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Renee Daalder
Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine
Writing Credits:
Renee Daalder

Pushed to the edge by a trio of brutal bullies, a new student resorts to murder to reclaim the high school from oppression.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 9/13/2022

• Audio Interviews with Cast
• Audio Interview with Director Renee Daalder
• “Hell in the Hallways” Documentary
• Trailer
• TV Spot
• Radio Spot
• Still Gallery


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Massacre at Central High [Blu-Ray] (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 6, 2022)

Given its title, one might expect 1976’s Massacre at Central High to offer a standard horror flick. Instead, it becomes much more of a revenge thriller.

When David (Derrel Maury) enrolls at Central High, he finds that a gang of bullies runs the building. His old pal Mark (Andrew Stevens) encourages him to join forces with this clique, but instead David prefers to stand up for the group’s victims.

Inevitably, this leads to a series of violent confrontations. As David tries to stop the “in-crowd”, he finds himself involved with an escalating series of attacks and actions.

As High opens, it does so in a less than promising manner. We get a weird montage that previews the subsequent violence as the shots play over a sappy “coming of age” ballad.

I guess the decision to give us an early taste of the movie’s later mayhem occurred because the producers figured audiences might grow restless if they didn’t enjoy a sampling of the material to come. This just doesn’t work, though, especially given the use of the terrible, sappy “Crossroads of Your Life” tune.

Matters improve pretty rapidly, though. I like that High takes its time in terms of how it allows the characters and situations to evolve.

After that iffy credit sequence, High allows for us to get to know David and the rest in a gradual manner. The movie doesn’t rush these elements, so we can witness how David slowly gets pushed toward the edge.

This means that we don’t jump ahead too soon. A lot of movies would rush to deliver the promised “revenge violence”, but High allows us the developments and not feel like David gets back at the others too quickly.

It also means we get a good grasp of characters, as the roles become more three-dimensional than usual for drive-in fare such as this. No, the roles don’t ever seem especially well-drawn, but they become more fleshed-out than expected.

We also get an interesting – if not unexpected – twist during the third act. No spoilers, but the story continues after David deals with the original oppressors and finds some new territory.

Where does High falter? Mostly in terms of dialogue, as the movie suffers from a lot of clumsy lines.

Director Rene Daalder also wrote the script. Daalder hails from the Netherlands, where – as I learned during a recent vacation – virtually everyone speaks English.

However, that doesn’t necessarily extend to the ability to write an English screenplay with natural dialogue. Daalder creates some strange lines across High that don’t sink the movie but they make it clunkier than it should be.

In addition, High becomes more unhinged as it goes – and not in a good way. The story loses touch with believability as it goes, and that makes it more ridiculous than it should be.

No one will be credited with especially great performances, though Maury fares pretty well as our lead. He resists the urge to tip his hand, so even when David becomes more and more psychotic, Maury maintains a good sense of natural behavior.

The rest tend to feel more wooden or campier – or both. Still, given the B-movie origins, they work fine.

Ultimately, High never overcomes those low-budget drive-in film roots, but it definitely works better than the average effort in that domain. Even with its flaws, this turns into a pretty engaging little thriller.

Footnote: Maury played Jughead in a couple of short-lived 1970s shows that involved the Archie comics characters. I still recognize him from that, which seems insane after 45 years or so.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-

Massacre at Central High appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a more than acceptable presentation.

Sharpness was mostly solid. A few wides felt a little soft, but most of the movie seemed crisp and concise.

No issues with jagged edges, shimmering, or edge enhancement materialized. Print flaws also failed to appear, and light grain manifested through the film.

Colors looked positive. The film went with a natural palette that seemed full and rich.

Blacks were nicely deep and full. Shadows looked clear and smooth.

Note that at the 36:30 mark, the movie briefly turned grainier and rougher. However, this only impacted the image for about 45 seconds. A few other slightly “off” shots emerged as well, but these remained limited and came in circumstances that reflected more difficult shooting conditions. Overall, the final product presented the film well.

Don’t expect anything memorable from the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of High, as this was a consistently average mix for its age. Speech sounded a little thin but the lines were always concise and easily intelligible.

Music lacked much range but seemed clear and didn’t suffer from any shrillness. The same went for effects.

Though I failed to notice much dynamic range from those elements, the effects seemed acceptably distinctive, and they lacked distortion. This was a decent track for an older flick.

The disc includes two audio-only components, and we start with a cast interviews conducted by the “Projection Booth” podcast. These chats run over the movie as a commentary would, and the material spans the movie’s entire length.

The track involves discussions with actors Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Rex Steven Sikes, and Derrel Maury. Interviewer Mike White warns us at the start their neither Stevens nor Carradine remembers much about the High shoot, and that proves to be true. This means we mainly hear about other aspects of their careers, though not much in Carradine's case, as his interview lasts a fairly brief period.

Stevens' goes longer but never feels like much more than a random overview of his life in and out of movies. We get a few insights but not much substance. It does seem amusing when Stevens expresses incredulity that anyone shows any interest in High, which he clearly regards as a project best forgotten.

Sikes proves more informative, as he covers his memories of the shoot - which seem much more expansive than the prior two actors'. Sikes doesn't produce a ton of great info, but at least he gives us some nuggets about the film.

The same holds true for Maury, as he provides the longest discussion of the bunch and brings us a mix of useful details. He gets some facts wrong, such as when he states that the producers wanted Mark Hamill in the cast but couldn't get him due to the success of Star Wars although High shot more than a year prior to that classic's release. Still, Maury seems chatty and engaging.

For a second audio-only piece, we get an interview with director Renee Daalder. Conducted by Michael Gingold, this also plays over the movie and lasts until the 25:14 mark.

Daalder talks about his career in general, with occasional notes about High - though not as much as one might anticipate. Daalder gives us a decent chat but it lacks the focus I’d prefer, especially because he spends relatively little time on High itself.

A documentary called Hell in the Hallways fills 42 minutes, 27 seconds. It offers notes from Maury, Sikes, Carradine, Stevens, director of photography Bertram van Munster, 1st AD Eugene Mazzola, and actors Tom Logan and Jeffrey Winner.

“Hell” looks at how the cast came to the film, sets and locations, interactions during the shoot and thoughts about Daalder, impressions of the movie’s dialogue, photography, stunts and effects, the movie’s release and legacy.

Unsurprisingly, some of the content from the audio interviews repeats here. Nonetheless, we get a good mix of new notes – with more gentle criticism of the project than one would anticipate - and even Stevens and Carradine manage to provide more memories than previously.

In addition to a trailer, a TV spot and a radio spot, the disc concludes with a Still Gallery. It offers 33 frames that mix shots from the set with publicity images. It becomes a decent compilation.

Though not a great – or even very good – movie, Massacre at Central High nonetheless manages to surpass expectations. Given its status as a low-budget 1970s thriller, it produces a reasonably interesting experience. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, acceptable audio and a mix of bonus materials. Nothing here excels but the film still keeps us with it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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