Massacre at Central High (1976)

MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976)
Article 3725 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2011
Posting Date: 10-26-2011
Directed by Rene Daalder
Featuring Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine
Country: USA
What it is: Tale of bloody revenge… but only on the surface

A new student at Central High discovers that his best friend has fallen in with a trio of bullies who terrorize the other students. Despite the fact that he could stay under the protection of the bullies, he can’t stand their tactics, and when violence erupts between them, the new student ends up crippled when the bullies drop a jacked-up car on him. When the student finally returns to school, the bullies begin to die one by one…

On the surface, the story seems to promise little more than the usual “bloody revenge” plot type of thrills. But an uncommon amount of thought went into the characters, the motivations, and the political subtext, and this gives the movie a surprising degree of depth. The political subtext clearly emerges where most movies of this ilk end; once the bullies are dead, we see what happens to the students they formerly oppressed, and it’s not a pretty sight, and the sad reality that having been oppressed does not necessarily ennoble oneself becomes a key theme. The new student is also a fascinating character; though he hates the injustices he sees, he is also aware that he himself has an anger that can spiral out of control; one of my favorite character moments in the movie is when he reveals the trick he has of managing his anger, because once he is crippled in the accident, we know that he can no longer rely on that trick. In some ways, the movie is a fantasy; despite the high school environment, we don’t see a single adult authority figure around; the only authority figures that do appear are some faceless policemen at the very end of the movie, and the only other adults that appear are alumni at a dance near the end of the movie, which means they can be considered as extensions of the students rather than as authority figures. Nevertheless, despite the strengths, there were some problems with the movie; apparently the original script had some pretty bad dialogue, and rather than using it, much of it was improvised on the spot, and the only character who was instructed to keep to the lines as originally written was the boy in the library, and if you can imagine all the other characters talking like he does, you might have an idea of how badly this movie could have ended up. The choice of music for the soundtrack is also pretty weak, and apparently the director never saw the finished film because he himself couldn’t stand the music that was used. Nevertheless, movies with this much thoughtfulness behind them are uncommon, and whatever its flaws, the movie is definitely worth viewing.

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