Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#1,766. Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986)

Directed By: Richard W. Haines, Lloyd Kaufman

Starring: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard

Tag line: "Readin'...writin'... and radiation!"

Trivia: The Monster is never seen in a full shot because the costume was never finished

Not to take anything away from The Toxic Avenger, but 1986’s Class of Nuke ‘Em High has always been my favorite Troma film. I remember watching it late at night on cable back in the day, and thinking it had everything I could have possibly wanted in a movie: monsters, topless women, and some primo gross-out effects, the entertainment triumvirate when you’re a teenager!

It’s just your average day in Tromaville, U.S.A. The birds are singing, kids are rushing off to school, and toxic waste is seeping into the ground at the nuclear power plant. 

The plant’s manager, Mr. Paley (Pat Ryan), tells the press there’s nothing to worry about, but less than a mile away, some very unusual things are happening at Tromaville High. 

It all began a few months earlier, when the honor society started dressing like rejects from a punk rock concert, and formed a gang called “The Cretins” (which now supplies fellow students with all the pot they can smoke). This pales in comparison, however, to the recent death of Dewey (Arthur Lorenz), the smartest kid in school, who threw himself out a window just before his face started to melt.

Still, not even this tragedy can keep the student body from having a good time, and at a school dance, Warren (Gil Brenton) and his virginal girlfriend Chrissy (Janelle Brady) smoke a joint that pal Eddie (James Nugent Vernon) bought from The Cretins. To Warren’s surprise, the pot turns the normally frigid Chrissy into a sexual dynamo, and the two make love for the first time. 

What they don’t know, however, is that the marijuana supplied by The Cretins grows in the soil surrounding the nuclear power plant! The next day, both Warren and Chrissy are sick as dogs, but it’s the discovery that Chrissy is pregnant which really throws them for a loop. And if she and Warren think some of their classmates are a little strange, just wait until they get a glimpse of their new “baby”!

Co-directors Richard W. Haines and Lloyd Kaufman (working under the pseudonym “Samuel Weil”) get the ball rolling early on in Class of Nuke ‘Em High; before the title even flashes on the screen, we witness the horrible demise of Dewey, the teenage brainiac who made the mistake of drinking the green sludge that flows from the school’s water fountains. By the end of first period, poor Dewey was spewing slime, and while the jump from the second floor window didn’t kill him, he probably wishes it would have when the skin on his face starts to melt!

This is the first of many unusual sequences to be found in Class of Nuke ‘Em High, a few of which feature The Cretins and their “extra-curricular” activities (at one point, they fake an epileptic seizure to steal an elderly woman’s purse). But it’s the scenes involving the after-effects of Warren’s and Chrissy’s night of debauchery that really stand out. Aside from the fact their offspring looks like a mutant worm, Warren experiences a series of temporary transformations, becoming a monster even more frightening than Toxie (his bedtime “hallucination” is especially disturbing). In true Troma fashion, the above only scratches the surface; scene after scene in Class of Nuke ‘Em High will have you laughing as you try to hold back the dry-heaves.

Mix all this together with a handful of obligatory boob shots, and you have the makings of a classic. Which, incidentally, is what Class of Nuke ‘Em High is.

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