There are moments, movies, books, and shows that stay with you, and some undeniably influence you. I remember where I was, and who I was (or at least on my way to becoming) when I was first introduced to Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) better known to his listening audience as Happy Harry Hard-on.
With a soundtrack packed with alternative artists, Pump Up the Volume confronted a number of issues amongst the high school populace and did it with intelligence, wit, and solid performances. A quiet person in public, Mark gets through each day at school without speaking to anyone (teachers not included) eating alone in stairwells and wondering if this is how things are always going to be.
At 10pm, he flicks the switch on his shortwave radio and assumes the loud, lust,y pontificating personality of Harry, and reaches his generation. He answers each of his letters on air, and if a phone number is included, he’ll call, and that leads to an interaction with a young man who gives in to the suicidal thoughts that are plaguing him,
The media, the teaching staff (which have problems of their own) and the parents are eager to hold Harry accountable for the boy’s death, and Mark finds himself confronting life and choices, as well as learning to talk for himself, and perhaps lead others to do the same.
A young woman, Nora (Samantha Mathis in her first starring role) figures out who Harry is (honestly it’s not that hard, it’s a wonder more people didn’t put it together) and a romance shows the promise of growing even as Harry incites his world to ‘Talk Hard!’ and talk about the things that no one wants to talk about, or how to talk about them.
Nowadays, all of these people would be starting a youtube channel, but it was the 90s, so I guess radio was the way to go. In fact, it was such a way to go that this was one of the reasons I joined my local college radio station (and did an internship at a local FM channel), where I played dances, events, and the occasional shift playing whatever song struck my fancy, even if I could never build up the courage to Talk Hard.
I hadn’t seen this one since the 90s, and I wasn’t sure I would still like it, but the issues that are talked about are still with us, every day, it’s just the delivery media that has changed – that is not a request for a reboot or a remake, leave this one alone, but share it with everyone.
This one really took me back, and I was back walking school halls, listening to any kind of music that struck my fancy, and trying to figure out just who the hell I was, am and will be.