At Oceana High School, you’re either one of the local kids or you’re nothing. That’s how the aspired musician Bobby Parker and his friends are treated when their parents are transferred into town to build a powerplant. Shunned, ridiculed, and bully, Bobby can’t seem to catch a break even when he steals the heart of Noreen Hedges, a popular local and the sister of most bigoted bully of them all, James. To James who has essentially the entire town behind his way of obnoxious, intolerant thinking, Bobby Parker is no better than scum and is unwelcome anywhere in town, even at the local waterhole called The Shandy. After sneaking into The Shandy to see Noreen, Bobby is left in a heap of trouble with the law when a near fatal accident lands one of the local girls, James’s girlfriend, in the hospital. Looking to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget, James and his lackeys bring a gun to school to scare him but when a teacher is shot and James finds himself holding hostage his homeroom class with the gun, he’ll need to prove his innocence to his narrow-minded classmates as well as the police with itchy trigger fingers.
Mondays are the worst. When you’re a teenager coming off a weekend, that bell ringing at the start of the week is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. When you’re a teenager who’s constantly bullied by popular jerk and the entire prejudging town that only sees you as an outsider, Mondays could shoot anyone’s nerves. Shoot being the key word in Don Murphy’s 1990 release feature film debut, or rather his only feature film credit, “Monday Morning.” Also known as “Class of Fear,” the cult drama with a classroom shooting at centerstage of the narrative feels awfully relevant in today’s tumultuous time of school and mass shootings. Where the topical issue of gun control is on the edge of every Red and Blue politician’s lips. For Don Murphy, who went on to produce notable blockbusters such as the “Transformer” films as well as cult hits with “Apt Pupil” and “Natural Born Killers,” “Monday Morning” is just a movie without any kind of political or social commentary behind the surface. In fact, Murphy has stated that production was initially a student film that evolved, but the theme behind reality and fantasy are the same in that children-bullying-children can push fragile minds beyond a breaking point. First A.D. of “Caged Heat 3000” Sheila Lightfoot produces the film alongside Murphy as executive producer under the production banner Team Angry Filmworks, Inc.
Noah Blake, the son of child star turned accused wife-murderer Robert Blake, steps into the constantly ragged on shoes of ostracized struggling high schooler Bobby Parker. Bobby’s a never-say-die, never-give-up good guy given a cruddy hand in life as he’s dealt blows not only by his school peers, but also by his father who throws him out of the house for not living up to expectations and even by his band of like misfit friends for being traitorous for trying to live outside the confines of his unwanted status. Bobby’s an extremely likeable and evolving character to almost a fault as he walks into foreknowledge adversarial situations without so much a clue on how to handle unprovoked hostility other than head on. Perfect in the role that’s aggravatingly inspirational on how everyone should be pigheadedly neutral and able to see the good in everything, the “Piranhaconda” actor Blake takes Bobby Parker by the reins and lets the character be a subject of unbridled victimization. One of the more conspicuously unhinged and douchey performances, landing this actor on the opposite end of the spectrum in contrast to Noah Blake, goes to Brandon Hooper as pretty boy bully James Hedges. You really want to just punch James square in his pointy nose because of his incessant nitpicking and tunnel vision on making a crusade out of tormenting Bobby Parker for being in the platonic presence of his girlfriend (Shannon Absher, “Blood Nasty’) and having a romantic relationship with his sister Noreen (Julianne McNamara, “Saturday the 14th Strikes Back”). What’s curious about “Monday Morning” is its ability to drop Bobby Parker’s friends from the principal lineup, with the exception of Bobby’s ride-or-die bestie Bill (Karl Wiedergott, a “The Simpsons” utility voice actor) though initially saturating the narrative with their bickering and turn the attention more on the town’s chief of police, played by “Sorority House Massacre’s” Fitz Houston fitting into his usual typecast role in law enforcement, by introducing one of the classroom hostages as his son (Vincent Craig Dupree, Julius from “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan). Rickey Dean Logan (“Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare”), Marta Marin (“Mindwarp”), Nicole Berger (“American Cyborg: Steel Warrior”), Jason Lively (“Night of the Creeps”), Brian Cole (“Mortuary Academy”), Paul Henry Itkin, Annie O’Donnell, and Lisa Rinna round out the cast.
How writer-director Don Murphy describes his film is “The Breakfast Club” with guns. Granted, Murphy’s firsts draft contained more angst as an angry student holds the whole class hostage at gunpoint for the near entirety of the story, but “Monday Morning” is more akin to “Pretty in Pink” with A gun, isolating teenage cliques, trying to overcome their pressuring biases, and exposing differences in social classes and mistook attitudes. Most of the film is building up to the clinching climatic classroom moment with Bobby trying his damn hardest to be a bridge between the gaps in a “Romeo & Juliet” type relationship that connects spurned outsiders with the spurning locals. “Monday Morning” is a very contained narrative with only a handful of locations, primarily Oceana High and The Shandy, grounding the scale to a much more condense and story friendly design that’s easy to follow and digest. That design isn’t turf war central. We’re not talking about an all-out war between the Jets and Sharks. Murphy, who often co-credits the final script to another screenwriter, rains down a supercell storm cloud’s rain and lightning on the downtrodden outliers to garner a tremendous amount of sympathy and to really beam lasers of hate into the local louts that essentially becomes a turf war just from their perspective for fear of losing their lionization over Oceana and the town. “Monday Morning” embodies that quirky 1980’s teen melodrama with a very real, very terrifying, and very present-day topic that bumps Don Murphy’s movie up into the cult category.
We all agree that Mondays suck, but “Monday Morning” is a Monday associated gem of a film that is now available on a high definition 1080p Blu-ray from Angry Films and MVD Visual as part of MVD’s Rewind Collection banner. The new transfer, taken from the original camera negative of a European based filmstock, is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer release is reasonably well-dressed in color, with an ever so slight teal or gray tinge, and a good enough, above average decompression rate around 28mbps. The transfer does display flashes of damage that look very much like tracking lines, but also could be light exposure on the negative. The audio remains at an English LPCM 2.0 mono and contain static throughout with hissing in portions of the dialogue; however, the tracks are relatively clean enough for discerning dialogue. Bonus features include a high-def, near feature length interview with writer-director Don Murphy doing a deep dive into his background, the film’s backstory, and his recollection of events throughout his career, a high-def, 24-minute Don Murphy from 2019 that looks at the producing career of the filmmaker, and the standard definition VHS version (1.33:1 aspect ratio) of “Monday Morning” under the alternate title “Class of Fear.” The physical release comes with a reversible case cover art with alternate “Class of Fear” and a collectible mini-poster insert housed inside a clear Blu-ray snap case with a cardboard slipcover of the same primary cover except with faux cover damage to resemble a worn-torn rental. Both versions of the film run at 105 minutes and is rated R. A timely release for “Monday Morning” as a film that’ll reexamined and rethought of from its original entertainment purposes to be said that the issue has long since been prevalent and in the back of our minds.