Class of Nuke’m High Blu-ray review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Troma
Directed by Richard Haines and Lloyd Kaufman
Written by Richard Haines and Mark Rudnitsky
1986, No Region Coding (NTSC), 82 minutes, Unrated
Blu-ray released on June 8th, 2010
Janelle Brady as Chrissy
Gilbert Brenton as Warren
Robert Prichard as Spike
James Nugent Vernon as Eddie
Gary Schneider as Pete
Pat Ryan as Mr. Finley
The students of Tromaville High School can’t catch a break--the days are dull, the classes are boring, and on top of everything else, the local nuclear plant has contaminated the water supply! Things start getting strange when the honor society transforms into a punk gang known as The Cretins and only get worse when a nerdy student drinks from a water fountain and begins spewing toxic green sludge before jumping through a window to his death.
Local residents are routinely lied to since the head of the nuclear plant would rather cover up the growing signs of an incident than shut down the reactor for safety reasons. Things remain business as usual at both the plant and the school as opportunistic employees sell contaminated marijuana to The Cretins. The gang members push the drugs on unsuspecting students, including young sweethearts Warren (Gilbert Brenton) and Chrissy (Janelle Brady).
They smoke the dope at a party with some friends and immediately feel the need to run upstairs for some wild and crazy sex. Once they return home, however, both Warren and Chrissy suffer horrible hallucinations and regret taking drugs. Unfortunately the trouble has only begun as Warren is now subject to violent outbursts and Chrissy gives birth to a green bug monster that lurks around the school attacking students.
Oddly these two do not suffer the lasting side effects that befall the other characters in the film. Luckily they are somehow able to stand up to the monster and The Cretins to defend the school. The evil is defeated and good reigns triumphant…until the film launched two sequels.
Lloyd Kaufman (President of Troma Entertainment) was initially attracted to the project after reading about the Shoreham nuclear plant incident just outside of Manhattan, as well as the Chernobyl disaster and Three Mile Island. In the 1980s, the threat of nuclear poison was prominent in the headlines, but whether Lloyd was sending an environmental message or just riding the success of his Toxic Avenger character is open for interpretation.
Richard Haines (Splatter University) was set to climb from the ranks, from film editor to Troma film director, but not everyone can stand up under that much pressure. Kaufman realized the task was too daunting for Haines and stepped in to see the film through to completion. The film took on the humor associated with the gross-out comedy of Kaufman’s masterpiece, The Toxic Avenger. Due to a conflict with the Director’s Guild, Lloyd is credited by the pseudonym “Samuel Weil.”
Class of Nuke ‘Em High is uneven, but moves at a brisk pace that offers either nudity or crudity in frequent intervals, allowing audiences to forgive some of the shortcomings. The rules are played fast and loose, and many key plot discrepancies go unchallenged. The Cretins, for example, are the only students whose personalities and wardrobe are altered by the toxic fumes. Meanwhile, Walter and Chrissy smoke pot at the party, but no one else suffers the side effects of super physical strength or mutant teen pregnancy. Some folks are just lucky.
Troma films are generally not recommended for the quality of acting and this remains the case here. The majority of the cast had never acted before and many of them never appeared anywhere outside of Tromaville. Pat Ryan (The Toxic Avenger) is Finly, the head of the power plant, and his scenes are easily a highlight to the film as his smarmy character is entertainingly callous. Gilbert Brenton is serviceable as Warren, but never really succeeds at the bouts of rage and remains kind of wishy-washy as a romantic lead. Janelle Brady fares better as our heroine Chrissy, the high school girl who gives birth in a bathroom stall to a monster. She is convincing in both the role of the prude and as the sex-crazed teenager.
The film is a testament to filmmakers with high ambitions and low budgets, as the production value is at times quite impressive. The miniatures used for the nuclear plant are effective and the visual f/x do not stick out as shoddy or overtly fake. There are some nice action sequences involving motorcycles and even some gun play that are tightly edited and help the film to zip along. Michael Mayers’ cinematography adds a layer of beauty to sequences that otherwise risk appearing cheap and jokey. The creature effects are quite impressive, as the monster receives only limited screen time, but remains quite memorable and has become an icon of Troma imagery.
Video and Audio:
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec, The Class of Nuke ‘Em High sports a high-quality reproduction of the original elements. The picture is given a solid 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a long overdue re-mastering. Although the print is still filled with dirt and damage, colors are more vibrant than ever before and fine details pop off the screen.
The only audio option offered is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. The track itself is fine, but there are a few instances of audio dropouts that are brief but should be noted. Dialogue remains crisp and clear and the non-stop soundtrack remains constant, yet everything plays at a lower level than most titles, so adjust your volume accordingly. While it would have been nice if the track had been opened up to a 5.1 mix or given a lossless presentation, the current option gets the job done.
The highlight of this disc is Lloyd Kaufman’s commentary track that still holds up as a shining example of what a commentary can and should be. Anyone listening to one of Lloyd’s discussions should be familiar with his ability to educate and entertain with a natural style that comes across as good-natured and friendly. There are the occasional quiet moments where we are silently watching the movie together, but those are less frequent than on other titles (i.e. Troma’s War).
Next up are a set of seven deleted scenes presented in glorious full-frame video that neither add anything new nor waste too much viewing time.
“Class of Nuke ‘Em High Sweethearts” is a brief clip of Robert and Jennifer Prichard who met while working on Troma films and later married. Here the two can be found reminiscing about their experiences on this film and The Toxic Avenger. This five-minute holdover from the DVD is presented as “a picture commentary”--that is, a fancy term for “a sit-down interview”
“The Man Who Made the Nuclear Power Plant” runs a whopping 38 seconds and features clips from the film (some relevant) while Theo Pingarelli talks in voice-over about building the model.
There is a trailer and assorted Troma goodies to round out the supplements, but honestly the only thing new and exciting here is the cool menu design.
All of these materials were previously available on the DVD released back in 1998, yet despite more than a decade of opportunity, zero new material has been included.
Click cover to purchase.