Written by: Carroll Jenkins on November 9th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1976
Approximate running times: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Director: Rene Daalder
Writer: Rene Daalder
Cinematographer: Bert Van Munster
Composer: Tommy Leonetti
Cast: Derrel Maury, Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Kimberly Beck, Ray Underwood, Steve Bond, Rex Steven Sikes, Lani O’Grady, Damon Douglas, Dennis Kort, Cheryl Smith, Jeffrey Winner, Tom Logan
Synopsis: A transfer student to Central High is invited to join the elite circle that rules the school with an iron fist. As he objects to the unjustified and malicious treatment of other students, he becomes a threat to the status quo, and a target of their wrath. After he is maimed, he seeks revenge for himself and the downtrodden.
Massacre At Central High is often cited as a proto-slasher, but despite the numerous kills in a variety of ingenious ways, they are not the focus of the film. This is a teen horror / black comedy / sexploitation but mostly a social satire based upon the concept that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. It owes a strong debt to ‘Animal Farm’, as well. The early murders are suspenseful and gory, but once the body count starts in earnest it becomes a montage of murder as the movie enters the final stretch.
The production values are rather primitive, a notch below a typical Crown International release. The sound is especially lacking with ambient background noise (crowds, wind at the beach, etc.) sometimes obscuring the dialog. Which is a shame since the main talent on display is the work of writer / director Rene Daalder. Also on display are the three female leads who contribute significant topless footage. Kimberly Beck is especially hot and Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith is always a welcome sight. Robert Carradine as a stoner seems to have taken his part literally.
In some respects the low production values and adequate at best acting make the film seem almost documentary-like. Poor video presentations, however, make appreciation of the film more difficult. The Wild Riders or The Candy Snatchers are examples of proper anamorphic presentation from a quality source of low budget wonders. Here’s hoping the original elements are found and a respectable R1 DVD edition is made available. Subtitles and closed captions would be most desirable due to the sound problems inherent with the production and the importance of the dialog. Since the 2004 PAL DVD release has been discontinued, there may be reason to anticipate such a release.
Massacre At Central High is a complex and allegorical film that mixes sex, violence, murder, and madness with social commentary. This unjustly obscure film is well worth seeking out and highly recommended.