“I am the future!” Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten) announced in the 1982 film, Class of 1984, and, in many ways, he was correct. Though it’s easy to be snarky about the fashion choices made by Stegman’s gang, Class of 1984‘s portrait of a school where teachers have taken to carrying guns to protect themselves is still relevant today.
One thing that set Class of 1984 apart from other exploitation films was that it acknowledged something that most people aren’t willing to admit. Sometimes, the worst people can create the most beautiful music. This is a point that was made quite literally in the scene below.
As the scene begins, the new music teacher — Andy Norman (Perry King) — is just trying to start his class when suddenly Stegman and his gang decide to drop in. At first, Andy tells them to go away but then, suddenly, Stegman sits down at a piano and starts to play.
Timothy Van Patten, who would later go on to become an award-winning television director, reportedly actually played every note heard in this scene. For a few brief seconds, Peter Stegman is revealed to be something more than just another high school psycho. When Stegman sits in front of that piano, he becomes an artist and, throughout the film, both Andy Norman and the audience occasionally wonder who Peter Stegman could have been under different circumstances.
Of course, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Peter Stegman could have been a concert pianist but instead, he went down a different path. Over the course of the film, Stegman is responsible for not only Michael J. Fox getting stabbed but Roddy McDowall getting blown up. When Andy makes one final attempt to reach out to him, Stegman tries to cut his hand off. Now wonder Andy eventually allowed Stegman to plunge through that skylight.
But even as Stegman falls to his death and discovers that he’s not the future, it’s hard not to think about that beautiful piece of music that he played just a few days earlier and wonder about what could have been.
Peter Stegman. R.I.P.