Class of 1999 (1990)

Class of 1999 (1990)

The ultimate teaching machine… out of control.

In 1999, the school system has almost collapsed. Rival gangs of youths control the classes. Order and control has been replaced by weapons fire and anarchy. Crime is on the increase and society is on the verge of breakdown. Faced with this crisis, a school enlists the help of a shady corporation to provide it with ‘tactical education units’ – android teachers with zero tolerance on disobedience. However the androids soon break free from their original programming and take their version of discipline to the extreme.

 

There is a good sci-fi film trying to emerge from this cheap, cheesy and cheerful romp. Class of 1999 is a wild cross between The Terminator, Westworld and The Warriors and its ultra trashy, dumber than a bag of rocks, full of dodgy special effects and campy as a drag queen convention…..but its perfect entertainment. Class of 1999 looks like it belongs back in the early 80s, let alone the early 90s, with its dazzling array of haircuts, clothes and music and it’s ‘futuristic’ vision of 1999 can only have come from that era of chronic fashion design and outrageous hairstyles. At the bottom of it, Class of 1999 has got plenty of heart and ambition. I’m always prepared to give a film its due. Not every film can have £100m budgets and teams of world class effects designers on board. Some films have to be the poor relation. But if they try their hardest to be as successful on the creative front, then it doesn’t matter how much the film costs.

This is not a film about to go into social commentary overdrive. Despite the futuristic setting about the school system breaking down and need for authoritarianism, there are no underlying messages here and no political subtexts. It’s just an excuse to get the androids into the mix and blowing stuff up and that it does perfectly. The special effects aren’t too bad given the obvious low budget and can be quite impressive at times. The androids look as good as they have any right to be despite some dodgy plastic parts and some less-than-convincing stop motion sequences when they start to lose their human skin. One of them has a kick ass flamethrower attachment to put on her arm which is used to good effect. The only problem I had is that in android form, the special effects are rather clunky and awkward and a far cry from the ‘smooth’ movements of their human counterparts. Knowing how the special effects would have turned out, the script should have had the androids walk like that in human form as well to maintain the illusion. The androids do get a lot to do but the main joy comes in the last twenty minutes when all of the teenagers decide to stop their petty in-fighting and team up to take on the androids. Cue all manner of explosions and mayhem in a rather exciting finale. It’s like Mad Max decided to take on The Terminator with the cyber-punk teenagers decked out in their bright-leggings, leather jackets and punk hair travel in their pimped-up Road Warrior-style cars to take on the three androids guarding the school.

Quite how they managed to hook Malcom McDowell and Stacy Keach into the film is anyone’s guess but they add a real touch of class and authenticity to proceedings. McDowell has a limited role as the school principal but it’s Keach who steals the show as the slightly mad albino scientist in charge of the androids, complete with the greatest white 80s mullet you’re ever going to see and matching contact lenses.

The android teachers are excellent. Each of them has their own quirk and it’s quite fun seeing them act, knowing that they’re just robots underneath. In particular, John P. Ryan as a pipe-smoking history teacher displays the stereotypical menace of an old-fashioned teacher coupled with an even more sinister robotic nature. Watch out for Pam Grier too as the aforementioned ‘flamethrower’ android. The teenage cast are wasted here because the adults are so entertaining. You actually want to see these androids knock a bit of sense into some of them. Besides which, it is these damned gun-toting, chain smoking, drug dealing teenagers that have caused the school system to go into meltdown. Most of them deserve a bit of a lashing although this isn’t of the old style cane variety – this is Terminator-style elimination.

 

A definitive trash can classic if ever there was one, Class of 1999 has an extremely dated view of the future (or the past as it’s been over ten years!) but wears it’s low budget heart on it’s sleeve, served up with an extra large helping of cheese.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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