MONDAY MORNING (1990) is the only movie written and directed by the producer Don Murphy (NATURAL BORN KILLERS, DOUBLE DRAGON, BULLY, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, TRANSFORMERS). I’ve been kind of fascinated by him since his furious all caps attacks on people for saying the wrong things about his productions on AOL message boards back in the Hyborian Age, so when I saw that a movie he actually directed came out on disc from MVD Rewind I got curious.
It was actually his USC thesis film, but he managed to sell it for release on VHS under the title CLASS OF FEAR. They promoted it like an exploitation movie, but it’s more of a corny drama, almost an After School Special. It does not show many signs of directorial vision that I could pick up on, but maybe Murphy deserves credit for recognizing that and going into producing instead. I’m not gonna hold it against him.
Bobby Parker (Noah Blake, TEEN WITCH) is a high school senior who’s finally settling in at his new school after moving around alot. He tries to stay away from his angry, abusive dad (Paul Henry Itkin, THE LAST ANGRY MAN) by staying with friends, but he has to sneak back in to get things for school out of his room (where he has various heavy metal and football things on his walls and a ROCKY IV poster on the door). When Dad sees him he yells at him for wanting to be in “that faggot music business,” and then his mom (Annie O’Donnell, “Brian’s Mother,” KICKBOXER 2: THE ROAD BACK) defends his dad to him, saying “he didn’t mean it, he just gets wrapped up in his work.”
The school situation isn’t great either, due to a class divide. The popular kids live in some snooty upper class neighborhood and look down on anybody from where the factory workers live or whatever. So Bobby and his friends are excluded from an after-prom party at The Shanty because it’s “residents only.”
(Side note: there used to be a tiny cafe in my neighborhood called the Shanty – it was open from 1914-2016 and then was destroyed by fire in 2020. I just thought you should know.)
It doesn’t come up as much, but I’d say there’s also plenty of racism to go around. “Maria, we don’t want your type here,” says Susan (Lisa Rinna, NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.). I’m pretty sure I know what she means.
The biggest conflict comes from the mayor’s son James (Brandon Hooper, who later had a story credit on CHASING MAVERICKS), a guy who wears thick sweaters and plays golf before school. He gets mad when Bobby starts hanging out with his sister Noreen (Julianne McNamara, Charles in Charge). As he explains to Bobby’s ex Ginny (Shannon Absher, BLOOD NASTY), “You went out with that Parker scum. He’s a transfer, Ginny, in case you hadn’t noticed. He’s a nobody, a nothing.”
Bobby and his friends go to beat him up at his job at the docks, and it’s weird that there are no adults to intervene. But Bobby can’t be scared away from love – cue montage of swinging and kissing in the park. Of course, when dating Noreen allows him some access to “the club,” his neighborhood friends start to think he’s a sell out. His friend Reilly (Ricky Dean Logan, “Carlos” from FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE) bitterly accuses him of eating caviar instead of tacos.
He just can’t catch a break. For example he can’t find the keys to his car (a VW bug with a The Cramps bumper sticker placed right on top of a D.A.R.E. one – take that, The Man!) so he ends up driving drunk-off-her-ass Ginny home in her car. She tries to make out with him while he drives, causing him to swerve off the road, and she seems to be dead, so he has to go to jail for a while (wearing his Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band t-shirt like a true working man).
The part that would’ve been the hook for the advertising if this was a TV movie, and that made it possible to title it “CLASS OF FEAR,” comes in the last act. The preppy kids plan the “prank” of bringing a gun to school to “scare” Bobby with. There’s a scuffle and the gun goes off in the hallway, hitting the science teacher. Since most of the class didn’t see it, James tells them that Bobby brought the gun and shot the teacher. Desperate (and/or a total fuckin idiot), Bobby uses the gun to hold the class hostage, thinking that’s a good way to prove his innocence.
So there’s lots of overwrought drama as they argue and negotiate, and it tries to be sort of a 12 ANGRY MEN where they debate and aren’t sure what to believe and change their views and what not in between attempts to escape or be released. Students in the class include Chip (Jason Lively, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S EUROPEAN VACATION, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS) and the police chief’s son Tommy (Vincent Dupree – Julius from JASON TAKES MANHATTAN). One of the strange moments is when Carol (Charlotte Swazey) convinces him to let her go in another room to pee but is too nervous to do it and the rest of the kids laugh at her. Terrible hostage unity.
Anyway there’s a big standoff and when it’s all over Dad asks to ride in the ambulance with Bobby. So he has a heart after all, to do the very bare minimum thing.
Blake later played a frat boy in a scene with Michael Bay and Riki Rachtman in MYSTERY MEN. And then Bay directed the TRANSFORMERS movies that Murphy convinced Hollywood to make. Small world.
Murphy mostly made his bones by recognizing there was an audience for non-super-hero comic books, video games and toy cartoons before Hollywood at large caught on. MONDAY MORNING is more connected to where he was at early on, making indie crime movies with Tarantino, Bryan Singer and Larry Clark. But it’s way cruder and cornier than those movies, so its value is pretty much just as a time capsule of people looking goofy while trying to be serious. That’s okay. I’ve seen worse.
P.S. I wrote in a little more detail about Murphy at the end of my DOUBLE DRAGON review last year.