From the Vaults: Three O’Clock High

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Movies, The Vault
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Every once in a while, I’ll open up the vault to pull out a forgotten treasure or an underappreciated gem

Three O’Clock High (1987)

Director: Phil Joanau

Starring: Casey Siemaszko, Richard Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Philip Baker Hall

This is a great late 80’s high school set comedy that became lost in the wide shadow cast by the John Hughes triumvirate of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Please don’t take that as a slight towards Hughes’ great body of work. I happen to love all three of those films and Bueller rests quite comfortably in my top 5 favorites of all time.

That said, I think anybody would be doing themselves a great disservice if they considered Three O’Clock High as just another high school romp. I first discovered it while in college. It was recommended to me by a roommate and I was immediately taken upon seeing it. All the tropes of your typical high school comedy are here but none of the characters are half as cool as any to be found in a Hughes films. And that’s a good thing. No one could ever be as bad-ass or infallible as Ferris. No one was ever strictly a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal. The characters here are more layered. More real. More like you and me. It’s a high school experience that more closely mirrors real life. As such, the comedy is not over the top and more subtle and there’s a very real menace that hangs in the air. Just like high school.

Casey Siemaszko (before he went on to get shot up in Young Guns) as Jerry Mitchell wakes up on a typical morning to drive him and his younger sister to their typical school in his POS car. Rumors are swirling of a new arrival on the steps of their hallowed hall of education. Buddy Revell (played to terrifying perfection by Richard Tyson who would go on to terrorize that kid in Kindegarten Cop) has left a trail of broken bodies behind him at his previous schools and Jerry, who works for the school newspaper, is given the unenviable task of interviewing the bully for an article. Before 1st Period is even over, Jerry has run afoul of Buddy by committing the cardinal sin of touching him. Buddy challenges our hero to a fight after school and Jerry spends the rest of the film trying to devise some way to thwart the certain bloody beating that awaits him.

Remember. When in doubt, a bro-hug can’t go wrong

To say much more, would ruin the many twists and turns Jerry’s story takes before that end-of-school bell.

Since my initial viewing, I’ve probably seen this flick a dozen times. I shared it with some good friends five years back and was thrilled when they enjoyed it as well. When I finally had the chance to appropriately bust it out for our movie group, it was accepted with open arms.

It’s always a good feeling when people genuinely like something that you introduced to them. I hope you like this movie.

But I’ll live if you don’t.

Three O’Clock High is available on Netflix Instant Streaming.

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