Cutting Class (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 06, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Cutting Class (4K UHD Review)


Rospo Pallenberg

Release Date(s)

1989 (January 30, 2024)


Gower Street Films/April Films (MVD Rewind Collection)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B-

Cutting Class (4K UHD)



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 Roddy 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 performance 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.

Cutting Class was shot on 35 mm film by cinematographer Avraham Karpick using Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The MVD Rewind Collection brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time with a 2018 4K restoration of the original uncut camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 only), and presented on a BD-100 disc. This restoration was featured on Vinegar Syndrome’s 2019 Blu-ray release, and though it’s culled from the same source, the advantages are clear: higher levels of detail and a more robust bitrate that frequently sits between 80 to 100Mbps. Grain is much more pronounced, occasionally wavering due to the original elements, but never seems all that intrusive. It’s film-like with occasional moments that sport speckling and scratches, but otherwise appears clean and sharp (the opening titles are least attractive of the lot). There’s a minor dip in quality during the uncut moments, but it’s so subtle at times that you may not even notice. Everything is also bright and colorful, which the HDR grade has further boosted, enhancing nuances in clothing and skin textures. Blacks are deep with good contrast as well. It’s definitely a step up from the previous Blu-ray, which was already excellent to begin with.

Audio is presented in English 2.0 mono LPCM (the previous release included a single channel mono DTS-HD Master Audio track) and English 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. Despite its one channel nature, the mono audio definitely has teeth, particularly when it comes to score and sound effects, with both given plenty of amplitude. Dialogue is always clear and discernible and everything is mixed together well with no distortion.

The MVD Rewind Collection release of Cutting Class on 4K UHD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray containing both the film and extras. Also included is a small folded poster, a slipcover, and a double-sided insert, all featuring variations on the original theatrical artwork, and all but one sporting MVD’s usual 4K LaserVision Collection logo. The following extras are included on the Blu-ray only (the UHD contains the film’s trailer in 4K with HDR):

  • R-Rated Version (SD – 90:52)
  • Un-Cutting Class: An Interview with Jill Schoelen (HD – 20:26)
  • Donovan Makes the Cut (HD – 16:25)
  • Find the Killer and Win VHS Video Store Retailer Promo (SD – 4:11)
  • Kill Comparisons: Unrated VS. R-rated Versions (HD – 3:53)
  • Trailers:
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:35)
    • Ghoulies (SD – 1:55)
    • Vampire’s Kiss (HD – 2:04)
    • Swamp Thing (HD – 1:31)
    • Witch Trap (SD – 2:31)
    • Jack Frost (SD – 1:31)

The majority of the extras are sourced from Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release. The R-Rated version of the film is presented in standard definition, which is mostly sourced from the high def transfer, but in lower quality. Un-Cutting Class features an interview with actress Jill Schoelen, who admits that she didn’t even want to do the film initially, while Donovan Makes the Cut offers an interview with actor Donovan Leitch. Find the Killer and Win is a VHS video store retailer promo for the film’s release on home video. Kill Comparisons is a side-by-side assessment of the unrated and R-rated versions. Last is the film’s trailer and trailers for other MVD releases. Not carried over from the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray is The Hysteria Continues! audio commentary and separate audio interviews with director Rospo Pallenberg and director of photography Avi Karpick. It’s worth noting that Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray also included a DVD copy, as well as a selection of multiple slipcovers during its initial release.

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. MVD Rewind’s 4K upgrade is top notch, and definitely worth picking up if you’re a genre fan. Highly recommended.

- Tim Salmons

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