memories of the ’80s – Heathers

In the late 1980s, two very well-known teen stars made a film about the girls’ clique and how to battle it in the film Heathers.

Starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, the film is about three young women of Westerburg High School who rule the school – a cheerleader, a bookworm and the leader, all named Heather.

Ryder plays Veronica, who gets invited to become friends with the Heathers but soon realizes she doesn’t like the trio and  misses her friends. Slater plays JD, an outsider who taunts bullies and keeps to himself, but attracts the attention of Veronica.

After embarrassing one of the Heathers at a party and being told off, Veronica enlists the help of JD to get back at the trio and proceeds to teach them all lessons in revenge. In the end its a battle of Heathers, Veronica and the very unstable JD.

Written by Daniel Waters, the film was a three hour epic that was rewritten to become a 102 minute dark comedy. Released in March 1989, the film did badly at the box office, barely making $1.1 million in its release, with a budget of $2 million.

But in VHS, the film became a cult classic, and the movie has since made many lists of one of the better highschool teen films of the decade despite its very dark ending.

memories of the ’70s – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Oh the perils of highschool, when a teacher had the power to prevent a student from going to a concert – or thought they did.

There’s always a way, according to Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

Executive producer Roger Corman wanted to create a highschool movie similar to his successes in the 1960s. After several scripts, a change of band from Cheap Trick to The Ramones and finally casting his preferred actors, the story was done.

Two highschool students – Riff  (PJ Soles) and Kate (Dey Young) – are of course, the biggest Ramones fans, and wait in line for three days to get tickets so they can meet their hero – Joey Ramone, and give him their song – Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

But fate is cruel and Riff loses her ticket to her highschool principal and has to win a radio contest to get the chance to see her heroes play live.

A twist of fate, and The Ramones are made honorary students of the higschool, as the students stage a mutiny against their rock ‘n’ roll hating parents.

Released on August 24, 1979, the movie did well – thanks to fans of The Ramones and the cool soundtrack that featured several songs by The Ramones, Brian Eno, Fleetwood Mac, MC5 and The Velvet Underground.

Made for a budget-conscious $200,000, the film did well in theatres and even better in VHS release for all those pop culture and music fans.

If only highschool was truly like this Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.




memories of the ’70s – Carrie

In the mid 1970s, scary twisted between the supernatural and highschool hijinx in the horror film Carrie.

Based on a bestselling novel by Stephen King published in 1974, the film was  directed by Brian De Palma, and was the first of King’s books to be transformed to the big screen.

Starring Sissy Spacek as Carrie, an outcast highschool girl who has the ability to use her mind to create paranormal events when she is stressed or angry, the movie centers on Carrie’s life as as a victim of so many people’s cruelty.

Mistreated and abused by her religious stepmother, played by Piper Laurie, Carrie is also routinely harassed and bullied by her fellow classmates. A couple of teachers try to protect and encourage her, as a fellow student Tommy, played by William Katt,  invites her to the prom.

Carrie starts to notice her powers come out when taunted – like she causes a harasser to fall off his bike and she shatters her bedroom mirror after another horrible fight with her Mother.

At the prom, surprisingly Carrie and her date Tommy are named prom king and queen – but a prank turns the sweet moment into horror, when a bucket of pig’s blood is doused all over the twosome, with the bucket knocking out Tommy.

Carrie’s paranormal powers arise, causing the gym to collapse and catch fire, as she escapes to go home. Her Mother, thinking she is possessed by the devil, fights with her in the house.

The horror film, which cost $1.8 million to make was a huge success at the box office for De Palma and United Artists, grossing $33.8 million. One of the few horror films to recognized by the Academy Awards, Spacek and Laurie were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress and the film was nominated and awarded accolades from festivals and award committees.

I remember going to a friend’s Halloween party and seeing this film, which scared me – especially since I was in highschool. Although all of us kept saying it could never happen, we wondered if there was a girl among us at school who could become Carrie.

In 1976, Carrie White showed us how a shy girl could take down an entire community with her mind – and a bucket of pig’s blood has become infamous in horror history.

memories of the ’80s – Square Pegs

Highschool was a challenge, life was all about getting in good with the cool kids, and two girls tried to establish their cred in Square Pegs.

Set in a fictional small town, highschool life was all about living on the fringe of the core cool society for Lauren Hutchinson and Patty Greene (played by Amy Linker and Sarah Jessica Parker) who do everything they can to keep their reputations as cool as possible.

Their buddies in surviving daily school life are Marshall Blechtman (John Femia) and Johnny ‘Slash’ Ulasewicz (Merritt Butrick), two geeks who also wish to be cool, but are at least glad to form a clique of their own with Lauren and Patty.

Created by former Saturday Night Live writer Anne Beatts, Square Pegs was all about snappy dialogue, which bordered on being a bit too adult or risque. Through their words ( and the half hour sitcom boundaries) the characters showed the reality of teen life in the early 1980s, and is often compared to films made by John Hughes.

Patty and Lauren’s world consisted of not getting embarrassed, trying to be friends with cool Valley kids Jennifer (Tracy Nelson), Ladonna (Claudette Wells) and Vinnie (John Caliri) and figuring out whether it was worth it to participate in any school programs and events as championed by the ever-uber-positive Muffy B. Tepperman, played by Jami Gertz.

As someone who was becoming a teen, this show was a snapshot into what I thought highschool would be like – cliques, issues and trying to survive the day without looking like an idiot, which Patty and Lauren try to do every day.

Unfortunately this series only lasted one season, but its impact on the way highschool should be depicted made a difference on television and film thanks to Ann Beatts.

memories of the ’70s – Welcome Back Kotter

The highschool classroom was never made so cool by the underdog as it was with the Sweathogs and Mr. Kotter in Welcome Back Kotter.

The idea of comedian Gabe Kaplan, this tv sitcom was launched on ABC TV in September 1975, based on Kaplan’s highschool experiences in Brooklyn, NY.

As Mr. Kotter, he returns to his roots in Brooklyn at fictional James Buchanan Highschool to teach the remedial class, populated by the Sweathogs, so-named as the classroom was on the top floor.

A former Sweathog, Kotter knows that everyone has written off the students, but he believes in them, unlike the grouchy vice-principal Mr. Woodman.

Starring John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, Ron Pallilo as Arnold Horshack, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington and Robert Hegyes as Juan Epstein, these four students were the core of the class, each with their own quirky personalities and immediately become very close to Mr. Kotter.

Each half hour dealt with the realities of school life, as the world of the students, coupled with crazy schemes, odd happenings, girls and of course, plenty of humour. Each character became known for certain catchphrases, that became their trademark for the series.

Barbarino was always saying “What? Where? Why?” as well as a the insult “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”, while Horshack, who routinely knew the answer in class was shown to yell “Oh! Oh! Oh!”. Washington was all about his distinct delivery with “Hi there” and “Hello Mr. Kot taire”, while Epstein was always trying to get out of any commitment with his “Hey Mr. Kotter I got a note!”.

For four seasons, the series did well, garnering good ratings and plenty of laughs – but it was Travolta’s star that rose, with his film projects (Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Carrie) which led him to leave the series and then came the show’s downfall in the ratings.

Kaplan tried to introduce other characters and a different premise by moving the series to community college, as the actors were all hitting their late 20s, with Travolta the youngest actor.

For me, I saw this series as a kid as just plain funny, thinking of these older kids as comedians and how one asserted oneself in highschool. Of course, my life would be far from this reality, but I appreciated the distinct slang and the world of Mr. Kotter’s highschool.

Ending its run in 1979, Welcome Back Kotter showed a funny view of highschool, but also celebrated the underdog, and the tough road for those students in highschool.