Remember the good old days of home video, when we watched things called VHS tapes (or maybe even Beta) that we rented at the grocery store, on machines that loaded from the top? Back in those days the options of what you could watch were limited, but it didn't matter, because the concept of watching a movie at home totally kicked ass. And if you were somehow able to rent an R-rated exploitation flick with violence and gratuitous nudity (once again, from the grocery store) that kicked even more ass.
Two of the best exploitation flicks from those bygone days—Class of 1984 and Vice Squad—were recently released on DVD, and while the effect of watching them is no longer the same, both still hold up remarkably well. Director Mark Lester's 1982 cult classic, Class of 1984, is just as brutal and depraved now as it was then. Perry King stars as Andy Norris, an idealistic high-school music teacher who gets a job at the sort of high school that makes prisons look pleasant. It doesn't take long before Norris runs afoul of Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) and his gang of juvenile delinquents who will push the teacher into a blood-spattered killing rampage.
Basically an update of 1955's Blackboard Jungle, starring Glenn Ford in a cautionary tale about a dedicated teacher rumbling with bloodthirsty JDs, mixed with a healthy dose of the early vigilante genre that dominated drive-in theaters and inner-city grindhouses in the 1970s and '80s, Class of 1984 is a gem of trash cinema. In this day and age you could never get away with making a film in which a gang of teenagers defiles the wife of their music teacher, only to have him wipe them all off the face of the earth. The film earns bonus points for featuring Michael J. Fox's inspired performance as Artie the nerd.
Even by the standards of grindhouse cinema, where the laws of good taste and political correctness are nonexistent, director Gary Sherman's 1982 film Vice Squad stands head and shoulders above so many others. Gary Swanson stars as a hardboiled vice cop who uses a hooker with a heart of gold (Season Hubley) to bring down a killer pimp named Ramrod (Wings Hauser). The violence and depravity are nonstop as Ramrod wreaks havoc with his deadly pimp stick, and Hauser earns his place in cinematic history as the best pimp ever portrayed by a white guy.