CLASS OF 1999 Graduates to Blu-ray with Honors

Mark Lester’s sci-fi punk actioner is breathed new life in high definition

I’ve seen Class of 1999 before but it didn’t make much of an impact at the time. The DVD’s old 4:3 home video presentation was far from impressive and I was distracted while watching (admittedly on an iPad, as I often do with 4:3 SD content). Viewing it again on the new Vestron Video Blu-ray, this movie is a whole different beast. After a long life as essentially a VHS transfer, I can’t believe how cinematic it looks in this format. The prior crappy transfer gave a false sheen of cheapness, and I’m shocked to realize what a great production this was now that I can actually see it.

The film is a less mean-spirited and much more fun sort-of sequel to Lester’s Class of 1984 — both films share a lot of similar ideas and themes, but operate independently with no particular continuity. Each is completely fine on their own; you don’t need to see one to appreciate the other. 1999 takes the best parts of 1984 — the crime-ridden high schools, sneering punk gangs, over-the-top social commentary, and rad action — and adds in a huge science fiction component while inverting the premise. This time not only are the teachers the villains, they’re essentially Terminators.

In a future in which teenage crime has turned schools and neighborhoods into literal war zones, a military android program is repurposed to provide the perfect instructors — logical, disciplinarian, and fearless. Disguised as humans, the instructors quickly take control of their classrooms, but the robots soon revert to their military programming and start killing their students.

The film obviously owes a debt to The Terminator but amazingly preconfigures some aspects of T2 (which released over a year later in 1991), with its motorcycle-riding juvenile delinquent protagonist, near-future setting, and pre-apocalyptic societal degradation. (And maybe it’s just me but I’m also reminded of the 1989 book My Teacher Is An Alien).

The cast’s teenage protagonists do fine work here, but it’s the adult supporting characters who deliver some recognizable star power. We’ve got Malcolm McDowell as the school’s principal, Stacy Keach as the definitely-not-evil-looking head of the robot program, and Pam Grier as one of the robo-teachers. Unfortunately Pam’s robotic role doesn’t really allow for much of her personality to come through, but on the other hand, IT’S PAM GRIER AS A FRICKIN’ TERMINATOR!

I’m frankly amazed that I didn’t care for this movie the first time around, because I was sporting a huge, dumb grin on this rewatch.

The Package

Class of 1999 has arrived as Spine # 14 in Lionsgate’s fan favorite Vestron Video throwback Collector’s Series that follows in the aesthetic of the prior titles with a glossy foil-accented slipcover.

Special Features and Extras

The disc comes packed with a ton of interview materials with several of the filmmakers and crew. At about 20 minutes each, the four interviews combined are practically the equivalent of a feature-length Making-Of documentary.

· Audio Commentary with Producer-Director Mark L. Lester

· “School Safety: Assembling the Class of 1999” (22:33)
with Producer-Director Mark L. Lester and Co-Producer Eugene Mazzola

· “New Rules” (19:27)
with Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner

· “Cyber-Teachers from Hell: The Special Effects of Class of 1999” (19:30)
with Special Effects Creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton

· “Future of Discipline” (19:04)
with Director of Photography Mark Irwin

· Theatrical Trailer (:59)

· TV Spots (1:02)

· Still Gallery (8:42)

· Video Promo (7:47)
Vintage EPK reel; essentially a really long trailer.


A/V Out.

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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have slight compression inherent to file formats. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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