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The Principal

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 106 mins . R . PAL


Rick Latimer is a teacher on the edge. Pushed too far by his divorce, he goes mental in a bar and tears the place up with a baseball bat. This puts him in deep shit with his employer and, before you know it, heís been transferred to a principalís position at Brandell High. All the dregs of Los Angeles seem to end up here, and the same is said of the teachers. However, Latimer is determined to make a go of his first principalís gig and cleans his act up. He sets about removing the crime and fear from the schoolís corridors by taking on the ring-leader; one Victor Duncan.

Duncan claims the school is his and after several run-ins, Latimer is threatened by this drug-dealing bully out of desperation and the final showdown is comingÖ

James Belushi shows he has a bit more range than his nefarious follow-up films would indicate. He also uses his sense of humour and delivery to bring this story some relief from what could be a dry and serious film throughout. This would certainly have spelled the end for the film if it were not for Belushiís fun injection and while it doesnít overpower, it aids the drama just enough.

While not being the most original of ideas, it is shot in a manner befitting the genre - if not in reality than in indirect metaphor. The kids want to do well to get out of the shithole that is their lives, but just need someone to show them the way. Most kids are good but for the few bad eggs and so on. Yes, weíve heard it all before, but there is a certain appeal to this film that makes it watchable for Belushiís teenage sense of humour regarding dealing with teenagers. Still, there are moments when the action is just a bit too unlikely. Holding guns on someone so as to rub in that they've lost just long enough for someone else to show up and save the day; that sort of thing. The James Bond Syndrome, I call it.


For the most part this is okay. There are frequent moments of low-level grain, but colour is even enough and blacks are true. Shadow detail is not great, unfortunately, but we couldnít expect too much from a 1987 release. The film gets delivered here in the cinema aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphicnessness attached and does generally look fairly appealing for a film of this age. Detail is quite good throughout, which is unfortunate for the close-ups of Belushiís face Ė particularly after a beating scene in which the blood makeup looks like itís just been thrown at his face a minute before shooting. Oh well. At least there arenít any major film artefacts to annoy us.


The cruel late í80s soundtrack is brought to us in the Dolby Digital stereo format and does the job just fine. There's plenty of bad hip-hop and early rap themes throughout this Jay Gruska score with tracks being supervised by early madonna cohort Jellybean Benitez. Slightly above average for a soundtrack of this nature, but still pretty crappy.

Dialogue levels arenít balanced too evenly with the music, resulting in a bunch of volume fluctuations on your remote, but at least itís mostly spoken clearly. Louis Gossett Jr. mumbles a little bit at times, but he doesnít get all that many lines, so itís no real loss.

To the filmís credit there are some cool sounds during the finalť in the girlís showers which could have worked very well in the surround mode, but unfortunately there arenít any surrounds. The subwoofer supports the music well and Belushiís motorsickle, but other than that itís in detention.


Two juicy trailers are all we get and these are for some film called The Principal and the laughfest of St. Elmoís Fire. Rob Lowe truly looks like a right wanker in this. Both are 4:3, but The Principal features scenes that arenít even in the final film! I hate that, particularly as these scenes look decidedly witty.


Teachers who ever dreamed of punching students will no doubt find much to enjoy here and it could ably sit alongside some other teaching films like Dangerous Minds or the like. Itís a bit away from films like Stand and Deliver or Mr. Hollandís Opus due to its mildly comic approach, but is still a fairly watchable film with a decent performance by Belushi in his earlier days.

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      And I quote...
    "James Belushi expands his range quite well here before settling into a career of sitcom abuse in the late í90s..."
    - Jules Faber
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