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Massacre at 

Central High

a/k/a The Blackboard Massacre

a/k/a Sexy Jeans

     "It's obvious: I think someone at the school has gone completely insane."

--  David calling the kettle black  




Gonzoid Cinema




Craig would have scored a perfect "10" -- but alas, he didn't keep his legs together.


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Sights &
Massacre at
Central High
  Renee Daalder
  Renee Daalder
  Jerome Bauman
  Harold Sobel

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Massacre at Central High


At an unnamed high school, new student David (Derrel Maury), quickly learns the ropes from his old friend, Mark (Andrew Stevens), since the two used to go to a different school together. The first lesson learned is that Mark belongs to a kind of Junior Gestapo, who rule the school through bullying tactics and intimidation. Led by Bruce (Ray Underwood), the group is rounded out with fellow cronies Paul (Damon Douglas) and Craig (Steve Bond). Amazingly, the school puts up with these clowns because A.) due to their efforts there is an extremely enforced and peer-pressured induced peace in the halls, and B.) there doesn't appear to be in any teachers at the school anyway, making the whole point moot.

The main targets for these nazi-wannabes are the general riffraff and nonconformists like Spoony (Robert Carradine), a burnt-out peace-nik, who they catch and punish when he tries to draw a swastika on Bruce's locker, and Rodney (Steve Sikes), a motor-head from the poor side of the tracks, while the aptly named Mary and Jane (Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith & Lani O'Grady) are deemed a couple of skanks and treated as the same. They also pick on Oscar (Jeffrey Winner) because he's fat; and Arthur (Dennis Kort) because he's a nerd and a cripple (he wears a hearing aid); and Harvey (Thomas Logan) because he's a dork -- you get the general idea. As a newcomer, David would also be a likely target, but Mark intervenes on his behalf. At their old school, David saved Mark's hash once over some serious trouble. Owing him, Mark works hard to convince the others to leave him alone -- in fact, he encourages Bruce to let David join their group. Bruce agrees, but it turns out David isn't all that impressed with them or their tactics but plays along for Mark's sake.

But when the Junior Gestapo -- that I will be referring to as the J.G. from now on -- hijacks Rodney's old jalopy, Bruce rods the heck out of the poor car, eventually shelling the motor, rendering it useless. They laugh, leaving the powerless Rodney behind to stew on his misfortunes. Having witnessed this abuse, David quietly peels off, away from the group. Angered by what he saw, for a moment, this obviously intense and volatile young man appears ready to "Hulk-out" on his old friend and his buddies, but instead vents his rage at the power elite by running, and running far away -- this time. Thus, setting the stage for the next incident, for who knows what will happen when this emotional powder-keg eventually goes off...

It's amazing what you find when you least expect it. You remember how I'm always talking about the huge pile of blank tapes that lie unlabeled on the bottom shelf over by the TV. Well, for those uninitiated, there's probably about fifty of 'em -- and I honestly don't have a clue what's on most of them. So when I wanted to tape Hell Up in Hollywood, AMC's documentary on blaxploitation movies earlier this week, I pulled one off the pile at random and popped it in. Being anal, 'cuz that's how I roll, I did a little swing search first to see if there was anything on it I wanted to keep for posterity. First up was an old Monstervision episode, Joe D'Amato's 2020 Texas Gladiators, a mash-up of The Magnificent Seven and The Road Warrior, and since I'd never tape over that, or anything with Joe Bob Briggs, I fast forwarded aways, pressed play again, and got a big and most pleasant surprise.

No way! I thought I taped over this! 

Quickly checking the time-counter, I crossed my fingers and rewound the tape -- but was disappointed to find out that I had, indeed, taped over part of it. However, I still had the vast majority of the almost impossible to find Massacre at Central High, Rene Daalder's sociological study of group-dynamics mixed with some homicidal tendencies that was just screaming to be reviewed. Having recorded this years ago off of TBS, when they used to show movies during the overnight -- and anyone else remember those good old days when the Superstations actually showed, you know, older and odder movies? -- like I said, about the first half-hour was lost but I've been able to cobble it all together from the beginning with the help of a few other sources, including my faulty memory.

Massacre at Central High was the first exploitation film brave enough to use the word "massacre" in it's title after Tobe Hooper's classic Texas style massacre sent the country into a tizzy two years before. And I hold out a hope to see it again, complete, and uncensored, someday. Speaking frankly, I really think that's one of the main reasons why this film enjoys such a reputation as a cult classic because it's nearly impossible to find. And speaking even more frankly, I'm not really sure if wider circulation would help this film's reputation or hurt it. Read on...

After helping trash Rodney's car, Mark meets up with his girlfriend, Teresa (Kimberly Beck); but she refuses to go parking with him, claiming it's too cold. She's also worried about the moody David but Mark guarantees her that his old friend can take care of himself. The next day, as Teresa talks to Mary and Jane (-- and yes, I giggle every time I type their names), they spot David walking to gym class, and when Mary comments on his good looks, Jane says she'd better try something fast before Bruce and his goons gets their hooks in him. Inside the gym, while David easily shimmies up the dreaded rope of doom, the J.G. encourages fat Oscar to climb higher -- by employing a switch-blade to his butt as incentive! Refusing to join in on the hazing, David hits the showers. Mark follows, proudly claiming Oscar got two-foot higher than he ever had before. With that, David angrily accuses Mark of changing into something they always hated. Worried that he might do something rash, Mark tries to make peace and begs him not push the issue with Bruce. Reluctantly, David backs off. Later, when classes let out, these two old friends round up Teresa to go and do something, but Bruce intercepts them. Seems Mark is needed for a meeting in the J.G.'s Black Van of Death. When they're out of earshot, David rips into "the little league Gestapo" and complains to Teresa about how nobody does anything to stop them. Inside the Black Van of Death, Bruce voices his concerns over David, who seems to be spoiling for a fight. Promising to take care of it, Mark assures them all that David will come around.

Later, David watches and simmers as the J.G. takes over the school's swimming pool. When they get in, everyone else must get out. David follows Spoony, who was rousted out of the water, and asks why he doesn't fight back. Spoony answers he tried to protest once, with disastrous results, and is now content to find inner-peace (-- if you know what I mean and I think you do.) The next morning, David spots Rodney trying to hitchhike to school. At first he won't accept a ride with David, thinking he's one of Bruce's goons. But David assures he's not and even offers to help Rodney fix-up his old car; they can even use his garage since Rodney's dad doesn't like strangers because they upset the chickens.


 (Sorry, that was my brain.)

When the two new friends pull into the parking lot, rolling past the J.G. -- who lurk around the Black Van of Death, that I've affectionately dubbed the B-VOD -- Bruce doesn't like seeing David hanging around with losers; but his attention is quickly drawn to Mary and Jane, who pick the wrong day to mouth off to them. Oh yes, Bruce has plans for the two girls, but they'll have to wait because it's time to hit the library and pick on Arthur. Bruce and Craig watch as Paul returns an overdue book, and when he refuses to pay the fine, Arthur's pleas for a logical resolution are ignored as he's thrown to the floor and buried under a pile of books. The deed done, the J.G. leaves, just as Mark and David walk in. As David moves to help Arthur, Mark tries to stop him but David shrugs him off. Chastising him for ruining a good thing, Mark reminds David that he's got it made -- unless he blows it by playing the hero. David counters with the same warning, and punctuates it by ripping into Mark, reiterating that he changed into everything they used to hate the minute he started thinking he was better than guys like Arthur and Rodney. Not wanting to hear it, Mark leaves him alone to dig Arthur out. When the bookworm finally comes up for air, he informs David that he's breaking a long school tradition. David answers, He sure hopes so. Again, David asks why doesn't anybody fight back? Arthur, ever the logical one, claims that's an ill-conceived notion considering his physical prowess. When David suggests he doesn't have to fight alone, Arthur dejectedly replies It's best if we each lose our own battles.

And I have to take this opportunity to stop the review and chime-in to point out that at almost an hour into the film, there has been little hint or sign of any kind of massacre. Hello? Movie? *tap*tap*tap* Is this thing on? Hello?!?

As Arthur explains the circle of life via the Dewey Decimal system to David, things turn a little more sinister when the J.G. decide to take Mary and Jane down a few pegs (-- if you know what I mean, and unfortunately, you probably do.) It's not a question of scoring, Bruce lecherously intones, it's about teaching them a lesson. This proves too much for Mark, who bows out even though the others haze him. Dragging Mary and Jane into a deserted classroom, Bruce and the boys commit to raping and pillaging. To their credit, the girls put up a helluva fight for as long a they can but are soon overpowered; and all I gotta say is -- WHERE IN THE HELL ARE ALL THE TEACHERS IN THIS FRIGGIN' SCHOOL!

Down the hall, Mark runs into Teresa who is looking for the other girls. He tells her to forget it, they're too busy with Bruce. But Teresa knows what Bruce's idea of a "good time" is and rushes to put a stop to it. Bursting into the class room just as Mary's clothes are about to be ripped off, Bruce orders her to get out. When Teresa refuses, luckily for her, since she's Mark's girlfriend, instead of adding her to the pile, the J.G. just forcefully throws her out into the hall -- where she plows right into David. Back inside the locked classroom, Paul and Craig, worried that Teresa will go for help, think maybe they should just call the gang rape off. Bruce nixes that idea, and then there's a knock on the door. Then a voice, claiming to be Mark, asks to be let in. Before it can be unlocked, the door is forcibly kicked in, sending Paul sprawling. Next, David storms in and proceeds to beat the hell out of all of them, with Mary and Jane happily joining in on the ass-whupping. 

And kick them fascists once for me!

When it's over, after scraping what's left of Bruce off the bottom of his shoe, David chases Teresa down. Obviously, he's falling for her, but she's not really happy with any males right now, and will in now way, shape of form applaud that display of testosterone. (Well, ma'am, he did prevent a rape.) Claiming his intentions were noble, David thinks they both just need to go for a long walk on the beach to cool off. She agrees.

In the B-VOD, as the J.G. lick their wounds, a mortified Bruce openly worries if word that David beat the crap out of all of them, alone, they're reign of terror is over. Still insisting it would be better to have David working with them instead of against them, Mark is given just one more chance to bring David around. Meanwhile, at the beach, Teresa finally admits she's glad that someone finally fought back -- and wishes she had the guts to fight back, too; but it's too easy to hide behind Mark. However, with David making a stand, perhaps she can find some unfound courage, too. They walk on, noticeably closer together now.

Up on the coastal road, the J.G. spots David's jeep and let Mark out to go and talk to him. Heading down, towards the water, he spots Teresa's and David's clothes; he can also hear them giggling to each other out in the surf. Refusing to look further, Mark returns to the B-VOD but just tells them David refused. With that, Bruce promises that David won't know what hit him. Mark, again, takes a pass on the coming retaliation and leaves. The others wait and follow David home and confront him in his garage. Underneath Rodney's car, banging away at something, David refuses to come out to talk to Bruce. Not to be ignored, Bruce yanks on David's legs. David kicks at him, knocking the car off the jack in the resulting melee, and in a rather graphic scene, his leg is crushed under the back axle. Intended or not, the J.G. splits while David screams in agony.

As David recuperates from the devastating injury Mark and Teresa try to visit, but he refuses to see anyone. He's lost the damaged leg from the knee down, but David claims he was alone when it happened and it was just an accident. After another unsuccessful visit, Teresa makes a full confession to Mark about skinny-dipping with David; and she had wanted to take things even further, and David did, too, but he refused because she was Mark's girl. At the school, all the geeks and nerds -- Spoony, Mary, Jane, Oscar, Arthur, and Rodney -- gather together, pining for what might have been if David hadn't gotten hurt until the J.G. breaks them up. 

Eventually, David returns to classes. Hampered with a bad limp, dragging his false leg, he's stopped by Bruce who thanks him for not ratting them out. David ominously states that ratting people out just isn't his style. Bruce knows full well it's a threat -- but what can a cripple do to him?


David's revenge begins out in the parking lot where he sabotages Bruce's hang-glider that's always stored on top of the B-VOD. And when the J.G. heads out to Malibu, after Bruce climbs into the harness and takes off, things go smoothly -- until the vital wire David cut finally snaps. Like a giant wounded bird, Bruce loses control and careens into some power-lines where he is brutally electrocuted before he can even properly crash. Written off as a terrible accident, we know better. That's one down and three to go.

Yes. Three; David is gunning for his old friend Mark, too.

Craig is the next one to have an untimely accident. A member of the diving team, he abuses his privileges by using the pool after school hours. However, on this particular night, the janitors had left him a note saying the pool had been emptied for cleaning. David finds and destroys the note first, and then sabotages the lights. Unaware -- and not very observant, Craig does a jack-knife off the high-board into an empty pool. 


Two down. Two to go. 

When the geek council meets again, Arthur postulates that the accidents are more than coincidental but Spoony thinks it's just instant karma biting the J.G. right on the ass. And when Paul tries to bully them David intervenes, saying his threats are no good anymore. Mark pulls Paul away before they can exchange punches, and while they retreat, the geeks cheer, clamoring that they should have made a stand a long time ago. They ask David to join them but he respectfully declines.

Paul also thinks David is behind the accidents, and Mark doesn't disagree with him but there's nothing they can do except keep a low profile and stay off his radar. (Or maybe go to the police?!?) Later, Teresa tries to talk to David again but he tells her to just forget about him. After school, while Paul surfs, Mark and Teresa argue about David until Teresa stomps off. When Paul paddles in, more paranoid than ever, he claims he won't be an easy target like the others. But then what does he do? He goes off -- by himself -- back to the B-VOD. Brilliant. Throwing his surfboard in the back, he crawls in behind it, and once inside, we hear someone hitting him. Then David jumps out, puts the van in neutral and pushes it down the hill until gravity takes over. He's long gone before Mark makes it to the road, just in time to see the B-VOD careen wildly backwards down the road toward a cliff. He gives chase but it's hopeless: Paul comes to just as the B-VOD flips over the guardrail and crashes down the cliff where it detonates and fireballs on impact.

Three down.

Back on the road, Mark calls for David who magically appears beside him. Accusing him of multiple-murder, David snaps back that if he knew, then why didn't he do anything to stop him. Sensing his days are numbered, Mark tries to bring up their old friendship. When David says to stuff that crap, Mark tells him to just get it over with, then, and kill him right there. David smirks; there will be no swift mercy killings. He'll choose when and where, and he hopes Mark will be man enough to at least struggle. Unknown to either of them, Teresa overhears the whole conversation.

The next day, after the latest "tragic accident", David strolls through the school, soaking in the peace and serenity he's created by eliminating the J.G. cancer. Strangely, everybody gets along great at first, but anarchy eventually creeps into this new utopia -- starting with a seemingly harmless food fight in the cafeteria. That night, Teresa rousts David out of bed, begging him not to kill Mark, blubbering that if he kills Mark, he kills her, too. Unable to stand the sight of a blubbering woman, David promises that nothing will happen to either of them. 

At the school, the void left by the deceased J.G. is just begging to be filled and proves too tantalizing for some, and the geek council is starting to splinter in an attempt to seize power: Oscar is starting to bully people in the hall; and Arthur refuses to cooperate with Spoony, Mary or Jane. Separately, they all try to form an alliance with David. Growing more frustrated with each offer, he turns them all down. Didn't he just fix this problem? The last straw comes when David finds Rodney in the parking lot driving Bruce's old muscle car. He watches as Rodney attacks Mark's car, breaking the headlights and windshield. Hot Rod wants to join up with David, too, and take over the school and then put all the rich kids in their place. That night, we spy the disillusioned David in his garage working on some concoction. When its done, he dumps the contents into a pipe and applies a fuse. Uh-oh. This isn't going to end well is it?

The next day, when Spoony and the girls take another run at Arthur in the library to consolidate their factions, he can't hear them because he didn't have his hearing-aid on. Turning it up, we hear a high-pitched screech, and then Arthur seizes up before collapsing -- and we spy blood coming out of his ear. Arthur is dead. And while Spoony and the others protests their innocence, Oscar roams the halls, tossing people around. Moseying up to his locker, he opens it -- and is blown to bits. Before the smoke clears, as the student-body flees the school in a panic, Rodney spots David out in the parking lot and asks what happened. Obviously, some student has gone insane and he advises him to vacate the premises. Taking that advice Rodney hops into his new car and turns the ignition, triggering another massive explosion. Quickly moving on to mop up the rest of the geek-squad, David tracks down Spoony, Mary and Jane -- currently occupying a tent at the bottom of a cliff. Inside the tent, the threesome are up to no good. Doing what exactly? I have no idea -- but I bet it has something to do with sex, nudity and drugs. Curse you basic cable and you're high-falutin morality code! When the cliff is rocked with a series of explosions, the resulting rockslide buries the tent and I believe Spoony, Mary and Jane are now part of the cosmic consciousness. 

You dig? I dig.

But even with the geek-squad eliminated, another group moves to take its place. When Harvey finds David at his garage, he offers a plan: They can frame Mark for all the killings and then David can have Teresa, and Harvey can take over the school. Realizing that the cycle will never end, David is helplessly caught -- unless he does something even more drastic!

Speaking of Mark and Teresa: Where is our non-committal couple anyway? Well, they're still giving sanctions more time. I kid. I kid. After nine grisly deaths, Mark has finally decided to do something. Go to the police? No, that would be logical. Instead he's got a gun and they drive to David's garage to stop this once and for all. Ordering Teresa to stay in the car, he heads inside and catches David putting the finishing touches on his latest project of mass destruction. Impressed that Mark finally got the stones to act, David opens up and admits that his plan, though noble in intention, was fatally flawed. He knows now the ultimate remedy for the school's problems: There can be no problem if there is no school! For the moment, Mark has the upper-hand but Teresa picks an inopportune time to barge in. With that distraction, David manages to get the gun away from Mark without much trouble. He excuses himself, time to execute his plan, and locks them inside the garage.

At the school, the alumni dance is in full swing. David moves emotionlessly through the revelers like a ghostly apparition. Has he planted the bombs yet? Who knows. Back at the garage, Mark manages to kick the door open, and as they head for the school, he tells Teresa that David is going to blow up it up, but together, they can stop him -- if they can reach him in time. Why? Because David loves Teresa. Sure. Why not? Then the plot-specific car radio says that evidence was found in Spoony's abandoned van, planted by David, framing him as the killer.

We also notice that Mark's car has magically healed itself from Rodney's earlier attack.

They spot David in the gym, still watching the people try to dance, and confront him. He warns the couple that they have about three minutes to get out. But when Mark and Teresa refuse to leave, David tenses up; screw it --  he warned them, everybody in the gym is going to die. He moves to leave but Mark and Teresa just join in the dancing, fully prepared to meet their doom. Leaving the gym, David hesitates, then stops, and then heads back inside. And while Mark and Teresa dance their lives away, David moves as fast as he can, retrieving the bomb and manages to just get back outside before it promptly explodes before he can get rid of it.

Inside the gym, the revelers hear the explosion and head outside to investigate. The older people thinks it's just some damn fool kids playing a prank -- until they spot the smoldering corpse. When the police arrive, we pan over to Mark and Teresa; they both agree to make David a hero, saying he discovered that Spoony planted the bombs and died saving them all.

The End

I think it was George Orwell who said that all revolutions are doomed to failure. For no matter how good the intentions are, once the seat of power is overthrown, the revolutionaries will unravel, and in most cases, become worse than those who came before them. Read his Animal Farm for further proof of that theory. And that is the general theme of Massacre at Central High. But as a political allegory it can't quite decide where it stands or what it stands against. The pendulum swings all the way from the far left to the far right, throwing punches at everything in between. It's anti-fascist for the first hour or so, and then goes Orwellian and anti-socialist for the last part. Every class and social strata are present but the creators are telling us that none of them are worth a spit when power is at stake Even more damning is that with all the evidence presented, the only good and peaceful times to be had seems to be during the bloody transitions. There is a fine line between utopia and dystopia, I guess. One second it's railing against Bruce and his horde, and then it's telling you things might have been better while they were in charge. Status quo is good? Change is good? What?!? Make up your damn mind.

That may sound kind of harsh but I'm not sure where I stand on the film. People, whose opinions I truly respect, think it's a subversive, hidden gem. Personally, I can look past the revenge and body count plot and see what writer/director Renee Daalder was trying to convey in the film but, dang it, it comes off as rather obtuse and, dare I say, kind of silly. Let's make a political and social statement that the kids can relate to by having them kill each other off after the revolution finally comes? The whole dang crux of the movie is to somehow get the neutral Mark to do something -- anything! Only when he finally does take a stand against David, at the end, does the chaos end. But! With everything they've shown us so far, who's to say or how can we believe that a school run by Mark and Teresa is going to be any better? 

This is a little too nihilistic, even for me.

Daalder was a protégé of Russ Meyer, and it was Meyer who recommended his former cameraman to the producers of this film. Alas, the producers put their money on the wrong pony when the film imploded at the box-office, and Daalder didn't make another film for almost ten years. Most of this can be blamed on the lofty and (too) lengthy script, for his cast does pretty good with it, given the high-brow intentions they're saddled with. Robert Carradine must have really gotten into his character because he doesn't recall the four days he spent filming it. '70s staples Andrew Stevens and Rainbeaux Smith (sans top I've been told) are solid as is future Bradford clan member, Lani O'Grady -- anyone else remember Eight is Enough? The film's best asset, though, is Derrel Maury who is perfect as the brooding David; there is a rage within him that he barely keeps contained, and when it breaks, pray your nowhere near him. Sadly, this appears to be his only film role.

Wallowing in obscurity, for those who managed to actually see it, there is a large dichotomy between those who love Massacre at Central High and those who hate it. Those who love it champion it's message, muddled though it may be. Those who hate it usually watched it based on the notorious title and some very misleading advertising campaigns and VHS box covers. Expecting some kind of psycho/slasher flick, they wound up getting a lesson in civics. In its defense, the body count is high but the killings aren't very graphic and the filmmakers show a great deal of restraint. And of course there's the fact that you have the word massacre in your title but it's over an hour before anybody is -- well, massacred...might tend to piss off your target audience.

So in the end, I'd call Daalder's experiment an interesting misfire. Which is why I also feel that it is my civic duty to curb some of the enthusiasm surrounding this film's reputation. I've always professed that expectation is a harsh mistress seldom satisfied. Massacre at Central High deserves some credit for being different, and putting a new twist on an old formula, but don't expect too much else. Though I still have a few complaints and reservations about it, I'll still encourage people to see it, despite it's flaws. I can't say I loved it but I can respect it for what it tried to do.

Take that for what it's worth. As for right now, I gotta go see what other hidden treasures are lurking over there on the bottom shelf.

Originally Posted: 02/08/03 :: Rehashed: 02/15/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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