Massacre at Central High is a 1976 American thriller film directed by Rene Daalder and starring Derrel Maury, Kimberly Beck, Robert Carradine, and Andrew Stevens. The plot follows a series of revenge killings at a fictional American high school, after which the oppressed students take on the role of their bully oppressors. Despite its title, it is not a slasher film but an unusual blend of political allegory, social commentary, and low-budget exploitation; with the exception of the final sequence, no "adult" characters (such as teachers and parents) are seen.
In the UK the film was released theatrically as Blackboard Massacre. It was shot on 35mm film, and had a running time of 87 minutes.
The film's director, Rene Daalder, described Massacre at Central High as "eerily predicting punk and Columbine". It has also been cited as an influence on the 1988 black comedy Heathers.
David (Derrel Maury), a new student at Central High, meets Mark (Andrew Stevens), an old friend whom he once helped out of a jam at their previous school. Mark tells David that the school can be like a country club for him if he befriends Bruce (Ray Underwood), Craig (Steve Bond), and Paul (Damon Douglas), the bullies who rule the school student body; Mark has become their somewhat reluctant accomplice.
Over the next few days, David witnesses Bruce, Craig, and Paul torment the other students, including the scrawny Spoony; the overweight Oscar; Arthur, the school's hearing-impaired librarian; and Rodney, who drives a rundown car that is vandalized by the bullies. After David forcibly thwarts the trio's attempt to rape two female students, Mary and Jane, in an empty classroom, the bullies approach Mark and tell him he only has one more chance to talk David into minding his own business. When this fails, the three bullies decide to take matters into their own hands. Meanwhile, David has taken a liking to Mark's girlfriend, Theresa.
One evening, David is repairing Rodney's car in his garage when the bullies appear and kick the jack out from under the vehicle. One of the wheels crushes David's left leg, crippling him. After being discharged from hospital, David takes revenge on the trio by arranging fatal "accidents": he sabotages Bruce's hang-glider, tricks Craig into high-diving into a drained swimming pool in the dark, and pushes Paul's van off a cliff; all three fall (literally and symbolically) to their deaths.
The school changes after the bullies' deaths. At first the students support each other, but soon the formerly tormented students become bullies themselves, and try to form alliances with David to control the school. In due course more deaths occur: Arthur is killed when his hearing-aid malfunctions, Oscar's locker explodes when he opens it, and Rodney's car blows up when he starts the engine. While camping under a cliff, Spoony, Mary, and Jane find a box of dynamite but ignore it; when they return to their tent for a threesome, an explosion causes a rockslide, killing them also.
The police blame Spoony, Mary, and Jane for the carnage, but Mark is aware that David is responsible. He tells Theresa they must prevent David from killing more people at the school dance with a bomb he has planted in the school basement. Realizing the only way to stop David is by playing on the last sympathies he has towards them, Mark and Theresa enter the gym where the dance is being held and tell David that if he really wants to kill everyone then he will have to kill them too. David rushes to the basement and retrieves the bomb, and as he tries to defuse it, he takes it outside where it explodes, killing him. To save David's reputation, Mark and Theresa agree to tell the police that Spoony, Mary, and Jane had planted the bomb, and that David had given his life to save everyone.Derrel Maury as David
Andrew Stevens as Mark
Robert Carradine as Spoony
Kimberly Beck as Theresa
Ray Underwood as Bruce
Steve Bond as Craig
Damon Douglas as Paul
Rex Steven Sikes as Rodney
Lani O'Grady as Jane
Dennis Kort as Arthur
Cheryl Smith as Mary
Jeffrey Winner as Oscar
Tom Logan as Harvey
Writer-director Rene Daalder was recommended to the producers by Russ Meyer, whom Daalder had previously worked for as a cameraman.
This was the first feature starring role for both Andrew Stevens and Kimberly Beck.
According to an interview with Derrel Maury, a haunting original theme called "David's Theme" was initially composed by musician-director Daalder, but never used in the final film.
The film was shot in a mere 4 weeks.
Derrel Maury was originally cast as Rodney. After Rex Steven Sikes was recast in the part, he was given the lead.
Although the film never specifies the nature of the "jam" that David helped Mark escape from, Derrel Maury has stated that a fight scene was filmed showing David saving Mark from being beaten up in a tunnel. A brief excerpt from this footage appears during the opening credits.
During the filming of Oscar's death scene, a much larger explosion than intended occurred, knocking out stuntman Danny Rogers and blowing out the lights. It was this take which was used in the final film.
Reportedly, director Rene Daalder was so upset with the film's musical score that he did not watch his own film in its entirety for three decades after its release.
During the end scene when David (Maury) is carrying the bomb out of Central High, the actor lost his balance by limping on one leg, accidentally crashing into the school lockers in the hallway.
Robert Carradine had difficulty with the line where he refers to Rodney's car as a 'Detroit gas guzzler'. Carradine fumbled the lines so many times that the shot had to be taken more than 20 times.
Andrew Stevens accidentally broke Rex Steven Sikes' nose when he elbowed him in the face during the shooting of the scene where the students find Craig's body in the pool. Sikes ended up having to complete the rest of the film with the injury to his nose visible.
In an interview with star Rex Steven Sikes, he said that the cast often found their scripted dialog so bad that they would improvise lines. Sikes though, at the insistence of director Rene Daalder, stuck to his scripted lines.
The Italian version of this film, called Sexy Jeans, was edited with pornographic inserts.
The film attracted little attention when first released, but when reissued in 1980, New York Times critic Vincent Canby praised it as "an original, fascinating work", and named it as one of his 20 favorite films of the year. Roger Ebert also discussed the film favorably on his television show Sneak Previews, describing it as "intelligent and uncompromising". By contrast, John Ross Bowie, in comparing the film with the more comedic Heathers, dismissed Massacre at Central High as "exploitative" and "devoid of technique", and criticised its technical flaws and "wooden acting".
On review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a 67% 'Fresh' rating.