"Class of 1984" is director Mark Lester's rather tasteless updating of Richard Brooks' 1955 "Blackboard Jungle." Both deal with teachers who are totally unprepared for the wild animals caged at the high schools to which they've been assigned and both feature untidy teen-age toughs who live outside the law.

However, since then the kids have evolved into untutored Mafiosi who deal in drugs, prostitution and extortion, and who amuse themselves by murdering and raping students and teachers alike. The resulting film is equivalent to the sound of many fingernails scratching against the blackboard.

Perry King gets the rather thankless task of trying to seem heroic as the innocent teacher stumbling into an undefined war zone. "You're not in Nebraska anymore," warns fellow worker Roddy McDowall, who's apparently used to teaching on the planet of the apes--he carries a revolver in his briefcase, which gives him an advantage over the students, who have to go through a metal-detector and a thorough frisking just to get to class. A bank of closed-circuit televisions keeps many eyes on the hallways, which always resemble a subway at rush hour. But at the least the kids have learned to write: The walls of the entire school are covered with elaborate graffiti.

The mild-mannered King turns out to be a music teacher: His first student encounter is with Timothy Van Patten, leader of a punkish Our Gang, rebels who control Lincoln High School. The uncharacteristically clean-cut Van Patten looks like a Nordic Sylvester Stallone, right down to the pouty, slightly sloped mouth and pants-too-tight-to-smile posture. The boy is alienated as all get-out, but under that sandpaper and nails surface beats the heart of an artist: In a fit of anger, he plays a classical piece on the piano. But he and King don't stand on common ground, philosophically. According to teacher, "the only rights we have are the ones we're willing to fight for," while the problem child counters with "Life is pain, pain is everything."

Obviously, it's not going to be long until there's a crash of wills, but director Lester uses plenty of vivid detail to make sure the audience knows whom to cheer for. The kids firebomb King's car, kill McDowall's biology animals, cause a fellow student's death by drugs and then try to stiletto a witness; teacher answers by smashing Van Patten's prize convertible. Meanwhile, McDowall gets mad and starts prying answers from recalcitrant students by putting a gun to their heads ("I don't come into your class and tell you how to teach," he complains indignantly to King); then McDowall gets really mad and gets killed. It's getting closer and closer to high lunch hour.

Things come to a head when the gang rapes King's wife and sends him a nasty photo as he's about to conduct the student orchestra in a very important recital. This unmitigated gall results in a final 10 minutes of stalking and slashing, with King chasing and being chased through a deserted school. Teacher initiates permanent absenteeism with the help of the school's vocational facilities and Van Patten finally gets to drop in on the orchestra--through the roof and with a noose around his neck. Just a typical week in a typical high school, folks.

"Class of 1984" couldn't have been funnier if it had tried. Its use of caricatured punk villains is so ridiculous, outdated and badly realized that the film's musical motif of "we are the future--stop us if you can" (music by that youngster Lalo Schifrin, lyrics sung by a washed-up Alice Cooper) barely qualifies as present tense. Everything is utterly unbelievable; it's "Blackboard Jungle" without a moral intelligence, "Rock and Roll High School" without a soundtrack. Sitting through it is like paying for detention on a sunny day, but for the masochists among us, "Class of 1984" is currently playing at 21 theaters. Movies 'Class of 84' Fails By Richard Harrington

"Class of 1984" is director Mark Lester's rather tasteless updating of Richard Brooks' 1955 "Blackboard Jungle." Both deal with teachers who are totally unprepared for the wild animals caged at the high schools to which they've been assigned and both feature untidy teen-age toughs who live outside the law.

However, since then the kids have evolved into untutored Mafiosi who deal in drugs, prostitution and extortion, and who amuse themselves by murdering and raping students and teachers alike. The resulting film is equivalent to the sound of many fingernails scratching against the blackboard.

Perry King gets the rather thankless task of trying to seem heroic as the innocent teacher stumbling into an undefined war zone. "You're not in Nebraska anymore," warns fellow worker Roddy McDowall, who's apparently used to teaching on the planet of the apes--he carries a revolver in his briefcase, which gives him an advantage over the students, who have to go through a metal-detector and a thorough frisking just to get to class. A bank of closed-circuit televisions keeps many eyes on the hallways, which always resemble a subway at rush hour. But at the least the kids have learned to write: The walls of the entire school are covered with elaborate graffiti.

The mild-mannered King turns out to be a music teacher: His first student encounter is with Timothy Van Patten, leader of a punkish Our Gang, rebels who control Lincoln High School. The uncharacteristically clean-cut Van Patten looks like a Nordic Sylvester Stallone, right down to the pouty, slightly sloped mouth and pants-too-tight-to-smile posture. The boy is alienated as all get-out, but under that sandpaper and nails surface beats the heart of an artist: In a fit of anger, he plays a classical piece on the piano. But he and King don't stand on common ground, philosophically. According to teacher, "the only rights we have are the ones we're willing to fight for," while the problem child counters with "Life is pain, pain is everything."

Obviously, it's not going to be long until there's a crash of wills, but director Lester uses plenty of vivid detail to make sure the audience knows whom to cheer for. The kids firebomb King's car, kill McDowall's biology animals, cause a fellow student's death by drugs and then try to stiletto a witness; teacher answers by smashing Van Patten's prize convertible. Meanwhile, McDowall gets mad and starts prying answers from recalcitrant students by putting a gun to their heads ("I don't come into your class and tell you how to teach," he complains indignantly to King); then McDowall gets really mad and gets killed. It's getting closer and closer to high lunch hour.

Things come to a head when the gang rapes King's wife and sends him a nasty photo as he's about to conduct the student orchestra in a very important recital. This unmitigated gall results in a final 10 minutes of stalking and slashing, with King chasing and being chased through a deserted school. Teacher initiates permanent absenteeism with the help of the school's vocational facilities and Van Patten finally gets to drop in on the orchestra--through the roof and with a noose around his neck. Just a typical week in a typical high school, folks.

"Class of 1984" couldn't have been funnier if it had tried. Its use of caricatured punk villains is so ridiculous, outdated and badly realized that the film's musical motif of "we are the future--stop us if you can" (music by that youngster Lalo Schifrin, lyrics sung by a washed-up Alice Cooper) barely qualifies as present tense. Everything is utterly unbelievable; it's "Blackboard Jungle" without a moral intelligence, "Rock and Roll High School" without a soundtrack. Sitting through it is like paying for detention on a sunny day, but for the masochists among us, "Class of 1984" is currently playing at 21 theaters.