Action and Class of 1984

Hollywood is like high school with money.


Sony, $24.96

Everybody loves Entourage, the HBO series that revels in the worst side of Hollywood, where vanity, insecurity, depravity, and cruelty rule. And, of course, it's hilarious. But who remembers Entourage's unacknowledged father, Action, a one-season wonder (1999–2000) on Fox? Now you can catch up with the entire series on DVD: 13 episodes on two discs, plus some extras explaining how Jay Mohr's not-quite-despicable studio boss Peter Dragon, based partly on Action's much-feared real-life executive producer Joel Silver, both repelled audiences and seduced critics.

"I've seen better jugs in Schindler's List," says Dragon while auditioning topless starlets. (Weirdly, though all the language bleeped on Fox is restored, the black bars remain on the "blouse puppies" in this particular scene.) He's so peevishly self- absorbed and insensitive to others (including assistants Ileana Douglas, playing a savvy whore-turned-exec, and Jack Plotnick) that you can also see his DNA in The Larry David Show as well as Jeremy Piven's agent on Entourage. Back in the public eye with his Super Bowl Pepsi commercials, Mohr was then riding high after playing Tom Cruise's nemesis in Jerry Maguire. He and company certainly deserved more than one season of this stuff.

The DVD featurettes reveal that the producers actually hoped to make Dragon's exceedingly inane planned blockbuster, Beverly Hills Gun Club, which surely would've been more funny/awful than anything produced on Project Greenlight. Only problem, as writer-producer Chris Thompson explains, "We got greedy" in negotiations with HBO, where the show could've thrived. So—and it's not entirely clear he's kidding—to keep himself in drugs and hookers and fast cars, he says, they went to Fox, which gave Action a kiss-of-death time slot. Fortunately for our DVD players, the bitter Hollywood aftertaste lives on. BRIAN MILLER

Class of 1984

Anchor Bay, $19.98

Unless you graduated high school around the same time this exploitation film came out, 1981, it's doubtful you remember this cult classic, now given the full DVD treatment its director, Mark Lester, obviously feels it deserves. In the "Blood and Blackboards" featurette and accompanying booklet, Lester expounds on the lost impact of his film, intimating that Columbine is a direct result of people not listening to his "warning" about the rise of school violence. He's only a little delusional.

In the early '80s, with most onscreen high schools following the John Hughes template, it must have been shocking to watch kids being herded through metal detectors in Class of 1984. And dealing angel dust in the bathrooms. And organizing prostitution rings in the back of slam-dance clubs in that hazy hour between the final bell and dinner. It's a shame, then, that Lester's message is wasted on B-movie thrills. Petty theft, vandalism, heavy petting, pot smoking, and brawls ("I'm gonna cut you, white meat!") occur before the opening credits are done, while Alice Cooper warbles the theme song, "I Am the Future." It's a D.A.R.E. curriculum set to rock 'n' roll.

Without the biting black humor of Heathers—whose violence seems plausible in comparison—the class of '84's nihilism rings hollow. Only Lisa Langlois, as the sexy punk moll, appears to see being evil as an end in itself. She's the most fun to watch, gleefully skipping through rape and splatter scenes in fantastically trashy outfits. The neo-Nazi ringleader of the school's most dangerous gang (Timothy Van Patten), on the other hand, is a tortured soul. He's a musical prodigy but won't play by the rules of the new music teacher (Perry King), who literally attempts to whip his rebellious pupil into shape.

Ultimately, the opportunity for King to pull some Dangerous Minds/Stand and Deliver moves is squandered by the revenge plot. By the time his orchestra conducts its first performance in the gym, he's in the woodshop sawing off a gang member's arm. (Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone!) Even if this kind of exploitation fodder has declined (or goes direct to video) today, school violence has escalated, as Lester "prophesized." But it's usually the quiet ones (like the young Michael J. Fox's cameo here) who turn into aggressors—not the flamboyant kids swinging chains like Mad Max. RACHEL SHIMP

Other Releases

Originally a six-hour Italian miniseries, The Best of Youth is well suited to disc. Ever the producer of fine documentaries, HBO offers several politically themed titles, including Left of the Dial (about Air America), Death in Gaza (about you-know-where), and Soldiers in the Army of God (about violent antiabortion activists). Another provocative doc is The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till.

Occupation: Dreamland is the latest in the line of vérité Gunner Palace–style reports from Iraq. Disney's 1956 Lady and the Tramp is an excellent animation for kids. Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart star in the forgettable Just Friends. Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth make like Lewis and Martin in the kinky, clunky Where the Truth Lies. With his stolen artworks in the news, look for the biopic Edvard Munch, directed by Peter Watkins. From Capote director Bennett Miller, his doc The Cruise (about madman N.Y.C. tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch) is considerably lighter. Angie Dickinson fetishists will appreciate the first season of the Police Woman TV series. New on disc, All the President's Men is certainly timely, as ever.

Also on the repertory front: Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, Elvis in Love Me Tender, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, Midnight Cowboy, two discs of Buster Keaton shorts from Sony, and a series of noirs from Fox including No Way Out. North Country earned Charlize Theron another Best Actress nomination. Also look for Howl's Moving Castle, Memory of a Killer, Rent, Separate Lies, and another package of Dick Cavett Show episodes featuring comedians like Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and Groucho Marx.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow