Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #532

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Also known as Atomic College
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: December 12, 1986
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Horror/Comedy
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $2,000,000
Running Time: 85 minutes
Directors: Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Producers: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman, James Treadwell
Screenplay: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Stuart Strutin
Special Effects: Kay Gelfman
Cinematography: Michael Mayers
Score: Ethan Hurt
Editing: Richard W. Haines
Studio: Troma Entertainment
Distributor: Troma Entertainment
Stars: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan, James Nugent Vernon, Brad Dunker, Gary Schneider, Théo Cohan, Gary Rosenblatt, Mary Taylor, Rick Howard, Lauren Heather McMahon, Chris McNamee, Anthony Ventola, Arthur Lorenz, Donald O’Toole, Seth Oliver Hawkins, Lerae Dean

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Suggested Audio Candy:

Ethan and The Coup Nuke ‘Em High

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I gotta lot of love for Lloyd Kaufman. Over the past four decades, Troma Entertainment have distributed over 1000 motion pictures and are still going strong to this very day. Kaufman never actually intended to make movies and was more interested in working on Broadway musicals but, after observing Roger Corman and taking notes on how to turn a tidy profit, he purchased his own camera and the rest is cinematic history. It all started with Bloodsucking Freaks in 1976 but, eight years later, The Toxic Avenger finally put the studio squarely on our radars. Since then, there have been few harder working men in the industry and, love ’em or loathe ’em, Troma films can rarely be accused of being dull.

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Class of Nuke ‘Em High arrived in 1986 and saw Kaufman teaming up with fellow directors Richard W. Haines and Michael Herz, in an attempt to capitalize on their new-found popularity. Originally titled Nuke ‘Em High, the title was changed in the hope that it would be mistaken for Mark L. Lester’s Class of 1984 and it worked a treat as it went on become something of a minor Z-grade classic. This culminated in two sequels: Subhumanoid Meltdown in 1991 and The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid three years later and it has since become known as one of Troma’s premier works with its own cult following.

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Inspired by incidents at Shoreham nuclear plant outside of Manhattan and with the Chernobyl disaster still grabbing headlines, Class of Nuke ‘Em High takes place in the heart of the imaginary town of Tromaville, where a toxic spill at a power plant spells big trouble for the students of the nearby high school, which just so happens to be located within farting distance. The scholars at Tromaville High are an eclectic bunch for sure with one particular band of rebels ruling the roost. Led by mohawk-sporting top dog Spike (Robert Prichard), The Cretins were previously straight A students and members of the Honor Society, but have recently mutated into a gang of raucous rebels hell-bent on running the show.

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One of their favorite pastimes is peddling weed to fellow scholars, whether they want it or not, and their grow patch has just yielded a fresh harvest. Of course, it doesn’t take a degree in biochemistry to work out that this fresh strain is tainted, but Atomic High proves to be a hit with their target demographic and it isn’t long before everyone is toking on their radiated reefers. This doesn’t bode well for virginal young lovers Warren (Gil Brenton) and Chrissy (Janelle Brady), who partake in a little puff and pass to settle their nerves before their planned primary coitus. Moreover, something decidedly bogus is going down back at the plant and it sure ain’t pretty.

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Whatever Chrissy’s expectations are for having her cherry popped, they likely don’t involve giving oral birth to a turd-shaped salamander in the school restroom and Warren isn’t faring much better either. While love’s young dream is taking a turn for the more ominous, The Cretins are getting even further out of control, and raging against the machine in one almighty “fuck you” to institution. Class of Nuke ‘Em High brings it to the boil in a final act where shit hits the fan at its uppermost setting and we all get to bathe in the faeces.

Thrash or Die Nuke ‘Em High

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Make absolutely no mistake, this truly is the epitome of “no brainer”. Should you choose to activate said cerebral crust then it will likely be left irreversibly damaged come the end credits. In short, this film makes Night of The Creeps look like Dead Poets Society and makes no apologies for assaulting us with all manner of inane shenanigans. Those with an aversion to dick and fart gags will do well to give Class of Nuke ‘Em High the widest berth imaginable as it has no intention of engaging the grey matter and takes far more pleasure in turning our stomachs. The dialogue is juvenile, delivery from the game cast hardly of thespian caliber, and Michael Mayers’ cinematography merely serviceable. However, this is Troma we’re speaking of here and the clue really is in the title.

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What it lacks in both subtlety and substance, it more than makes up with in sheer enthusiasm and, at a lean 85 minutes, doesn’t waste time pretending to be something that it clearly isn’t. Personally, the mix of horror and comedy isn’t one that I prefer to partake in, particularly when said humor is of the lowest common denominator but it’s hard to be too mean towards a film that openly parades as trash and has no pretence whatsoever. It is one of those movies that dares you not to raise at least a vague smile; then pumps its fist when you eventually buckle to the inevitable. This, my beloved Grueheads, is what Troma is all about and they have not once tried to pull the wool over our eyes. God bless ’em for that.

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By the same token, Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a tough film to adulate. It banks on colorful characters, something it possesses in abundance, and raising its middle digit to conformity, to snag its audience and somehow manages to grind down our defenses to such a degree that the only logical course of action is to join in and fritter those I.Q. points. It takes all sorts with film, just as any other media, and Kaufman and Co. certainly have the fundamentals covered. Once a student of Yale, Troma’s illustrious leader could have chosen any other vocation to ply his trade within and I’m sure he would have made a success of it. However, the world already has more than enough shit heel scientists and it’s just nice to slum it from time to time. It’s no great science.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 3/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: While Kay Gelfman’s practical effects are undeniably crude, they’re also plentiful and schlocky enough to hit the spot more often than not. The true pay-off arrives when The Cretins come face-to-face with the mean-spirited mutant and the halls of Tromaville High School run a mixture of red and green as they are cut down to size in no uncertain terms. Mouths froth, heads are punched through, body parts bubble and blister, oversized nose rings are plucked from their origins, faces melt, primed pustules burst, radioactive sludge oozes, guts bust, and no amount of hand towels can stop the rot. Meanwhile, one thing we are guaranteed with Troma is shameless T&A and there’s a little of that shoehorned in to keep our flag poles hoisted high.

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