After a long series in the last few years of fatuous fraternity-college-academy films consisting mostly of slapstick pranks, Class is a film with class.
It has an unusual plot twist: an academy senior (Rob Lowe) who is inept with girls falls into the hands of a nymphomaniac twice his age (Jacqueline Bisset) who turns out to be the mother of his roommate (Andrew McCarthy). But this is simply the string on which the pearls of incidents are strung, incidents at once poignant and outrageously funny. The writing is taut and expert, the plot tightly controlled, and the whole effect is "something to make you feel good."
We are given no hint as to the cause of Bisset's predilections; but we do get a brief but revealing glimpse of the opinions of her tycoon husband (Cliff Robertson), an articulate spokesman for a mixed economy. "I want government to stay out of business," he asserts, but a moment later he demands that government grant special subsidies to his corporation. (Here, as elsewhere, the intelligence and incisiveness of the script are remarkable, in stark contrast to most current films.)
Fortunately, it requires no special subsidies to enjoy this film about growing up, in the worthy tradition of Breaking Away and My Bodyguard.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
At its best, Rod Serling's television series Twilight Zone could be eerie and even frightening. The same cannot be said for Twilight Zone: The Movie. Of its four episodes, only the last one succeeds.
Tales of poetic justice—for example, a hater of blacks waking up one morning to find himself black—are so common that they occur once or twice in almost every college writing class. In the movie's first episode, this theme is handled with no special imaginativeness. The only element that would have given the episode any punch was deleted because of actor Vic Morrow's death in a helicopter crash while the film was being shot.
The second episode, in an old people's home, is a story of old people who would like to be young again, but when they are actually given a chance, they change their minds. It is badly over-acted.
The third episode is more promising. A boy lures a young woman into his house, where every room contains a television set showing cartoons. He turns out to be the living embodiment of every child's purported omnipotence-fantasy—he can get whatever he wishes by simply wishing it to be so. But if he can get all his wishes, why isn't he able to get the affection he wishes for most? If the episode's moral is that people who get their wish aren't thereby made happy (and therefore we shouldn't get our wishes), what about the wish to become happy?
The final episode, which takes place on board a plane in a thunderstorm, is genuinely riveting in places. As always in films, when someone sees something (or perceives something via ESP) that nobody else does, and therefore nobody else believes him, the lone dissenter always turns out to be right. And so it is in this case when the man looking out the window of a storm-tossed plane sees a man on the wing.
Overall, not one of the movie episodes is half as significant or thought-provoking as the television series was.
John Hospers is the author of Understanding the Arts. He teaches philosophy at the University of Southern California.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Movies".