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Pump Up the Volume

4.6 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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(Dec 21, 1999)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A shy teen turns on the high school crowd when he broadcasts outrageous nightly monologues on a pirate radio station. Starring Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis.

In the suburban hinterlands of Arizona, pirate-radio DJ Hard Harry wages a one-man war against boredom from his bedroom transmitter by night. In between great Lenny Bruce-style stream-of-consciousness rants, Harry attacks the airwaves with the likes of the Descendents, Bad Brains, and Concrete Blonde, as well as occasionally kickin' it old school with some early hip-hop. By day, though, Hard Harry is Mark Hunter, a painfully shy new kid who's anonymous to the point of being invisible at Hubert Humphrey High School. Completely misunderstood by his '60s-era parents, Mark is desperate to keep his radio alter ego separate from his day-to-day persona, especially as his radio shows draw more attention from the authorities. Fellow misfit Nora (Samantha Mathis, in her first feature role) eventually discovers Hard Harry's true identity, much to Mark's chagrin, and the two of them become torchbearers against the stifling status quo of the town as they dodge the police, the school administration, and the FCC. There are familiar high school authority archetypes (the assistant principal with clip-on tie, lemon-yellow K-Mart short-sleeved dress shirt, military flattop, and bulky key ring) and a rather strained subplot of a corrupt school administration. Mainly, though, this is a rousing teen call-to-arms that showcases Slater's talents as he developed the cynical, sarcastic neo-Jack Nicholson delivery that would become his trademark. He's at his best during his radio monologues (making them truly seem ad-libbed), and his influences become clear as he checks out a copy of How to Talk Dirty and Influence People from the library. --Jerry Renshaw

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Christian Slater, Ellen Greene, Samantha Mathis, Cheryl Pollak, Jeff Chamberlain
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 21, 1999
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000031EG0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,046 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Pump Up the Volume" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steffan Piper VINE VOICE on January 30, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Having watched this again for the second time in my life I have to say that I'm surprised at how well this film holds up. Notice - I called it a film and not a movie. The last time I saw this was in a dark theatre the weekend it was released in 1990. Christian Slater probably delivers his most memorable performance yet in this film despite the popularity of Heathers which is actually dominated by Winona Ryder.

"Pump up the Volume" was an underground hit and must-see VHS rental for about 10 years for anyone who was listening to grunge, a teenager, trapped inside a suburban nightmare or just feeling isolated. The idea of the system being inaccessible, out-of-touch and overt and too much in-your-business still resonates just as strong today as it did then.

Strangely, "Pump up the Volume" is one of the best and seminal `John Hughes' style Teen Eighties movies from that era and being released in 1990, might just make it the last. The previous year produced the much darker book-end to that style with Dream a Little Dream, but "Pump up the Volume" trumps it well and seemingly closes the door on High School forever, or at least until the release of Brick in 2005 or Accepted in 2006.

Overall, a good movie, worth seeing again even though some of the soundtrack is severely dated. The Pixies "Wave of Mutilation" holds strong though and delivers a nice montage sequence mid-way through the film, making a nice comment of suburban blight.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
What happens when a city kid gets dumped into suburbia, with no friends, and only a ham radio to keep him company? He finds a band to broadcast on, rents a post box for listeners to send him letters, creates an air name, and rags on everyone in his high school.

With a soundtrack that prominently features artists like Leonard Cohen, The Beastie Boys, Was (Not Was) and Ice T among others, the music certainly is eclectic.

The story is held together with a tour-de-force performance from Christian Slater as the jaded jock, turned reform crusader, exposing the shortcomings of his school behind his anonymous veneer of Hard Harry.

It's a bit talky and a bit too clever at times, but it's earnest in its feelings about free speech and concerns about corruption in leadership, a message that seems even more timely today than it did when the film first appeared in theaters.

If you like this movie, you should also check out an earlier film by Director/Writer Allan Moyle: "Times Square."

They're both worth a look.
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Format: DVD
Long before "The people vs. Larry Flint" or Howard Stern's "Private Parts" addressed the problem of censorship imposed by the U.S. government on media personalities and products, there was "Pump Up The Volume." "Pump Up The Volume" varies from the Flint and Stern movies in that it is not glorifying a specific person (i.e. Flint and Stern, who just coincidently happen to gain publicity and movie proceeds).
The star of this fictional movie is Christian Slater, who plays the role of Mark, a painfully shy teenager. To release his anxieties, Mark goes on-air on a short-wave radio as Hard Harry, a perverted, obnoxious, but surprisingly philosophical radio personality. Mark's way to unwind ends up turning the town upside down, effecting both his peers and the administration at his high school.
This movie does not stop at the issue of censorship; it tackles three social issues in all, including the struggle of being a teenager submerged in American culture and how power can corrupt adults whose very job is to protect the young.
Although this movie is fictional, the superb acting of its young thespians make it seem more realistic than either Flint's or Stern's accounts. Indeed, Pump Up The Volume will not only entertain the viewer, but also leave the viewer thinking.
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Format: DVD
Pump Up The Volume is probably one of the first of the "Gen X" movies to appear in the wake of the John Hughes classics of the early and mid-80s. This film, released in 1990, touches on a myriad of issues that effect teens today as then. They don't seem to make movies like this anymore, movies that touch on serious issues as isolation, alienation, sexuality, education reform, freedom of speech, censorship, suicide, the failure of mandatory standardized scholastic testing, etc etc. This movie has got it all. The story revolves around a quiet student at Hubert Humphrey High, a large suburban school in Arizona. His parents are sell-out former hippies who have produced in him a resentment of the failed idealistic values of the 60s generation which have created a fallout whose repercussions are still felt today. Mark is a loner who cannot communuicate with his teachers or his peers. He is an intelligent and creative recluse who eats his lunch alone, reading a book, while the problems of high school life swirl around him. It is only as his secret pirate radio alter-ego Hard Harry that he finds his voice and is able to speak to those diseffected peers who share his fate at a school that reflects the flawed and conformist society at large that has not only overlooked the problems of his generation, but continues to add to them by treating the kids as second-class citizens. The school princial, who is obsessed with standardized test scores and the prestige of her school, flags "problem" students who threaten to tarnish school image and pull down test scores and has them expelled rather than try to help these kids who truly need help, while the school councelor rats out these same students to the corrupt administration when he should be the one providing them with the guidance they need.Read more ›
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