Color, 1982, 85 mins. 33 secs.
Directed by Michael Miller
Starring Gerrit Graham, Michael Lerner, Fred McCarren, Miriam Flynn, Stephen Furst, Marya Small, Shelley Smith, Zane Buzby, Jim Staahl, Jacklyn Zeman, Blackie Dammett, Art Evans, Randy Powell, Misty Rowe, Anne Ramsey
Kino Lorber Studio Classics (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC), MGM, Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (!6:9)

Released National Lampoon's Class Reunionto an underwhelming reception National Lampoon's Class Reunionfour years after the wildly successful National Lampoon's Animal House, this sort-of slasher spoof was the second film to bear the stamp of that trailblazing humor publication, with another (Midnight Madness) getting released almost at the same time. Today it's mostly remembered as the first film written by one of the magazine's shining lights, John Hughes, who would go on to write the far more successful National Lampoon's Vacation and direct the decade's most influential teen films. Today the film is more of a baffling, sometimes amusing oddity made by people who hadn't actually seen any horror movies; mostly it works best when it simply relaxes and serves as a showcase for a staggering roster of Second City talent, some of whom wouldn't get such a generous opportunity in front of the camera again.

In 1972, the graduating class at Lizzie Borden High is out celebrating with beer and joints around a campfire in the middle of the woods. They decide to play a prank on the biggest misfit in the bunch, Walter Baylor (Dammett, father of Anthony Kiedis), by promising him a night in heaven in a car with the most glamorous girl in school, Meredith (Smith). One condition: he has to wear a paper bag over his head, as will she to compensate for her shyness. Of course it all turns out traumatically when it turns out he's actually making out with... well, the film doesn't spoil it right away, but it's a joke as sick as the one pulled at the beginning of National Lampoon's Class ReunionTerror Train. Ten National Lampoon's Class Reunionyears later, the class reunion brings everyone back together at the now dilapidated school where Chuck Berry shows up to play three songs for no good reason. Among the attendees are uber preppy Bob (Graham), the utterly forgettable Gary (McCarren), unrelenting pig Hubert (Furst), stoner Carl (Evans), and blind and deaf Iris (Small), the butt of the film's nastiest gags. Also on hand are Delores (future Last Resort director Buzby), who's been given supernatural powers by the devil to the surprise of no one, and Egon (Staahl), who is... um, a vampire. Suddenly Dr. Young (Lerner) from the nearby hospital for the clinically insane shows up and informs everyone that Walter has escaped, and sure enough, he has murder on his mind starting with the cafeteria chef (Ramsey) and moving on to all those who wronged him.

Though it reportedly stuck very close to the script, this scatter-shot comedy feels like a largely improvised drug bender captured on film right down to the undeniably unique ending, which comes up with an unexpected fate for its homicidal villain and winds up with a big dance number because... well, why not? In other words it's just the kind of thing that worked better National Lampoon's Class Reunionas a late night cable TV staple where viewers could wander in and out at will, a fate that also befell other slasher-ish comedies around the same time National Lampoon's Class Reunionlike Wacko, Pandemonium, and the most memorable of the bunch, Student Bodies. It's also fascinating to see the various acting styles at work here with Graham trying on a snooty accent (culled from his own real-life prep school experience) and Buzby, the film's MVP, swiping all of her scenes with a wild-eyed performance that has to be seen to be believed. There's even a small part for gorgeous TV staple Misty Rowe, who provides the film's requisite (partial) nudity and also played Marilyn Monroe in a couple of Larry Buchanan films. Despite the R rating, the film is surprisingly tame with no gore and only a few mildly raunchy jokes, the weirdest being a subdued but gross menstrual one involving Egon.

An ABC Motion Pictures production released by Fox, Class Reunion first appeared on DVD as a bare bones release from Anchor Bay in 2000 with a reissue from MGM in 2005. However, the one to go for is definitely the 2018 Kino Lorber edition mastered from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. It looks pretty astonishing if you're used to the drab look this one has had on video until now, with the many dark hallway scenes now boasting some genuine Gothic atmosphere at times. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 National Lampoon's Class Reuniontrack is also a National Lampoon's Class Reunionsolid replication of the film's Dolby Stereo presentation in theaters. A new audio commentary with director Michael Miller (who had earlier helmed Jackson County Jail and Silent Rage, believe it or not) and stunt coordinator Dean Raphael Ferrandini is moderated by filmmaker Douglas Hosdale and sheds quite a bit of light on how the production came together under rather quick circumstances. Miller's background with Second City and Roger Corman served him well for the 30-day shoot, though he frequently bemoans the "corporate" elements that interfered with some of the execution. They also share stories about the odd issue that ruffled SAG's feathers and, in one truly surreal moment, compare a comic bit to Harold Lloyd. Also included is a new video interview with Graham (12m56s), who fondly recalls working with familiar faces from his Second City tenure, his background with Miller, the ridiculously inadequate band members sent over for Berry, and the film's reception that was likely hampered by the unrealistic expectations set up following Animal House. The unusual theatrical trailer (which features no footage from the actual film) isn't included here, but you can find it on Trailer Trauma 3: '80s Horrorthon; however, there are bonus trailers for Up the Creek, Moving Violations, Porky's II: The Next Day, Porky's Revenge, and Miracle Beach.

National Lampoon's Class Reunion National Lampoon's Class Reunion National Lampoon's Class Reunion

Reviewed on November 30, 2018.