Terrible acting, off-key singing, casual bullying, puka-shell necklaces — what's not to love about this 1978 basement-budget musical featurette starring Paul Abdul.
The story begins with Sherry (Paula Abdul) declaring plans to hold a party that night. Upon hearing about this party, Jerry's friend Paul (Kirk Burnett) encourages him to ask his crush Lori Scott (Karen Capelle) to accompany him to the event. On his way to doing this Jerry encounters several obstacles, including repeated run-ins with Keith (Mikal Robert Taylor), a school bully, and Vicki (Toni Mazarin), an ill-intentioned girl who hopes Jerry will ask her to the party so she can spite a previous boyfriend.
A review from IMDB:
I first saw Junior High School in 1978 as an entry in the Movies on a Shoestring Festival held in Rochester N.Y. (now called the Rochester International Film Festival). It was a cut above the usual MOS fare and was well received by the judges and festival attendees. The principals, writers and directors, were a group of USC cinema majors that made the movie as their senior project and to demonstrate their abilities to potential Hollywood employers. If you check their other credits, you will see that they collaborated on a prior short called Gravity. The principals attended the screening and each was given a trophy. Several years before this film was submitted, Movies on a Shoestring began purchasing copies of the most popular films screened during the festival for a lending library called "Best of the Fest". A copy of Junior High School was purchased and it went on to be one of the most popular in their catalog.
While many people today classify this as a really bad movie that you have to watch, at the time JHS was considered good work, especially for a group of film students with a relatively untrained non-union cast (save for Mitzi McCall & hubby Charlie Brill who appeared in disguise and were originally credited under aliases) and crew making little or no money. Yes, the story line is schmaltzy and the performances shallow but the production work was close to professional, all things considered.
Unlike the storyline and the acting, the music was quite good. I assume this is due in large part to the lineage of David Wechter whose father Julius was a well respected studio and touring musician (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and the Baja Marimba Band) as well as a composer/arranger/film scorer. I suspect that dad made a few uncredited contributions to the movie… Audio recording and post production capabilities for big budget movies were crude by today's standards; on a low budget production like this the music had to stand on its own.
The direction, camera work and editing occurred before music videos took film making on a downward spiral of fast cuts and often indiscernible imagery. By today's often unpalatable standards of film production, JHS may be dated but it was very well done for the pre-MTV era. Junior High School achieved its objectives: the principals graduated from USC with cinema degrees and three out of four quickly found jobs in Hollywood where they continue to work today. Jacobson appears to have skipped the Hollywood film business as there are no subsequent credits for him.
BTW, I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall listening to a bunch of twenty something students trying to convince the the school principal to hand over his building to them for several days of shooting without a big fat compensation check. It would be interesting to get one or more of the principals to open up about the making of Junior High School.