Greetings from the edge!
Let’s start the new year with a look at the changing face of education in the 1990 Taurus Entertainment Co. film, Class of 1999. Starring Bradley Gregg as main protagonist Cody Culp, Traci Lind as our ingenue Christie Langford, and a surprisingly star-studded supporting cast that ncludes Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Miles Langford the somewhat naive principal ( apparently McDowell only worked for two days on Class of 1999 ), Stacy Keach as Dr. Bob Forrest the evil cyberneticist, and Patrick Kilpatrick, Pam Grier, and John P. Ryan as a trio of war-bots retrofitted as high school teachers.
In the distant future of 1999, the American education system has so broken down that it has been replaced with the Department of Educational Defense . After our little future history lesson, we open up on Stacy Keach’s terrifying mullet and, considering the time period, what were probably hugely uncomfortable contact lenses, demonstrating his proposed line of robotic teachers custom-made to handle the free-fire zones surrounding the worst of the inner city schools.
The robo-teachers, or artificially created tactical education units, have an astounding ONE MILLION MEGABYTES or, y’know, one terabyte of drive space… so about half a decent USB drive. Oh the ’80s, when you needed a supercomputer to play an mp3.
Cody Culp is released from prison to take part in the new Department of Educational Defense initiative and he intends to make the most of his newfound freedom. Unfortunately, between his old gang the Blackhearts and their main rivals the Razor Boys, that’s going to be harder than he imagined. Especially when confronted by his former best friend turned junky Sonny, played by Darren E. Burrows, and his little brother Angel, played by Joshua Miller, who want to get into the Blackhearts as much as he wants out.
Between the impending gang war, the psycho war-bot teachers, and falling for the daughter of the straight-laced principal, things are looking complicated for Cody.
Well, if you showed up to the Edge today looking for some fun practical effects and more gore than you’d expect, Class of 1999 will not disappoint. In this reviewer’s opinion, the effects are by far the high point of this schlocky little cheese fest ( I say this as a connoisseur of cheesy shlok and schlocky cheese! )
Anything to do with our trinity of terminator teachers is golden: between the one-liners and hammy acting, you’ll find some great robot effects that hold up better than 90 plus percent of the current b-movie CGI that graces the Edge on a good day.
The stop motion effects at the very end are quickly transitioned into a full-sized puppet, and that’s for the best. Harryhausen this is not but, considering it’s modest budget, Class of 1999 does the best it can with what it has and it shows.
Class of 1999 is a weird mix of ’80s killer robot and ’50s youth in rebellion flick, with just a dash of Mad Max thrown in for color. I’m not kidding about the Mad Max part, either. The gangs in Class of 1999 have more armored vehicles and military hardware than a Somali warlord. No wonder they decided to give killer android teachers a try!
Riding the wave of films like Terminator and Robocop, Class of 1999 is long on effects and short on plot. However, with way more talent than a film of its caliber usually has and a fun fast paced story ( even if that story has little to surprise you with ), there isn’t much to complain about.
Personally, I’d have enjoyed more of the android teachers and less of the sometimes annoying gang members, but that wouldn’t make for much of a teenagers versus authority flick, now would it?
So, do I recommend Class of 1999? Well, that depends. If you want bloody effects, killer androids, and gang members that look like they were caught in an explosion at an ’80s fashion warehouse, then hell yes!
If you’re in the mood to look into the psychology of human android interaction, or a deep character study of a young man attempting to claw his way out of gang life, or if you have a perfectly reasonable fear of mullets, then this is not the film for you.
I will say that Class of 1999 is a great film to watch with friends. Entertaining and mockable, it can make for a great movie night with like-minded schlock aficionados.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
I can’t help but think that keeping it secret that the three new teachers are decommissioned war-bots would have helped stretch out Class of 1999’s paper thin plot.
Okay, so Pam Grier bot has a built in flamethrower, Patrick Kilpatrick bot has a rotary fire rocket launcher, and both of those seem pretty reasonable for a warbot to be outfitted with. However, John P. Ryan bot has some weird pincer/drill arrangement that seems pretty useless in combat. I’m guessing that it’s actually a reference to the death balls in the 1979 film Phantasm, especially seeing how the Blackheart leader dies.
We’re supposed to believe that helping take back an inner city high school in Seattle is going to win a multi-billion dollar military contract? I’m guessing all three of the war-bots getting taken out by an alliance of two youth gangs probably put the kibosh on that deal.
This may be nerdy even for me, but I have to wonder if the Blackhearts gang that our protagonist is a part of is a reference to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts ( hallowed be her name, our goddess of rock forever dwells in our hearts and black leather… and not in that order ).
I felt I had to include the asian poster for Class of 1999, which I think you’ll agree is way cooler than the American version.
Next week, we’ll keep the mechanical mayhem rolling with the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, Cyborg. Which I have to admit to seeing in the theatre when I was a kid. I feel you judging me right through the internet. I can promise you splits, dart guns, and more crucifixion than your average martial arts movie ( unless your taste in kung-fu flicks is disturbingly crucifixion focused. ) See you next time on the Edge!