When Jerry Mitchell (Casey Siemazsko) woke up this morning to find that his alarm had not gone off, he knew it was going to be one of those days, and sure enough that's what it was. He was late for school, his shirts were still in the washing machine instead of the dryer (one burst in the microwave sorts that) and his car has a flat tyre, but he manages to reach his destination and open the stationery shop there. However, everyone is talking about a new pupil at the school: Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson), who is notorious for his bad reputation, not someone Jerry wants to meet...
Which naturally means he will be meeting him very soon, and that will not go at all well. Three O'Clock High was not a film that did huge business when it was first put out, somewhat swamped in the teen movie barrage that the eighties consisted of if you took a cursory glance at the decade's product out of Hollywood. Yet after a while it began to rise above some of its peers to become a work that many believe to be one of the finest of its kind, a fan following that has barely diminished over the years as more catch this on TV or on home video, not bad for a film that doesn't really feature any major stars.
Unless you count the character actors playing the grown ups, although truth be told the actors playing the kids didn't exactly look so young either. You wouldn't know it from the credits, but this was a Steven Spielberg production which he had his name taken off so it would not be too shocking if it wasn't included in the usual roster of his well known efforts in that role from the eighties onwards. It certainly had the same appeal to the youth market, which is why as with so many of such things it pushes the nostalgia buttons today, although for a supposed comedy it contained surprisingly few genuine laughs.
That might have been because it was handled as more of a thriller than a comedy, and if they had eliminated all the gags they could have had a very decent teen suspense item. What sets this up is that Buddy is known for not liking being touched, and if you do so he will react with violence - he's big enough and strong enough to be intimidating, plus he looks about thirty years old so presumably he's been held back a few years. Alas, Jerry's best friend Vincent (Jonathan Wise), who runs the school newspaper, tries to persuade him to run a profile on Buddy, so when they meet by chance in the toilets, our hero foolhardily attempts to break the ice with the gorilla in the leather jacket.
He does this by applying his awkward conversation methods, then follows this up with a friendly squeeze of the arm - whoops, what a faux pas with a so-called "touch freak". Soon Buddy makes it clear in no uncertain terms that they will meet after the bell rings at three o'clock - hence the title - whereupon he will fight the trembling wimp, with no surprises who will be the victor. Jerry then spends the next few hours working out a way to wriggle out of this dire situation, while Buddy relishes the idea having brought his knuckle dusters to spice things up a bit. Jerry even turns to crime and bribery; all this needed was a stronger femme fatale role and a downplaying of the humour and you'd have a neat little film noir set in high school. You're in no doubt in spite of all this that there will be a big showdown, but there's a clever paranoia about Jerry's predicament when everyone around him, from the adults to the kids, are absolutely no help and even a hindrance. With a different style this could have been a classic, as it is it's an amusing diversion. Music by Tangerine Dream.