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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Three O'Clock High (Blu-ray)
Three O'Clock High (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // PG-13 // October 17, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $22.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted September 29, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I'm going to exercise some leeway and basically both gripe about the fact that Three O'Clock High is 30 years old and I get a little melancholy about my gradual physical decline. In a way it's fitting that you could be surprised that this film IS this old, considering it was fairly off the radar at initial release, lost in the undertow of the mammoth current of John Hughes films at the time (speaking as a fan of same, of course). But it remains fun and funny, reveling in its dark nature, and Shout! has decided to give it a Blu-ray treatment.

Written by Richard Christian Matheson and Tom Szolossi (The A-Team) and directed by Phil Joanou (State of Grace), the film covers a day in the life of a high schooler named Jerry Mitchell (Casey Siemaszko, Back to the Future), who writes for the paper and runs the school store. He's given the chance to interview a quiet but very tough new student named Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson, Kingpin). Rumors of how tough Buddy is have been spreading across the school like wildfire and Jerry wants to try and humanize him. He makes the mistake of touching Buddy, and Buddy says that now, they are going to fight, at 3pm that day. The rest of the day finds Jerry trying to figure out ways to get out of the fight.

Joanou had been working with Steven Spielberg on the short-lived Amazing Stories show and was given the reins in his feature debut, and the result is one that doesn't blow the viewer away, but does a lot of imagery that sets up funny jokes. It starts with the costume choices, making Siemaszko and Tyson slight throwbacks to past characters based on Jerry's thick pop-tart smelling sweater and Buddy's leather jacket, and they live up to those facades well with charismatic performances from both. The supporting cast has some familiar faces in it, and generally there is a mix of mystery (if Savage Steve Holland directed a movie about a fight at school, you get the sense that this would be it) and earnestness to their roles. John P. Ryan (Runaway Train) plays the principal with an awareness to who his students are and what they do. Jeffrey Tambor (The Accountant) plays Mr. Rice, the faculty member who works with Jerry in operating the school store who takes a store robbery closer to heart than expected. Smaller roles include appearances by a super young Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files) and Philip Baker Hall (Hard Eight).

Apparently there's been a warm ancillary reception to Three O'Clock High in the years since its release, and I can understand why; circumstances force a kid to confront his fears and demons, against the biggest demon of all, a school bully. That's kind of timeless when you think about it. Maybe, combined with its dark comedic sensibilities (Jerry's goth girlfriend, crush on a teacher, etc) that's why it's remained on the radar for fans of high school comedies. The John Hughes films are great and strike an emotional cord, and so does this film, albeit in slightly muted and almost as effective moments.

The Blu-ray:
Video:

Three O'Clock High is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen using the AVC codec, and things look good generally. I don't know if a new transfer was struck from the film but film grain is certainly present during viewing, and colors/flesh tones are natural without any artificial push or oversaturation. There wasn't any haloing or artifacts that I picked up on, though there are moments of image softness that mildly distract. It's a decent transfer from Shout!

Audio:

Two-channel DTS-HD MA comes with the film, which is a mild bummer in retrospect because I forgot how sneaky dynamic the film was. Obviously the score from Tangerine Dream gets lost with the stereo here, but the film includes a lot of crowd noise in school hallways, a lot of class bells going off, the library sequence in the second act also. The two-channel track is fine, I just feel like the film would have benefitted from a six-channel one.

Extras:

Joanou records a commentary, with the help of Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, the group responsible for the extras here. He talks about how he came to the film and working with Spielberg before and during the film. He points out how future directors like Barry Sonnenfeld and Paul Feig came to the project in various roles on the production, and he gets into some lighting and shot choices. He also talks about how Martin Scorsese's After Hours was an influence for his film, and he talks about the production challenges and how his confidence in the film grew as shooting went on. It's a decent track and worth checking out for fans of the film.

The other extras are fine, though it is a mild disappointment Siemaszko, Tyson or anyone in the cast participated for them. "Head of the Class" (32:31) is a look at the film from Joanou, though much of the same ground in the commentary is covered here. "Passing the Test" (17:59) looks at the film and putting the script together from Matheson and Szollosi, "School Clothes" (13:43) looks at the wardrobe from costume designer Jane Ruhm. A stills gallery and trailer (1:31) complete things.

Final Thoughts:

I'll have a soft spot in my heart for Three O'Clock High the next time (if ever) it appears on TV, and I think that if given the chances, others will as well. Technically it's fine and the supplements are more than one would expect, though the lack of cast presence on these retrospective pieces hurts a little bit. Now that everyone's back in school the film is certainly worth checking out if you haven't seen it, or see it again if you have.

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