Thursday, May 7, 2015

USA UP ALL NIGHT WEEK: Dr. Terror's Nukem High Retrospective!

Class of Nukem High 1,2 and Return (1986,91,2014) Directed by Lloyd Kaufman/ Richard Haines, Donald G. Jackson and Kaufman again.
Crank here with a little intro, Doc Terror was nice enough to pitch in this article that really shows the influence or mind tendrils that infected late night cable viewers in the mid 80's, before the internet decimated it all and here with a site like this we get to rehash all the memories all over again (conveniently). I hope you've enjoyed this week of trash and make sure you read his blog and Thanks again and take it away Dr. T!

A confluence of influences have brought me to the strange place where I feel compelled to discuss Class of Nuke ‘Em High as it was show on USA Up All Night. About a year ago Shawn Savage of The Liberal Dead asked me if I wanted to take part in a retrospective series featuring films shown by our favorite horror hosts of yesteryear. I went Commander USA. He went Up All Night and in the end we didn’t do a goddamn thing with the idea because we simply got too busy (read that lazy).


Enter a week ago when I stood in the same room as Gilbert Gottfried at Chiller Theater in New Jersey. I looked over at his line, and thought to myself, “I wish that were Rhonda. I’d be on that line. I’d have her sign my boobs”. I enjoy Gilbert, but the thought of hearing his voice in person actually inverted my Rhonda-derived boner. I laughed quietly to myself, realized everyone was staring at me and then preceded to watch William Katt discuss Naked Obsession (reviewed here) to comedic and uncomfortable intent. Combine all that with just having received Class of Nuke ‘Em High 2 in the mail to review, and some kind of strange synchronicity must be at work. I suppose living in New Jersey should force me to discuss Tromaville daily, but since it hasn’t and since I have only seen one nuclear plant in my tenor in Jerz, I can only assume that’s where the subhumanoids live.  

Don't drink the water!

You’d think that I would want to discuss Class of Nuke ‘Em High 2. I have to review it anyway, and Up All Night showed it the very same night they showed the original. Truth is that I feel a strong connection to the original and not to the sequel (or third installment). Furthermore, Up All Night showed them in reverse order in 1992 and it feels like an injustice was met upon a film that should be staple programming if you live in the garden state.  Rhonda and co. were at the American Film Market and interviewed select members of the Troma team from licensing exec to Tromette, everyone gets a shot at Shear. The witty banter and classic punny humor that ensues is perfect for Troma who plies themselves as the good natured underdog of the independent film world. They love boobs. They love merchandising and really selling a product that is unique; products that are Troma and not the thing of Hollywood leftovers or imitation. That should make it ironic that we are discussing a movie that pulls together some of the stereotypes used in Hollywood filmmaking in the 1980’s, many invented in the sex comedies that gave Lloyd Kaufman his start.

We're The Youth of Today!

Let’s enter Nuke ‘Em High, a typical 80’s high school filled with the usual cast of characters. From pre-Zach Morris preppy to mondo bizzaro mega nerd, from gang o’ hoodlums pierced in anti-MRI protest to sickly sweet teachers that crumble up No Doz and drip it in their eyeballs between periods. This is a school of stereotypes taken straight out of your favorite sex comedy. Kaufman having directed Squeeze Play early on in his career new how to take this formula and modify it to his gross, Alka Seltzer driven vomitory purposes. You can take any sex comedy from the 70’s or 80’s and you’ll find perfect similarities to early Troma horror features. That’s why they resonate so well with an audience. The anti-sex, oversexed and mutually assured gore that can only be seen in unregulated, independent cinema must get the in eyeballs to be believed. Simply by putting a familiar group in front of the lens, we don’t need characters developed. We can watch the movie for important reasons like tits and oversized cocks.

The basic gist is that a nuclear power plant next to Tromavilla High School has a reactor leak that goes uncontrolled for an extended period of time. The leak gets into the water supply and oozes up from under the high school causing strange mutations in both the changing, hormonal bodies of the students and their bodily fluids. The battle for Nuke ‘Em High is for student safety, freedom from toxic contamination and a creature feature battle that has hallmarks of Deadly Spawn. What you end up with is part monster movie, part enviro-horror, part body horror to rival any Cronenberg classic (at least in ideology and not in prowess of filmmaking), part teen coming of age story and all Troma. Clearly this pales in comparison to the one note, found footage, exorcismatic, possession fests of today, but back in the day we need storylines within our storylines to get through even a minute of techno-colored, Aquanet trash.

From film cans modified into Uranium containers, painted yellow and orange to an overuse of warning signs and pro-nuclear sentiment signage, the point of the movie is to make you think just long enough to get you not thinking about just how silly the premise is. By the time you’ve watched a suicide attempt in front of the student body, you’re too busy watching green foam emit from all points of entry and exit on a student’s body, the site of which is pure prankster but very effective (unless you’ve watched Street Trash). Let’s take all the students that we’ve come to fit into nice, familiar boxes and then do crazy shit with them like put them in a bikini frat party wearing an overabundance of Nike apparel, drinking sun tan lotion. Let’s get them to fuck after getting an “atomic high” on pot laced with toxic waste. You’ll never guess what happens when our “hero” gets morning wood the next morning during a wet dream.  Hint: that atomic cock puts John Holmes to shame. 
It gets the ladies real hot!

Class of Nuke ‘Em High has some low budget effects that make the film feel perfectly cheeseball. You’re expected to laugh at Nuke ‘Em High and all Troma films. They aren’t meant to scare you. They are meant to be entertaining flicks filled with the naughty bits your mom and dad warned you about or told you to confess to when you made your first communion. You’re able to ignore a neck flap of latex jumping around on an actor’s neck as he writhes about because you are meant to laugh.  Yes, that’s facial hair growing out of the tip of that guy’s nose. Yes it looks ridiculous, but at least you remember it for being ridiculous. Don’t try this at home kids. Plot does not sell movies. Green ooze sells movies.  Nuke ‘Em High received a remake by Troma in 2013 called Return to Nuke ‘Em High. So aware of the disdain for remakes Troma was, that they made fun of themselves for updating the movie for a more modern audience who needed sex with their hip diet trend. Rather than set up Return for a sequel, they simply subdivided the movie into two parts, saving themselves from the shame of creating another shitty sequel as they did with the first picture. 

The music is fantastic and was recently released on vinyl via Ship To Shore Phonography Co. It’s a colorful release that features original artwork based on the film. The main theme of the movie is sure to stick out as classic “horror song with the horror movie’s title” fare, a particular weakness of mine.
For this discussion I reviewed the Arrow Video Blu-ray. 

The version you would have seen in 1992 on Up All Night would have been cut to ribbons as would have been necessary. I remember when this aired though not much sticks out from my original viewing of these movies save for a few Toxic Crusaders toys in the Troma suite at the American Film Market and the post-coital wakeup wood sequence, but in revisiting the movie and Up All Night segments I am reminded of the educational importance of a displaying movie with a horror host. You need context. You need to understand the industry or players behind the scenes to appreciate a picture. Before there were DVD extras, we had charismatic hosts with boobs to guide us through the libraries of shit and shinola. And yeah, maybe I cranked a few out to Rhonda while I was waiting for the movie to start again, but that’s better than cranking one out to infomercials for spray-grass at 2am. 

You can enjoy the original Up All Night featuring Class of Nuke ‘Em High 1 and 2 here: (LINK)
The aforementioned vinyl release of the soundtrack is here (though it is sold out): (RECORD LINK)

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