Pump Up the Volume (1990)

R | 100 mins | Drama | 22 August 1990

Director:

Allan Moyle

Writer:

Allan Moyle

Cinematographer:

Walt Lloyd

Production Designer:

Robb Wilson King

Production Company:

Katja Motion Picture Company
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HISTORY

Writer-director Allan Moyle first wrote a subversive script titled Radio Death in the mid 1980s, but assumed it was too dark to ever be produced. The 24 Aug 1990 LA Weekly reported the initial script concerned a lonely, angst-ridden teen who planned to kill himself, but found he liked talking on the radio too much to actually carry out his plan. When producer Sandy Stern read the script, he loved it because of its hard-edged nature. Stern developed it for Canada’s SC Entertainment and later brought in New Line Cinema as co-producer and distributor. Through several revisions, the edginess of Moyle’s original script remained intact, but the darkness was lightened as the main character, who was no longer suicidal, got a girlfriend. Moyle also gave the film a “Hollywood ending.”
       Filming was originally set to begin on 15 Aug 1989 in Toronto, Canada, according to the 5 Jul 1989 DV production chart. However, producers opted instead to film in Los Angeles, CA, with principal photography beginning on 27 Nov 1989, according to the 1 Dec 1989 DV production chart.
       The 24 Sep 1990 Var noted that Pump Up The Volume, a title taken from a 1987 rap/hip-hop song that is not heard in the film, was intended to only be the working title. Producers planned to find a more suitable name, but the film got early press coverage under that title, so they opted to keep it to avoid causing confusion and losing momentum.
       New Line Cinema spent approximately $5 million marketing the film to teenage audiences with advertisements focusing on actor Christian Slater’s angst-filled radio ...

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Writer-director Allan Moyle first wrote a subversive script titled Radio Death in the mid 1980s, but assumed it was too dark to ever be produced. The 24 Aug 1990 LA Weekly reported the initial script concerned a lonely, angst-ridden teen who planned to kill himself, but found he liked talking on the radio too much to actually carry out his plan. When producer Sandy Stern read the script, he loved it because of its hard-edged nature. Stern developed it for Canada’s SC Entertainment and later brought in New Line Cinema as co-producer and distributor. Through several revisions, the edginess of Moyle’s original script remained intact, but the darkness was lightened as the main character, who was no longer suicidal, got a girlfriend. Moyle also gave the film a “Hollywood ending.”
       Filming was originally set to begin on 15 Aug 1989 in Toronto, Canada, according to the 5 Jul 1989 DV production chart. However, producers opted instead to film in Los Angeles, CA, with principal photography beginning on 27 Nov 1989, according to the 1 Dec 1989 DV production chart.
       The 24 Sep 1990 Var noted that Pump Up The Volume, a title taken from a 1987 rap/hip-hop song that is not heard in the film, was intended to only be the working title. Producers planned to find a more suitable name, but the film got early press coverage under that title, so they opted to keep it to avoid causing confusion and losing momentum.
       New Line Cinema spent approximately $5 million marketing the film to teenage audiences with advertisements focusing on actor Christian Slater’s angst-filled radio monologues. Free screenings were held on twenty college campuses, which helped generate good word of mouth. The film was also voted “Best Film” at the 1990 Seattle International Film Festival, following a surprise screening, according to the 13 Jun 1990 DV. The film’s Los Angeles premier on 16 Aug 1990 at the Chinese Theater was a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) anti-censorship division, Musical Majority, according to the 10 Aug 1990 LA Weekly.
       After nationwide sneak previews on 19 and 21 Aug 1990, Pump Up the Volume opened on 799 screens on 22 Aug 1990. However, after six weeks of release, the film had taken in only $10.4 million, according to the 2 Oct 1990 DV box-office chart. The 24 Sep 1990 Var reported the film was attracting strong adult audiences, but was failing to draw teenagers, despite attempting several different advertising campaigns. New Line Cinema’s president of marketing, Sandra Ruch, attributed that to the film’s R-rating, which blocked many of Christian Slater’s younger fans from seeing the film. However, Ruch said the company stood by director Moyle’s decision not to tone down Slater’s profanity-filled monologues which gave the film much of its impact.
       End credits list “special thanks” to: “Pioneer, Jan McCormick, Leslie Goldman, Jill Bock, Randy Finch, Sunset Marquis, Keith Fleer, Kevin Benson, Jim Hosney, Ron Blumer, Muffy Meyer, Danny Holloway, Megan Slikis, John Wesley Harding, Rick Kurtzman, Mary Jo Slater, Stephanie Fried.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Sep 1990
---
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1989
---
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1989
---
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1990
---
Daily Variety
17 May 1990
p. 2, 21
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1990
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1990
p. 7, 20
LA Weekly
10 Aug 1990
---
LA Weekly
24 Aug 1990
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1990
p. 5
New York Times
22 Aug 1990
p. 10
Variety
23 May 1990
p. 26
Variety
24 Sep 1990
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
New Line Cinema in association with SC Entertainment present
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Kris Rao
2d cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam/B cam 1st asst
2d asst cam/Loader
Cam asst/2d unit
Addl photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam/Loader
Still photog
Best boy elec
Elec trainee
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Grip and elec equip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dept coord
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Addl ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Post prod asst
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop mistress
Assst prop master
2d asst props
2d asst props
Key set prod assoc
Set prod assoc
Set prod assoc
Set des
Swingman
Swingman
Scenic artist
Leadman
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Swing dresser
Const coord
Const foreman
Lead carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Asst carpenter
Asst carpenter
Lead scenic painter
Scenic painter
Scenic painter
Loc restoration mgr
Nora's art by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
On-set ward
On-set ward
On-set ward
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus consultant
Mus coord
Mus legal liaison
Underscore coord by
Underscore rec by
Mus supv for MCA
SOUND
Sd mixer
Cable/Playback
Sd ed
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd transfer
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR/Foley mixer
ADR/Foley rec
Post prod facility
ADR voice casting by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main title des
Airbrush lettering
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Key hairstylist
Asst makeup
Asst makeup
Hair consultant
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
New York casting
Extras casting
Casting asst
Prod supv
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod controller
Asst to prod
Prod attorney
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Scr supv
Asst to Allan Moyle
Asst to Allan Moyle
Asst to Allan Moyle
Asst to Sara Risher
Asst to Sandy Stern
Legal asst
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Personal asst to Christian Slater
Helicopter pilot
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Medic
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Welfare worker
Exec in charge of prod
Payroll services
Excerpt from "The Healing" by
Main title coord
STAND INS
Christian Slater's stand-in
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Everybody Knows,” written & arranged by Leonard Cohen, performed by Leonard Cohen, published by Stranger Music (BMI)/Geffen & Robinhill Music c/o WB Music (ASCAP), courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department; “Talk Hard,” written by Stan Ridgway, performed by Stan Ridgway and MJ-12, published by New Line Music Corp. (BMI)/Illegal Songs (BMI), administered in U.S. and Canada by Criterion Music, produced by Stan Ridgway, courtesy of Geffen Records/IRS Records; “Love Comes In Spurts,” written by Richard Hell, performed by Richard Hell, published by Automatic Music, Quick Mix Music, Doraflo Music Co., Inc., administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI), courtesy of Sire Records/Instant Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products; “If It Be Your Will,” written by Leonard Cohen, performed by Leonard Cohen, published by Stranger Music (BMI), courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department; “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.,” written by Ice-T & Afrika Islam, performed by Ice-T, published by Colgems-EMI Music Inc./Rhyme Syndicate Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Sire Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products; “Kick Out The Jams,” written by Robert Derminer, Frederick D. Smith, Wayne Kambes, Dennis Tomich and Michael Davis, performed by Bad Brains with Henry Rollins, published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI), produced by Ron St. Germain, Bad Brains courtesy of Caroline Records, Inc., Henry Rollins Courtesy of 2-13-61; “Get Together,” written by Chet Powers, published by Irving Music, Inc. (BMI); “Wave Of Mutilation (U.K. Surf),” written by Black Francis, performed by Pixies, published by Rice N’ Beans Music (BMI), courtesy of 4AD/Elektra Entertainment, by arrangement with Warner Special Products; “WeinerSchnitzel,” written by Bill Stevenson & Pat McCuiston, performed by Descendants, published by New Alliance Music (BMI), courtesy of SST Records; “Titanium Expose,” written by Sonic Youth, performed by Sonic Youth, published by Savage Conquest Music (ASCAP), courtesy of DGC by agreement with Warner Special Products; “Scenario,” written by A. Horovitz, A. Yauch, M. Diamond, R. Rubin, performed by The Beastie Boys, published by Def Jam Music, Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of Def Jam/CBS Records, Music Licensing Department; “I've Got A Secret Miniature Camera,” written by Peter Murphy and Eddy Branch, performed by Peter Murphy, published by Momentum Music Ltd./Beggars Banquet Music Ltd. (BMI), courtesy of Beggars Banquet/BMG Music; “Me & The Devil Blues,” written by Robert Johnson, performed by Cowboy Junkies, published by Horoscope Music Publishing Co. (BMI), courtesy BMG Music International; “Why Can't I Fall In Love,” written Kenny Lee Lewis & John Finley, performed by Ivan Neville, published by New Line Music Corp. (BMI)/Standing Man Music (BMI)/Old Soul Music (BMI), produced by Mark Disisto, Ivan Neville, and Kenny Lee Lewis, remix engineer Dennis Herring, courtesy of Polydor/Polygram Records, Inc.; “Freedom Of Speech,” written by James Brown, Cold 187um, Laylaw, performed by Above The Law, published by Crid Music, Inc., administered by Unichappell Music Inc. (BMI)/Dollarz II Sense Muzick (BMI)/Ruthless Attack Muzick (ASCAP), courtesy of Ruthless/CBS Records, Music Licensing Department; “Heretic,” written by Kim Thayil & Hiro Yamamoto, performed by Soundgarden, published by Loud Love Music (ASCAP), courtesy of A&M Records; “Everybody Knows,” written by Leonard Cohen, performed by Concrete Blonde, published by Stranger Music (BMI)/Geffen & Robinhill Music c/o WB Music (ASCAP), produced by Dennis Herring, courtesy of IRS Records; “Dad, I'm In Jail,” written David Was and Don Was, performed by Was Not Was, published by Deathless Pros Music/Los Was Compilations (ASCAP), administered by Ashes Music, Inc., courtesy of Chrysalis Records; “Tail O' The Twister,” written by L. Nichols, D. Perkins and S. Taylor, performed by Chagall Guevara, published by Sado Shrimp (ASCAP), produced by Dennis Herring, courtesy of MCA Records; “Fast Lane,” written by Tilon, De Vreede, Matadin, Schoots, Van Barneveld, performed by Urban Dance Squad, published by Pennies from Heaven, B.V. (MMA), courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.; “Stand,” written by Sylvester Stewart, performed by Liquid Jesus, produced by Todd Rigione and David Bianco, mixed by David Bianco, published by Mijac Music, administered by WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of Koosh Vinyl.
PERFORMED BY
+
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Radio Death
Release Date:
22 August 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premier: 16 Aug 1990; Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 Aug 1990
Production Date:
began 27 Nov 1989
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres.
Color
Color by Deluxe ®
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision ® Cameras & Lenses
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Canada, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30374
SYNOPSIS

In the Paradise Hills section of Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, sixteen-year-old high-school student Mark Hunter does a pirate radio show each night at 10 p.m., musing about life and playing alternative rock and rap music. Calling his on-air personality “Hard Harry,” short for “Happy Harry Hard On,” he talks frequently about sex and simulates masturbation on the show. Mark is unhappy with his life. His family recently moved to Arizona from New York City when his father, Brian Hunter, got a high-paying job as school commissioner. The arrangement Mark has with his parents is that as long as he makes good grades, they leave him alone. So, they say nothing when he gets a can of beer out of the refrigerator and do not disturb him while he talks on his short-wave radio set in the basement. Mark is quiet, almost introverted, but as Hard Harry, he comes alive. Hard Harry explains to his listeners that he does the show because he has no friends, no money, no car, and no license and says the most exciting thing to do is go to a shopping mall and play video games or smoke marijuana and “get stupid.” Hard Harry also has no hope for the future, believing, “There is nothing to do anymore. Everything decent’s been done. All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks. So, I don’t really find it exactly cheerful to be living in the middle of a totally exhausted decade where there is nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to.” Harry’s teen angst resonates with the students at Hubert H. Humphrey High School ...

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In the Paradise Hills section of Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, sixteen-year-old high-school student Mark Hunter does a pirate radio show each night at 10 p.m., musing about life and playing alternative rock and rap music. Calling his on-air personality “Hard Harry,” short for “Happy Harry Hard On,” he talks frequently about sex and simulates masturbation on the show. Mark is unhappy with his life. His family recently moved to Arizona from New York City when his father, Brian Hunter, got a high-paying job as school commissioner. The arrangement Mark has with his parents is that as long as he makes good grades, they leave him alone. So, they say nothing when he gets a can of beer out of the refrigerator and do not disturb him while he talks on his short-wave radio set in the basement. Mark is quiet, almost introverted, but as Hard Harry, he comes alive. Hard Harry explains to his listeners that he does the show because he has no friends, no money, no car, and no license and says the most exciting thing to do is go to a shopping mall and play video games or smoke marijuana and “get stupid.” Hard Harry also has no hope for the future, believing, “There is nothing to do anymore. Everything decent’s been done. All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks. So, I don’t really find it exactly cheerful to be living in the middle of a totally exhausted decade where there is nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to.” Harry’s teen angst resonates with the students at Hubert H. Humphrey High School who plan their evenings around listening to his show. Some students park their cars on the school football field where the reception for the low-power broadcast seems to be the best. Others make cassette tapes of Hard Harry’s shows and give them to friends at school. Students write Harry fan letters asking for advice and he reads them aloud. Sometimes he telephones listeners on air to talk more about their problems. Sometimes he steals confidential school papers from his dad’s desk and phones teachers at home to discuss matters, such as a controversial decision to expel a pregnant student named Cheryl for being a bad influence on others. At school, Mark’s English teacher, Jan Emerson, compliments his writing and encourages him to join the school newspaper, but he is uninterested. Student Nora Diniro is one of Hard Harry’s regular listeners, writing him letters every week. When she spots Mark sitting alone on the steps reading a book and chewing “Black Jack” gum, two things Harry has mentioned on air, she suspects he is the pirate disc jockey. Nora follows Mark to the post office box where Hard Harry gets his mail and confronts him, but he runs away. One night after student Malcolm Kaiser sends Harry a letter saying he wants to commit suicide, Harry telephones him on air to ask why. Malcolm says he feels alone. Harry says he feels lonely too, then makes a joke dismissing Malcolm’s pain. The next day, teachers announce that Malcolm shot himself in the head and is dead. Mark feels guilty about Malcolm’s suicide, but talks about it on air, saying he never expected people to actually listen to his musings. He admits that he is confused about what to do for a career, is funny looking and cannot get a girlfriend, then adds, “being young is sometimes less fun than being dead.” He encourages his listeners to go “crazy” and have some fun. Parents and teachers listening to the show telephone police to complain. Eventually, newspaper and television news cover the story of the mysterious pirate disk jockey. Soon, police charge Hard Harry with criminal solicitation in connection to Malcolm’s death. At school, guidance counselor David Deaver sets up a hotline, BIONIC, short for “Believe It Or Not, I Care,” for students to call and discuss problems, while Principal Loretta Creswood takes several students aside, threatening to do a thorough examination of their school records unless they reveal Hard Harry’s identity. However, none of them know who he is. At an emergency Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting, parents demand they find Harry and shut down his radio broadcast. Student Paige Woodward tells the parents that Harry is not causing the problem, he is merely exposing problems that already exist at the school. Nora comes to Mark’s house after the PTA meeting and is shocked that he does not plan to do that night’s broadcast. When Nora pressures Mark for answers and indicates she likes him, he is too shy to talk to her. In frustration, Mark signs on his pirate radio station and, as “Hard Harry,” talks about a friend of his who likes a girl, but does not know what to say to her. He continues talking about himself in third person and says the things Mark cannot say directly to Nora. Suddenly Mark’s parents, worried that he might be the pirate DJ, knock on his door demanding to know what is going on, but are delighted to see Nora there, glad he has a girlfriend. Later, Hard Harry telephones guidance counselor David Deaver, and police track the call to Mark’s neighborhood, but do not discover the exact location. The next day at school, Mark and Nora kiss, then observe that a student has spray painted Hard Harry’s saying, “The truth is a virus,” on a school wall. Nora cites this as evidence that Hard Harry is making an impact and that the show must continue. Tensions worsen at school as Principal Creswood pressures more students for Hard Harry’s identity. Meanwhile, one of several students Creswood expelled, “Mazz” Mazzilli, returns to campus. When Mr. Murdock tells Mazz to leave, as it is illegal for him to be on the property, the two get into a physical altercation and Murdock punches Mazz. English teacher Jan Emerson witnesses the altercation and is outraged, but Creswood fires her on the spot. As Emerson packs her belongings, she gets the files of several expelled students from the school office. Shortly after that, Creswood pressures Nora about Hard Harry’s identity. When Nora cusses her out, Creswood expels her. Creswood explains to school administrators that expelling troublemakers is the only way to keep the school in good order, bragging that the school has the highest Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores in the state. That night, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) trucks roam the area searching for Hard Harry’s broadcast signal, so Mark sets up his equipment in the back of his mother’s Jeep and has Nora drive around while he does the broadcast. At 10 p.m., students, teachers and news reporters gather on the football field for the broadcast. Hard Harry starts talking about all the students who have been expelled. Meanwhile, teacher Jan Emmerson presents school administrators with evidence that Principal Creswood expelled dozens of students with low SAT scores, but kept their names on the roster so they could continue to get higher federal funding. The FCC trucks and police zoom in on Hard Harry broadcasting from the Jeep. Nora drives to the football field where Mark is arrested, but not before he encourages others to “talk hard” and keep the message alive. Soon, many other students are doing their own pirate radio shows.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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