Release Date(s)1987 (September 25, 2018)
Studio(s)TriStar Pictures (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D
The Principal tells the story of high school teacher Rick Latimer (James Belushi) who, after being penalized for his erratic, drunken behavior, is assigned as the principal to a violent, crime-ridden school, Brandel High. During his tenure, Latimer is exposed to excessively unlawful behavior and activities, including theft, drugs, rape, and gangs with weapons who fight amongst each other for dominance. One of those gangs, led by the ruthless Victor (Michael Wright), becomes principal Latimer’s main target, along with help from the head of security Jake Phillips (Louis Gossett, Jr.). Leading to several brutal confrontations, Latimer risks his own life to save both the school and its students.
Movies featuring stories about troubled or delinquent high school students have always made for compelling viewing, particularly during their finales when we finally see whether those students will remain as they are or if they’re able to fight off their demons and rise above it all. The Principal, directed by Christopher Cain, is a hard-hitting, no holds barred example of this. Considered to be a modernized version of 1955's Blackboard Jungle, it’s essentially an action-driven crime drama, loaded with bloody violence that really stands amongst other similar films, including Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me.
From top to bottom, the performances are fantastic, including Belushi as the tough guy principal, riding around on his motorcycle and fully intent on stopping any illicit activity. His character almost seems like a high school Robocop or Terminator type. Oddly enough, he would reprise his role in the science fiction thriller Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe. Rae Dawn Chong is also excellent as Hilary Orozco, a teacher with an unruly student to deal with, played viciously by J.J. Cohen. However, it’s Michael Wright who steals the show with his unrelenting performance as Victor. With a great score by Jay Gruska, The Principal takes the genre to a whole new level.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings The Principal to Blu-ray in a satisfactory release. The picture quality is sharp, clear, and highly-detailed. Grain is present throughout, giving the film a natural look, while black levels appear balanced. Daytime scenes look nice, but not overwhelmingly bright (to stay consistent with the tone of the film), while interiors inside the high school look finely-detailed with deep textures. Greens, reds, and blues are the most vibrant colors while skin tones appear accurate. No DNR seems to have been applied either. The two audio tracks are English 2.0 DTS-HD Master and French 2.0 Dolby Digital. The lossless audio is more than serviceable as dialogue and score come in loud and clear, while other sounds, such as fighting and gunshots, are more aggressive. Optional subtitles in English SDH are also offered. The lone supplement is the film’s theatrical trailer.
For those who love a good, violent action film, The Principal is certainly worth a spin. And for those who already have the film on DVD, this new Blu-ray release just might be a nice upgrade for you.
– David Steigman