Saturday, May 29

Some quick thoughts on Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986) on Blu-ray

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I must admit, while I like Class of Nuke'Em High, I still don't love it aside from a go-to for some funny gags and nice counterprogramming to the widely loved mainstream teen comedies of the mid-'80s. As I assume Class was designed to be; a mix between the raunchy comedies Troma toiled away in before the success of The Toxic Avenger, a heavy dose of Toxie's disgusting aesthetic, and a good number of their 1984 breakthrough's cast. The best thing the constantly embattled indie studio usually does is hammer down lead couples that have a palpable chemistry on-screen and Class is no different. Janelle Brady and Gilbert Brenton emit exactly the right sense of a longstanding teen couple; even when gratuitously naked, drooling slime, or indulging in any combination of the usual Troma zaniness.

Rotund character actor Pat Ryan, who had a great run in '80s indie trash, is a highlight as the pushy nuclear plant operator. As do the honor society turned eye-lined, bone-nosed freak punks, The Cretins, especially leader Spike (Robert Prichard) and Pete (Gary Schneider) being Avenger vets. The gang also have one inspired sequence when the Cretins are expelled and in an act of defiance proclaim they're "the youth of today", "God bless America, limpdick!", and then break out into the The Star-Spangled Banner. The idiotic plant worker sent into the high school's basement only to be killed by the fantastic looking mutant child of Chrissy's biohazardous joint smoking is also hilarious. I guess I'll have to watch it more as I don't have any nostalgic memories of this one, but actually USA's Up All Night airings of its second 1991 sequel.

Troma's second Blu-ray release ever, the first being Poultrygeist, arrives with another 1080p lowish bitrate MPEG-4 AVC transfer on a single layer disc. I'm not going to blow smoke up your ass or tear it apart like "professional" Blu-ray review sites inevitably will, but Class looks decent enough for its basement budget with no restoration effort. There's print flecks, dirt, and reel change burns, but colors fare well with a layer of grain that pops up from time-to-time in the sharper shots.

The real problem is the standard Dolby 2.0 audio at a bottom-of-the-barrel bitrate of 224kbps. Dialogue is frequently very harsh, the omnipresent rock music background sounds like it's coming from an AM radio with a blown speaker, and the volume is extremely low. While I can appreciate Blu-ray's lossless, "tranparent-to-the-master" audio types; I'm not one to complain about sound quality as long as it's relatively clear. Not here, the sound really sucks, and even Media Home Entertainment's old VHS seemed better in my memory. Troma should either remaster their soundtracks somewhat or at least provide PCM versions of the shitty tracks so as to be a little better than Dolby. The Blu-ray retains all the extras found in Troma's trilogy DVD box set (w/ the Kaufman commentary), but lacks the Kaufman with cast commentary of the standalone DVD. Still, this Blu-ray is probably worth the $15 if you're a fan and yes, this is Troma's usual 85 minute "unrated director's cut" and not the fabled 96 minute Japanese DVD cut.
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1 comment:

KFelon said...

I watched this over the weekend and thought it looked really good compared to the DVD. Many of the scenes looked extra sharp and many finer details such as writing on walls were legible. Certainly it's not on the same visual scale of newer movies, but this one actually has a upgrade in the video department. It's definitely not just an upscale of the DVD.

I'm glad to have all the dust, dirt, and damage as it adds to the cinematic feel and shows Troma didn't try to run a slew of DNR filters to plastify the image. As for the sound, sure it's not an upgrade but again this is Troma and we may not see Lossless Master Audio tracks in the future, because they may not exist.

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