Five Plot Point Breakdown: Three O’Clock High (1987)

Screenplay by: Richard Christian Matheson

Genre: Farce/Teen Film
Movie Time: 101 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

There is a new kid on the campus of Weaver High School. His name is Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson). Stories swirling around Weaver High reveal vicious truths about Buddy’s background, including violent incidents stemming from Buddy’s biggest pet peeve, i.e. people touching him. Jerry Mitchell (Casey Siemaszko), a puny student who works in the school book store, is assigned to write an article about Buddy for the school newspaper. (00:13:54)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

While at the urinal, Jerry notices as Buddy comes into the school bathroom. Jerry works up the courage to talk to Buddy, asking him if he would like to be interviewed for the school paper. Buddy scoffs, so Jerry acts coy, telling Buddy to forget the whole thing. But then Jerry touches Buddy on his shoulder, causing Buddy to lose his temper.  He picks Jerry up and slams him against the bathroom mirror.

Buddy challenges Jerry to a fight. He tells Jerry there is no escape and that they will settle their differences at 3 o’clock in the school parking lot. Buddy leaves the bathroom, leaving Jerry dazed and shaken at the prospect of getting his face rearranged in a mere six hours. (00:18:31)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

In a desperate attempt to avoid a fight, Jerry hires Craig Mattey (Mike Jolly) to do his dirty work. Jerry uses the cover of a fire drill to sneak into the student store and steal $350 from the cash register. After being paid off, Craig goes and finds Buddy in the library during lunch period. Craig tells Buddy to back off from Jerry, but makes the mistake of pushing his finger into Buddy’s chest.

Buddy flips, breaking Craig’s finger and knocking him out. Craig falls back and knocks over a bookcase, which sets off a chain reaction of bookcases falling until the last one reveals Jerry and Vincent standing together, gazing helplessly at the wake of Buddy’s destruction. (00:48:58)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

After getting busted for allowing Buddy to copy his answers on a quiz in math class, Jerry and Buddy are sent to the principal’s office. Buddy proves his innocence by solving two problems on a blackboard, leaving Jerry on the hot seat with the principal. A few minutes later, Jerry catches Buddy in the gymnasium and offers him a bribe to call off the fight.  Buddy acquiesces, but not before he calls Jerry “the biggest pussy” he has ever met in his life.

After spending a few minutes on the school roof contemplating his options, Jerry decides to fight for his honor. He finds Buddy in the hallway, demanding his bribe money back. Buddy refuses. Jerry tells him the fight is on at 3 o’clock in the school parking lot. (01:12:41)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

The fight has commenced, and Jerry is getting his ass kicked. Buddy moves in for the final blow when Vincent (Jonathan Wise), Jerry’s friend, jumps into the fray. He attacks Buddy, and this gives Jerry enough time to pick up the brass knuckles Buddy dropped on the ground. Buddy easily subdues Vincent and then confronts Jerry, not realizing Jerry has his brass knuckles. Buddy swings at Jerry, but misses. Jerry hauls his arm back and delivers a crippling punch, knocking Buddy down to the ground. (01:28:37)


For the latest from The Script Lab, check us out on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram