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30 years later, was 'Teachers' really such a bad apple?

Steve Spears

Monday, October 6, 2014 8:30am

Did you think dark comedy in our decade started in the late '80s with flicks like Beetlejuice and Heathers? Maybe it was best-practiced then, but 1984 saw hints of the genre's rise with Teachers, which turns 30 years old this week.

Teachers, released Oct. 5, 1984, might be best known for either its stellar soundtrack (tunes by 38 Special, Night Ranger, Freddie Mercury, ZZ Top and more) or by its incredible ensemble cast: Nick Nolte, Judd Hirsch, Ralph Macchio, Laura Dern, Crispin Glover, Morgan Freeman.

Directed by Arthur Hiller (best known for his work on Neil Simon's films), Teachers' plot revolves around an urban high school being sued for giving a diploma to an illiterate student. Circling that are stories about unmotivated teachers, kleptomaniac students, the occasional stabbing and - for movies in the early '80s - the obligatory visit to the local abortion clinic. Oh, and a really good side story involving the great Richard Mulligan that I won't give away in case you decide to watch it again.

Critics weren't sure what to make of it. Teachers holds a 58 percent fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Roger Ebert was particularly disappointed, writing: "The idea here was to do for teaching what MASH did for the war. Unfortunately, they've done for schools what General Hospital did for medicine."


5. "Why don't you go to some other school and get their girls pregnant? ... Teamwork, Troy, does not mean going out and starting your own team."

4. "There's nothing worse than a female lawyer with a cause." ... "Except a male teacher without one."

3. "You haven't lived 'till you see them try to serve me with a subpoena."

2. "We're not here to worry about one kid, we're trying to get as many through with what we've got."

1. "Mr. Jurel, I just had an abortion. I think I'm old enough to smoke."