High School student Jerry Mitchell (Casey Siemaszko) is having a bad day—he missed his alarm, can’t find any clean clothes, and his car has a flat tire—but his day is about to get a whole lot worse. Once he finally arrives at school, he is assigned the task of doing a story about new student Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson) for the school paper. Buddy’s infamous reputation precedes him—the students are all gossiping, swapping various tales about how Buddy got expelled from his previous school, or how he sent someone to the hospital just for touching him. Shortly after getting his task, Jerry runs into Buddy in the boy’s bathroom and nervously asks him to do the interview, but he inadvertently taps Buddy on the shoulder, and all Hell breaks loose. Buddy smashes Jerry against the wall, and declares that they will have a fight in the school parking lot at 3pm.
Jerry is terrified, and whenever he tries to get his mind off his impending doom, he’s quickly reminded—whether it’s the science class nature video of a crab scorpion killing a harmless cricket, the Western Civ lecture about Achilles gruesomely killing Hector, or even the pep rally where the cheerleaders smash paper mache football players, with red glitter “blood” flying everywhere. Jerry desperately hatches various schemes to avoid the fight, but everything he tries just seems to make matters worse. The clock is ticking and things don’t look good for Jerry!
The dark comedy Three O’Clock High was originally released in 1987, but was a box office bomb. However, it quickly became a cult classic among those who saw it. I watched this film more times than I can count as I kid, but I hadn’t seen it in 10-15 years, so I was excited to revisit it via Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray release. It’s hard to believe this film is 30 years old—it feels just as fresh and relevant as today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all over again. The film has a very unique visual style that differs from the John Hughes-style comedies of the era. There are a lot of quick edits and creative camera angles/moves that help give the viewer the same frenetic feeling experienced by Jerry as he counts down the time to his doom. Even though there is this overall dark theme of the impending date with the school bully, the film still finds time for some really fun characters and moments—like the pair of film students who want to make a documentary about the fight, or the student who begs Jerry to make the fight last at least 3 minutes so he will win a bet, or the unconventional way Jerry tries to get detention and the hilarious way it backfires.
There are a lot of familiar faces that pop up during the movie—Jeffrey Tambor as Mr. Rice, the adult in charge of the school store; Philip Baker Hall as Detective Mulvahill, the police officer called in to investigate after a theft at the school; John P. Ryan as Mr. O’Rourke, the school principal; and Mitch Pileggi as over-zealous security guard Duke Herman. Future film director Paul Feig and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) even have small roles as students.
Shout! Factory has put together a nice Shout Select Blu-ray for the the 30th anniversary of the film. The video presentation, looks fantastic overall. There are a few moments, particularly those that take place outside, where the picture has some excessive dirt, but the rest of the film looks quite clean with a minimal amount of film grain. The audio track is nothing special, but does the job. The dialogue is clear and the film’s techno soundtrack by Tangerine Dream sounds nice, but could have been a lot more immersive. The disc contains a solid selection of brand new bonus material, including a director commentary, almost an hour of interviews with the director, screenwriters and costume designer, the film’s trailer, and a photo gallery. While I wish they had been able to get some of the actors to participate, these new retrospective interviews are an exellent addition that fans of the film should really enjoy.
Three O’Clock High is spine #33 in Shout! Factory’s Shout Select line of Blu-rays. The disc comes packed in a standard HD keepcase. Instead of Shout!’s traditional reversible cover insert, the artwork inside is just a scene from the film.
- 1080p / Widescreen 1.85:1
- Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio commentary with Director Phil Joanou (1:29:41)
DVD special features producer Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures leads a conversation with the film’s director. They discuss how Joanou came to work on the film, and share various stories about the cast, and production. Some of this discussion is a bit of a rehash of some of the things Joanou talks about in his separate interview, but it’s still a very entertaining track.
- Head Of The Class — With Director Phil Joanou (32:31)
The director talks about being inspired to make movies while watching Jaws, and then receiving the script from idol Steven Spielberg, which was originally titled “After School”. He goes on to discuss why Aaron Spelling is listed as the producer, how the original tone was more like John Hughes, adding scenes to make it more of a dark comedy, casting the film, filming the bookcase scene in the library, and filming the fight scene. He also talks about working with Tangerine Dream to get the right tone in the score, the original test audience reactions, and the ultimate failure of the theatrical release of the film.
- Passing The Test — Screenwriters Richard Christian Matheson and Tom Szolossi (17:59)
The screenwriters talk about their previous TV work, the idea for the story, breaking the action down by class period, the positive reactions to the script, the use of voiceover in original script, and the visual look of the final film.
- School Clothes — Costume Designer Jane Ruhm (13:43)
Ruhm talks about leaving Amazing Stories to work on this, working with the director, and selecting each of the characters outfits.
- Theatrical Trailer (1:31)
- Still Gallery (7:54)
Slideshow of behind the scenes and production photos that is set to the film’s score. Photos advances every 5 seconds.
Three O’Clock High is a fun 80’s dark comedy that didn’t achieve the notoriety and box office success it deserved when it was originally released. It is creatively shot and visually interesting while also providing an entertaining story. The film has since gone on to cult status, and Shout! Factory has put together a great new Blu-ray release with an excellent-looking picture and a solid set of bonus features that make this a must own for any fan of the film.