ever film attempt.

Maybe this one caught me in the right mood, but Class of 1999 is a delightfully stupid romp of a film that was extremely entertaining. As retro-futurist dystopic action films go, there are certainly worse choices out there, especially if you’re a fan of the turn-off-the-brain popcorn film.

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