Blu-ray Review: Three O’Clock High | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, June 16th, 2021  

Three O’Clock High: Collector’s Edition

Studio: Shout! Factory

Oct 16, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Jerry Mitchell is your model high school student: mild-mannered, well-studied, and a volunteer clerk-accountant for the school store. The newest kid in town is Buddy Revell, a fresh transfer from juvenile detention who scares the living daylights out of just about the entire student body. When the school paper assigns Jerry a profile of the new kid, he unintentionally pisses him off, leading to a terrifying promise: after school, at three o’clock sharp, Buddy and Jerry are going to fight. Thus triggers the events of Three O’Clock High, which covers a single, panic-stricken day in the life of the smaller, meeker Jerry, as he tries to find any way he can to escape getting his ass kicked when school lets out.

A creative take on High Noon – or, as the director admits to mimicking in the disc’s bonus features, Scorsese’s After Hours Three O’Clock High is one of the more fun, semi-forgotten teen films of the 1980s. Ghost-produced by Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, Three O’Clock High was the first feature from Phil Joanou, a filmmaker even better known for directing classic music videos from U2 and Tom Petty. (Spielberg gave Joanou the script, but Aaron Spelling owned its rights, which is why the Jaws director’s name doesn’t appear on the movie.) Joanou’s visual sense shines through, with all sorts of quick zooms, fast cuts, and a loud (literal) ticking clock lending tension to the film’s passage of time – much of it kinda looks like an ‘80s music video. (That’s meant positively: it was shot by Coen Brothers collaborator and future director Barry Sonnenfeld.) There was hope from Universal that this film would have similar success to what John Hughes’ brat pack movies were enjoying, but Three O’Clock High landed with a thud in the fall of 1987, barely cracking the top ten in its opening weekend and getting mixed review from critics. (Roger Ebert hated the film, giving it one out of four stars; The New York Times’ Janet Maslin, at least, praised its sharp visuals.)

Thirty years on, Three O’Clock High is somewhat better appraised. Casey Siemaszko is believably meek as Jerry Mitchell, a character who – for most of the film’s run time – plays a proverbial lamb being marched to the slaughter. Longtime character actor Richard Tyson – probably best known for his villainous turn in Kindergarten Cop – is suitably intimidating as the movie’s towering, stone-faced bully. While the other main characters remained relatively unknown, the larger cast is filled out by a bunch of great character actors, though, including Jeffrey Tambor, John P. Ryan, Phliip Baker Hall, Mitch Pileggi, Alice “Large Marge” Nunn, and Shirley Stoler, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them early performances from teenage Paul Feig and Yeardley “Lisa Simpson” Smith.

Shout! Factory have adopted Three O’Clock High into their Shout Select lineup, gracing it with a cleaned-up Blu-ray presentation and a handful of new extra features. Included among these are new interviews with the director, costume designer, and screenwriters, and director’s commentary, alongside staples like a stills gallery and theatrical trailer.


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