“Massacre at Central High” is Grade A Exploitation!
David just transferred to Central High School, reuniting with his good friend Mark, but Mark is no longer a part of the outcasted crowd at his new high school as he has joined Bruce and his pals to be the apex elite in the school’s lopsided social hierarchy. Refusing to abide by the relentless and ruthless bullying, attempted rape, and intended bodily harm, David stands up for the oppressed with firm and actionable rebuke. Bruce and his gang don’t take kindly to David’s opposing behavior and purposefully cripple him to teach him a lesson in disobedience punishment under their sovereign thumb, but what doesn’t kill David makes him a retribution killer as he begins his one-by-one takedown of the disparaging upper-class. When there are no more bullies left at Central High, the once oppressed turn into the oppressors and it’s up to David to continue the cleanse of megalomanias.
Now here’s a unique take on the revenge thriller that doesn’t involve the conventional concepts of a slaughter escapade return from being nearly raped to death or to exact revenge for the untimely and heinous murder of a loved one at the hand of sociopathic other. “Massacre at Central High,” written and directed by the late Netherlands filmmaker Rene Daalder, is the sociopolitical, slashereseque picture from 1976 that is just as parentless and bizarre as it is cold in its exaggerated truth of undiplomatic ways. Also known as “Sexy Jeans,” the Italian X-rated interposed cut, “Massacre at Central High,“ is Daalder’s second feature behind his 1969 exploitation and organized crime thriller “The White Slave” that tells the story of one man’s righteous crusade turns into a bungled mess with him being intertwined in a scheme to sell unsuspecting young Dutch women into sexual slavery. Daalder’s sophomore film might not be as controversial, but certainly maintains that provocative and erotica bravado under the otherworldly shadow of an ultra-angsty high school veneer. Filmed in and mostly around Los Angeles’s Griffith Park that included an abandoned private high school in Burbank, “Massacre at Central High” is produced Harold Sobel (“Very Close Quarters”) with Jerome Bauman serving as executive producer.
Before he was the four-eyed face of the franchise where it was cool to be square in “Revenge of the Nerds,” Robert Carradine landed one of his first principal roles in Daalder’s “Massacre at Central High” as free-lovin’ hippie, Spoony. Though Spoony is an activist idealist and gets two chicks, the half-brother of David Carradine wasn’t in the star lead though he certainly had the presence and the state of mind to withstand it. Instead, Derrel Maury enveloped the role David that seeks vigilante justice to a bunch of entitled school bullies lead by Bruce (Ray Underwood, “Jennifer”) with Craig (Steve Bond, “The Prey”) and Paul (Damon Douglas) being a part of his gang. Maury’s deep eyes and good looks make him a shoe in to be one of the top-predators to join Bruce’s paleoconservative circle and, as David, his personal connection with good friend Mark (Andrew Stevens, “The Terror Within”) who eggs, basically begging and pleading, David continuously to join or face the consequences of Bruce’s wrath. The acting and dynamics between this already complicated group of late teens is basic in its formulaic high school turmoil but also very disturbing on many levels that puts the boys-will-by-boys mantra into a whole new comfortless light. We all know characters like Bruce and his lackeys from High School where guys like him think the student body pledges allegiance to their unofficial rule; Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, and Damon Douglas do a phenomenal job of letting you hate them for who they portray with characters who are not beneath attempting the rape of two female peers in broad daylight and in one of the classrooms. To provide another twist to this tale, Bruce and his gang are not the real antagonists in the story but rather just a part of a bigger, broader discernment that’s infectious as it is dangerous in the realm of political power and hierarchy. Kimberly Beck is the angling love interesting that teeters between good friends Mark and David and “Friday the 13 Part IV: The Final Chapter” actress ultimately doesn’t become the focal purpose to David’s revenge (remember, this isn’t a typical revenge narrative) as Beck more than spurs jealously with her feelings for David as well as become eye candy with gratuitous and beachy full frontal nudie scenes. “Massacre at Central High” rounds out the cast with Steve Sikes (“Horrid”), Tom Logan, Jeffrey Winner, Rainbeaux Smith, Dennis Kort, and Lani O’Grady.
The sociopolitical aspect of “Massacre at Central High” is by far the most compelling with the story’s uncompromising subcomponents of teenage high school perils. The fact that are zero parents introduced into the mix makes Daalder’s narrative that much crisper in its poignancy as these children are left to fend for themselves in like some bizarro version of William Golding “Lord of the Flies” that dives into similar themes such as groupthink mentality, social organizations that reshuffles into a lemming trajectory, and even outlier themes comparing Bruce’s gang to Nazism. Behaviors turn on a dime for the worst and bring out the worst when the opportunity to govern the school affairs leads to an asymmetrical power struggle. Even David, our hero of the story, isn’t immune to the adverse effects of change when pushed beyond reasonable reaction after having his leg crushed and he left maimed by Bruce. To David, this turning point reduces down below differentiating the difference between morality and immorality as he views them as equals to right-the-wrongs and to be a way to level out toward equity for all, a quality that’s been an attribute to David’s pre-murderous existence ever since transferring to the school, but the all-around good guy couldn’t rub off the impartial view of the world to others and so he finds himself in a continuous solo crusade of course correcting. “Massacre of Central High” isn’t as austere as “House of the Flies” as its facade is campy and contrived in an artificial manner. The parentless environment disintegrates principles right at the door in “Massacre of Central High’s” biodome of guttersnipes and that sections off this gem from other exploitation ventures in a must-see good way.
Enroll yourself for September 13th releasing of “Massacre at Central High” on Blu-ray home video from Synapse! The spectacular course offers a region free, AVC encoded BD50 Blu-ray that presents the feature in 1080p at a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the take on the director’s approved 35mm remastered presentation is tight, detailed, and utterly clean. Color palette is warm but diverse with a great bit of contrast where needed, such as the nighttime skinny dip and love-makin’ beach scenes. Virtually free of wear and imperfections, the impeccable transfer dodges four and half decades of negative ageing with great delineation to show for it. The original English DTS-HD Master Audio mono soundtrack is the only audio option on this release and is more than adequate with the same clarity as the picture. There’s quite a few, ACME-ish style explosions, a tumbling rocks scene, and spates of variable automobile revs, exhausts, and engines to quench an audiophile’s interest with a broad ambient range. With the original soundtrack comes Tommy Leonetti’s clashing lead melodic and easy listening track “Crossroads” that sticks out like a sore love song thumb in the background of murderous revenge. Newly translated optional English subtitles are available. The bonus material includes an audio commentary by “The Projection Booth” podcaster Mike White interviewing cast members Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Derrel Maury, and Rex Steven Sikes. Also included is an archived audio interview with director Renee Daalder with horror historian Michael Gingold, Hell in the Hallways making of featurette with new recollection interviews from the cast and cinematographer, fellow Netherlands native Bertram van Munster, theatrical trailer, TV, and radio spots, and a still gallery. The film is rated R and has a runtime of 88-minutes. “Massacre at Central High” focuses more on detonation than detention as bodies pile high in this explosive dog-eat-dog hatchetjob of unsupervised minors gone wild.