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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Talk About the Boy From New York City

Pump Up the Volume on IMDb

Plot Overview

sunspots circa 1990

cross country migrationCirca 1990 a high school student Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) has moved from New York to “white-bread land” Paradise Hills, AZ with his mother Marla Hunter (Mimi Kennedy) and father Brian Hunter (Scott Paulin) who's taken a position as school commissioner (“It's a nice place, I'm making good money.”) Mark's New York life had included ball­room dance, guitar, bongos & keyboard, and ham radio. To keep in touch with some of his friends, he's been given a short­wave radio by his dad. Ham radio operator Bob Brown, NM7M explains radio wave propagation:

solar radiationElementary Considerations. The electromagnetic waves go up into the ionos­phere and then return to earth at a great distance from where they started. ¶… that's called ionos­pheric reflection. ¶… hops are not always the same, say day or night or at different times of the year, or even in a course of a solar cycle. (11, 15)

The sun's radiation sets conditions favorable for skip, high sunspot numbers corresponding to worldwide propagation on the higher bands, and low sun­spot numbers for better communication at medium distances, say Arizona to New York. The antennas required for the latter are large and could hardly fit on Mark's tract home, postage stamp lot—especially if there were covenants involved,—so he'd have to make do with some kind of compromise. In 1990 we'd just passed the peak of the solar cycle and were on the way down, looking favorable for Mark's purposes. Then the unexpected happened, we got a double peak, closing the window of opportunity for Mark and his friends in their waning high school days. Fate did not favor this fellow, kismet was not kind to the kid, so he took to broad­casting to the ether on a low power FM transmitter:

You see I didn't plan it like this. My dumb dad got me this short­wave radio set so I could just talk to my buddies back east. But I couldn't reach any­body. So I just imagined I was talking to nobody, I imagined nobody listening. Maybe I imagined there would be one person out there— And then one day I woke up, and I realized I was never going to be normal, so I said, “F__k it.” I said, “So be it.” And Happy Harry Hard-On was born.

new schoolThe movie details his effort to make friends at his new school. Paige Woodward (Cheryl Pollak) a senior is a “model student,” … “so rich, so smart, so perfect,” chide the other girls. She's popular, gets dates, and is easily approach­able by guys. It didn't work for Mark, though, because he was too brusque per his big city pace while she was bopping to some slower beat. Also, she was more used to guys approaching from their dominate right side, and Mark is left handed.

at the libraryNora Diniro (Samantha Mathis) an admiring girl in his writing class is a student librarian who thinks Mark's “cute” but, “no way.” Until she susses out he's the mysterious voice on the air, and then she's “fearless” in her approach. When he's eating his lunch seated in the stair­well, she tries to circle around to get on his right side but can't for the wall, so she leans into him, which is awkward. If Mark had been a southern gentle­man, he'd have risen for the lady, to put them on an equal level, but he's not. Nora makes other attempts, circling to get on his right side, which makes one of them comfortable. After they have an episode of wrestling on the ground, Mark loses his physical shyness with her but still can't talk to people.

His superior vocabulary as evidenced in his writing is not conducive to ordinary conversation, so he's reading a book, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, by Lenny Bruce, to try to remedy that. It works almost too well on the air, which brings undo attention from the FCC. Maybe it's time for him to close down the operation once he's found his street voice. But then how is he going to be the voice of the people?


hand crank ice cream makerHere is begun a school-student conflict à la, (Prov. 30:33) “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.” A constant aggravation over time can change a state of peace to one of war like (liquid) milk changing to (solid) butter. An irritation to some critical area like wringing the nose can make it bleed. In this movie when there's a knock on the door, Mark hustles and moves things here and there, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, and, voilà, a pirate radio station is trans­formed into a study room. Mark drops a cricket into his terrarium, right into the mouth of his gecko, and it gets et. Dangerous spot, that.

ATT phone

filingMark's nightly broadcasts are a constant irritation to school officials, what with their alternative music, corres­pon­dence, vulgarity, cynicism, and phone calls. Eventually they get up in arms. The students for their part are scandalized to learn how their principal Loretta Creswood (Annie Ross) achieved record SAT scores for their school. She started by expelling the lowest tier of students including most blacks. The next tier have a file opened on them, and they're put on probation. Eliminate the bottom rung(s) and the average goes up. The students didn't like this inter­ference with their right to an education. The principal, though, is doing it “for the good of the school.”

Production Values

” (1990) was written and directed by Allan Moyle. It stars Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis and Anthony Lucero. Some­body in cast or crew evidently offered technical advice on radio broad­casting, because they get a lot of it right. Slater does a bang-up job in the lead role where he's got to wear multiple faces. The chemistry between him and Mathis as his involuntary love interest is strange, but then so is youth. The cast did a wonderful job, notably the supporting cast of: Andy Romano, Cheryl Pollack, and James Hampton.

It's rated R for language, sexuality, nudity and an off-screen suicide. Its runtime is 1¾ hours. The city council where I live has banned noose displays, and there's a hanging in effigy of the principal in one scene. I just skip ahead continue past it. Gotta take care for the good of the school.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

I've unearthed two pirate radio stations on my radio dial over the years, but they never caught on. The FCC has to manage radio spectrum as a scarce resource, and they generally do a good job of allocating it to broad­casters who serve the interests of the community, and who will abide by standards of decency. It's fairly easy to get a license for a low-powered FM station for religious, political, or what­ever purposes. I don't see a pirate revolution as some­thing that will be happening any­time soon. But the movie was well done, and maybe some­body should pump up the volume for the interests of youth who will some day inherit the world they're given.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Three and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Brown, Robert R. The Little Pistol's Guide to HF Propagation. Copyright March, 1996. Sacramento: Worldradio Books. Print.