Release Date(s)1989 (November 23, 2018)
Studio(s)Vestron Pictures/Republic Pictures Home Video (Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
How many films can you name wherein a silver-haired Roddy McDowall pulls a used sock off of a microphone and has a sniff of it before speaking into it? Or how about a killer that quotes Yankee Doodle Dandy at random to his intended victims? Or perhaps even a father who’s more concerned with whether or not his daughter is skipping school rather than remarking on the blood all over her clothes? Ladies and gentleman, I give you 1989’s Cutting Class.
The long and short of the film’s story is that a young man named Brian (Donovan Leitch) is released from psychiatric care after years of being locked away. He meets up with his former best friend Dwight (Brad Pitt), and his girlfriend Paula (Jill Schoelen), whose father (Martin Mull) is away on a hunting trip. Meanwhile, Dwight is having problems at school, especially with the faculty, including a bizarre and perverted principal (McDowall). It isn’t long before students and teachers start coming up either missing or slaughtered, leaving both Brian and Dwight as the main suspects.
Cutting Class is certainly a gem, one that I had sadly missed over the years. None of it is particularly good as the dialogue is truly awful at times, the drama feels forced and unwarranted, and the comedic touches seem out of place. It’s a mostly off-balance horror comedy that never really coalesces, but tries to be greater than the sum of its parts. Just the notion that John Boorman’s screenwriter decided to make a horror film, not based upon one of his own scripts, is kind of fascinating. After having worked on films like Deliverance, Excalibur, and The Emerald Forest, cutting his directorial teeth on something like this must have felt like a step down. But with a cast that includes a fresh-faced Brad Pitt, Jill Schoelen, Martin Mull, and the aforementioned sock-sniffing McDowall, what could go wrong?
It goes without saying that the biggest draw of Cutting Class is, of course, Brad Pitt. A couple of years before his minor break-out in Thelma & Louise (and only 6 years before Se7en), Cutting Class was one of his first starring vehicles. His performances is, well, it’s kind of all over the place. He gives it his all and you can see the talent, but it doesn’t appear to have been guided by strong direction, which seems to be the case with everything else in the film. There are so many bizarre and oddball choices made at every turn that it instantly becomes entertaining, whether it was meant to be that way or not (I personally don’t think it was). A masterpiece it ain’t, but entertaining it is.
Vinegar Syndrome premieres Cutting Class on Blu-ray with a new 4K restoration from the original uncut 35mm camera negative. It’s a gorgeous transfer with strong but unobtrusive grain reproduction, appearing natural and film-like with an abundance of depth and detail. Black levels are deep and everything appears bright and colorful. There’s an extremely minor dip in quality during the uncut moments, but it’s so subtle that you may not even notice. There’s also been no artificial sharpening or excessive clean-up done. Minor imperfections such as speckling are leftover, but otherwise, it’s a problem-free presentation.
The audio is presented in the original English mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Despite its one channel nature, the audio definitely has teeth, particularly when it comes to score and sound effects, with both given plenty of amplitude. Dialogue is always clear and discernable throughout and everything is mixed together well with no distortion.
A very nice set of extras follows, including an audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues! podcast; Un-cutting Class, a 21-minute interview with actress Jill Schoelen, who admits that she didn’t even want to do the film initially; Donovan Makes the Cut, a 17-minute interview with actor Donovan Leitch; a 46-minute audio interview with director Rospo Pallenberg; a 24-minute audio interview with director of photography Avi Karpick; Kill Comparisons, which shows a side-by-side assessment of the unrated and R-rated versions; the original theatrical trailer; and a DVD copy of the film.
Home video and repeated cable airings have been somewhat kind to Cutting Class since its original theatrical release. It’s definitely a film with a lot of cult appeal, but is actually much more enjoyable than some of its naysayers may lead you to believe. Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment of the title is top notch, and definitely worth picking up if you’re a genre fan. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons