Class of 1999 (1990)
Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Mark L. Lester
Starring: Bradley Gregg, Darren E. Burrows, John P. Ryan, Joshua John Miller, Malcolm McDowell, Pam Grier, Patrick Kilpatrick, Stacy Keach, Traci Lind
CLASS OF 1999 (1990)
Directed by Mark L. Lester
The year is 1999 and teenagers of America have become so unruly that the Government have created their own ‘fire-free zones’ – areas swarming with violent youth gangs that even the police refuse to enter. Attempting to bring some sort of order and restore rules and discipline, headteacher Miles Langford of Kennedy High School decides to pilot a new initiative which sees cyborgs introduced to the school disguised as teachers. Armed with the necessary AI and educational skills, these cyborg teachers have the capability to drum discipline into the students with methods of punishing those who wish to disrupt and cause trouble, to ensure everyone gets the required education.
After the first day of being taught by Ms Connors, Mr Hardin and Mr Bryles, young offender Cody senses there’s something not quite right with the new teachers. Though their true cyborg identity is a secret to everyone except for the headteacher, the research scientists operating in the basement and the programme’s leader, Dr Forrest, their actions don’t go unmissed. As the cyborg teachers’ punishment of their pupils for their wrongdoing intensifies, it’s not long before they become a law unto themselves, forcing the students to have to do the unthinkable: protect the town.
Like a blend of 90’s post-apocalyptic TV series The Tribe, Robert Rodriguez’s school sci-fi thriller The Faculty and James Cameron’s cyborg classic The Terminator, Class of 1999 pits troublesome youth gangs not only with each other and authority figures, but against robotic agents of death who’s artificial intelligence allows them to adapt and take on their own sense of punishment for the misbehaving gangs of Kennedy High. Leading the battle for humanity is Cody, leader of the Blackheart gang who’s previous exploits put him in behind bars. Freshly released from prison, Cody returns home to younger brothers Sonny and Angel (Near Dark‘s Joshua Miller), both fellow members of his gang and also habitual drug fiends. Determined to stick to his probation rules and not re-offend, his drive to stay on the straight and narrow isn’t without its distractions as he attempts to distance himself from his former gang members whilst also avoiding scraps with rivals the Razorheads. With two sets of teens in opposing gangs, it’s very much your usual high school fare but when the teachers are introduced, a new enemy enters the arena.
Making up the robotic faculty is Pam Grier as chemistry teacher Ms Connors, John P. Ryan as history teacher Mr Hardin and Patrick Kilpatrick as P.E. teacher Mr Bryles. Each perform their characters well with Kilpatrick’s strength and athleticism put to good use as he easily throws his students around and jumps from first floor buildings as if it was nothing, all whilst sporting a John Cena-esque grin. John P. Ryan, on the other hands, takes the stern approach as an old-school style teacher who isn’t afraid of spanking his teenage pupils in front of the whole class, even if the punishment is a bit laughable when viewed nowadays. Then there’s Pam Grier, who although plays her part well enough, is vastly underused. As the sole female cyborg teacher, her seemingly non-threatening external demeanour mixed with accurate precision of punishment could have been used much more but at least she does get some more juicier scenes towards the end. Though it seems that even a film like this can’t go without exposing a bit of her breast.
With Stacy Keach oozing bad guy vibes as blind boss of the cyborg teachers programme, Dr Forrest, and Malcolm McDowell as well-intentioned head teacher Mr Langford, Class of 1999 certainly contains a few star attractions. These performances, coupled with the outlandish exploits of the cyborg faculty and the bubbling rage between the gang colour-clad students, make for an entertaining slice of 80’s inspired sci-fi action that may feel a little dated but still left this viewer satisfied. With the addition of impressive green-goo spouting, robotic practical effects and scenes dressed to convey a sense of post-apocalyptic-style disorder, it’s easy to see why Vestron Video have given it the Blu-Ray treatment. Like Toy Soldiers, there’s something quite endearing towards this genre of movie. Perhaps it’s the idea of teens fighting the good fight against hostile adults, all wrapped up in a kick-ass package with some notable names to boot. Much like Sean Astin’s character in Toy Soldiers, Bradley Gregg (Stand By Me) as Cody Culp is the roguish protagonist that you can fully put your weight behind as he attempts to navigate to the truth whilst dealing with gang warfare, his family being hooked on drugs and the harsh death of loved ones.
With a host of extras including audio commentary with director Mark L. Lester and crew interviews, one of which is a fascinating 20 minute long interview with the effects department, Vestron’s Blu-Ray release of Class of 1999 delivers the goods for this cheesy, action-packed youth classic.