Sunday, May 20, 2012
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES: HALL OF FAME: FILE #0019: THREE O'CLOCK HIGH (1987)
Written By: Richard Christian Matheson &Thomas Szollosi
Cinematgoraphy By: Barry Sonnenfeld
Editor: Joe Ann Fogle
Original Music By: Tangerine Dream
Cast: Casey Siemaszko, Annie Ryan, Liza Morrow, Richard Tyson, Stacey Glick, Jonathan Wise, Jeffrey Tambor, Philip Baker Hall, Mitch Pileggi, John P. Ryan, Paul Feig, Yeardley Smith
A high school nerd, Jerry Mitchell (Siemaszko) is assigned to write a piece for the school paper about new boy Buddy Revell (Tyson), who is rumored to be a psychopathic nutcase. When Jerry accidentally touches Buddy, he says that they must fight in the parking lot at 3pm. Jerry will just about do anything to avoid the confrontation.
Sure the film is dated and most of the teenagers look way too old. You quickly forget that as soon as the main story starts to reveal itself the film has a lot of playfulness and energy. It is a undiscovered gem in my eyes. While it is a sly update of HIGH NOON. Unlike high noon though instead of trying to get people to help him in the fight, where he will be outnumbered. The main character here spends most of the film trying to find ways out of the fight. I can see why, The bully played by Richard Tyson I would be afraid of too. The way he looks in this film is like a giant shaved neanderthal This challenge actually life changing for him. It makes him one of the most popular kids In school. Even with teachers. Everyone tries to befriend him with their own agendas. The A.V. club want to make a documentary of the fight. The popular girl in school wants to date him just in case he wins. His girlfriend wants to take his virginity. only due to her astrological guide. This is just a ridiculously fun film to discover and spread to your friends.
Unfortunately I have never seen this film on the big screen. I discovered it when they used to play it on cable and television. It became a fast favorite. That I would watch every time it would come on. The film has wild stylized angles that doesn’t distract from the film. It does intensify scenes for whatever use dramatic, comedic, alienation, etc. it is actually perfect for the story.
It’s a shame director Phil Jonau didn’t have a more distinguished career as he serves the material well enough with the lightness and breezy direction the film calls for that gets serious when it needs to. He made a few good films. None as underated as this film. None recently either. He Definitely has talent as most of his films were creative to a degree. He seems just like with this film to try to do the familiar story while being presenting it differently then what we are used to.
The film moves so fast it’s like a human cartoon at times. It’s full of quirks and is more of a comedy then anything else and the ending fight doesn’t let you down in the least. The film is totally madcap and brings enjoyment. That is why it has stayed with me and meant so much to me over the years it has no pretentions other then being entertaining it’s not deep. It feels like a exhilarating film filled with good actors. It is the closest to a studio film while having it’s own identity with a respectful budget I have seen. Maybe watching it is a nostalgic trip for me, but I love it.
What adds to the movie is the fact that there are no stars in the film. The actors are recognizable but none went on to super stardom. The actors are also regular looking. None have bombshell or matinee idol looks. They are attractive but on ones look is really stand of and it makes the characters a little more real. You are not taken completely out of the movie thinking of the star or actor instead of the character or performance. Which also helps since most of the cast playing teenagers look too old to properly play the parts believably. Yes it could have used a teenage star in the lead but that is a nitpick and even though set in the recognizable 80’s.
The film has a blandness when it comes to style that makes it timeless. Steven Spielberg was one of the Executive Producers of the film, He strangely asked for his name taken off the film. He felt after seeing the Test Screenings the film would be a hit without his name in the credits. He was wrong. He should have kept his name on it if he truly believed in it. It’s a film certainly to be proud of and lends itself to his sensabilities. Better then some other films he has his name on.
A DEFINITE ADDITION TO THE HOME LIBRARY