“You and me,
we’re gonna have a fight.
In the parking lot.
You try and run, I’m gonna track you down.
You go to a teacher, it’s only gonna get worse.
You sneak home, I’m gonna be under your bed.”
Three O’Clock High is directed by Phil Joanou and produced by Steven Spielberg who asked to have his name removed because apparently he was expecting something along the line of The Karate Kid (1984) but ended up with something closer to Scorsese. The film stars Casey Siemaszko, who appeared as 3-D in the first two Back to the Future films as Jerry Mitchell who runs afoul of new pupil Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson) on his very first day at Jerry’s secondary school and is promptly challenged to a fight in the car park at 3 O’clock.
Jerry’s crime? Asking to interview Buddy for an article for the school newspaper after that job was dumped on him by his friend and Jerry is fully aware of the stories about Buddy being thrown out of his last school and narrowly avoiding prison.
Jerry has until 3pm to find his way out of the scrap or else! This leaves him trying to muster whatever ploys his ever-increasingly panicked mind can think up, whilst also having to suffer the help from his friends.
The casting is perfect, you have the smaller, nervous looking/sounding Jerry contrasted with the stoic, menacing mountain that is Buddy whose effective, on-screen presence combined with Tyson’s restrained performance continues to linger and torment Jerry in his absence. You can almost experience Jerry’s fear as you are constantly shown the time escaping him as the actions he takes fix the mess he finds himself, unjustly, in only serve to destroy not only the perfectly crafted school life he has made through his hard work but also his future plans.
The music by Tangerine Dreams fits very well but the camera work is top notch. The first, opening shot of Jerry in bed turning to see his alarm clock displays the nice use of movement and crane work throughout the rest of the movie that conveys just how trapped Jerry is.
The school’s ending scene closely mirrors the its first and shows how most people’s reputations and feats tend to be nowt more than exaggerated Chinese whispers and as much as this applies to the final confrontation, there is the usual suspension of the rules for this world the film has spent the last 90 minutes creating.
Overall a very 80s fare that the trailer accurately sums up but be warned, the trailer does give too much of the film away and is best watched not knowing what steps Jerry takes.