Three O’clock High

One hint that this is slightly more subversive than the average bland teenpic: Steven Spielberg, the executive producer, asked to have his name removed from the credits. First-time director Phil Joanou is such a show-off with his fancy camera angles and other gratuitous forms of visual workout that at first you suspect he’s trying to distract us from the formula scenario (by TV writing team Richard Christian Matheson and Thomas Szollosi)a countdown routine about the 90-pound weakling (Casey Siemaszko) who has to fight the Charles Atlas bully (Richard Tyson) as soon as school lets out. But after it gradually becomes clear that the true villains of the piece are more the school authorities than the bully, the movie becomes a bit more interesting: the hero’s eventual rise to macho potency begins to resemble an anarchist’s progress rather than a Clark Kent turnaround. The film’s incessant cutting away to clocks gets needlessly corny, and while Joanou gets pretty broad in jazzing up the mythological aspects of the material (from David and Goliath to the Vigo-esque caricatures of the grown-ups), he does manage to pull off a few nifty sight gags. (JR)

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