Release Date(s)1982 (December 4, 2018)
Studio(s)ABC Motion Pictures/20th Century Fox (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Released four years after the highly successful Animal House, National Lampoon's Class Reunion went in a more obvious comedic direction, specifically into spoof territory. Having a go at a horror comedy, it was not of the same caliber as its predecessor and, for many years, was one of the overlooked National Lampoon films before being released on DVD. In it, the graduating class of Lizzie Borden High is reuniting, but what they fail to realize is that a practical joke played on one of their classmates years before has not been forgotten. Having been locked away in a mental institution, he returns to seek his vengeance against them, particularly their snooty, self-assured, but mostly incompetent leader.
What I would describe Class Reunion as in a nutshell is charming. It comes from a different time when political correctness wasn't that prevalent in movies, specifically when it came to comedy and horror. Context is everything of course, and one must keep that in mind when revisiting a film like this. With jokes about everything from cross-dressing to menstruation, it runs the gambit of tastelessness when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the comedy is mostly ineffective. It doesn't go far enough to be shocking or memorable, and it feels more like it's trying way too hard, more or less failing in the process.
The original script was penned by John Hughes, although he held no ownership over the final product and claimed that nothing of what he wrote actually wound up on screen. There's also a number of noteworthy actors in the cast, including Gerrit Graham, Stephen Furst, Michael Lerner, Shelley Smith, Anne Ramsey, and even Chuck Berry as the musical guest for the evening. In addition, there's a score by Peter Bernstein and Mark Goldenberg. If you listen closely, you can hear traces of what would wind up in the eventual score for Ghostbusters, which Peter Bernstein and his father, Elmer Bernstein, worked on together.
To be honest, National Lampoon's Class Reunion just isn't that good. It's not that funny or scary, but it does have some kooky and oddball moments that make it worth checking out. Jokes like a group of people riding in a car and being revealed to actually be sitting on blocks the whole time, or a woman who is literally turning into a demon – growing horns and breathing fire to prove it, are all pretty silly. Fans of 80s cult comedies are likely to get more out of it than anyone else.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time sporting a transfer taken from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. It's a naturally film-like presentation, although grain levels tend to be uneven from frame to frame, which is more apparent during scenes with low light levels. The color palette is varied and well-represented, more vivid in certain areas than others. Black levels are solid without any apparent crush and everything appears bright with good contrast. It's also clean and stable without much damage leftover. The audio is presented in English 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It's a decent stereo presentation with good ambient activity and sound placement, but may be a little to quiet for some – but an easy adjustment of the volume on your receiver should do the trick. Dialogue is clear and discernable and the film's score and music selection has some punch behind it. Sound effects don't have an enormous impact, but all of the elements are mixed together well without any moments of distortion.
The extras are brief, but you do get an audio commentary with director Michael Miller, stunt coordinator Dean Raphael Ferrandini, and moderator Douglas Hosdale; Gerrit Graham: Class Act, a 13-minute interview in which the actor discusses his career and involvement with the film, mentioning that he enjoyed working with all of the members of the cast; and finally, a set of trailers for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics related titles including Up the Creek, Moving Violations, Porky's II, Porky's Revenge, and Miracle Beach.
I seriously doubt that National Lampoon's Class Reunion will make anybody's top ten comedies list, but those with a particular bent towards this kind of material are bound to enjoy it on some level. With a solid presentation and a couple of nice extras, Kino Lorber's presentation is certainly worth a look or two.
– Tim Salmons