User Reviews (41)

Add a Review

  • A friend of mine who's an organist at a Catholic parish in New Jersey told me that the school used for the setting of Heaven Help Us is not to far from him in New Jersey. The area looks more like Brooklyn in 1965 than Brooklyn does. Having graduated a public high school in Brooklyn of that year, I can attest to that.

    I can also attest to the fact that for people I knew in Catholic school at the time this movie really does hit the mark. Those who were taught by Brothers as they were here, told me that they ranged in character from idealistic John Heard to the sadistic Jay Patterson to father figure Donald Sutherland. And a few in between also with some issues.

    One has to remember that this was the New York City of Robert Wagner in his last year as Mayor and with Wagner's blessing, Cardinal Spellman still had virtual carte blanche over his domain. Tommy Becket would have envied what he achieved over civil government. When you see those brothers invading that candy store, that's no exaggeration.

    When I was a lad in Brooklyn, we had a candy store around the corner from a Catholic grade school. It was run by Mr. Lobenstein who was Jewish. Yet it was a refuge for the Catholic grade schoolers like the store that Mary Stuart Masterson is running for her Dad. The nuns would think nothing of going there to haul their charges back to class should they be late.

    The nude swimming in the high school pool is no exaggeration. It's a boys school so presumably we all have nothing to hide. I did love Philip Bosco as the brother gym teacher telling the Catholic youth they had to get in shape to fight the Communists. This would have been standard dogma from Spellman. Of course some poor closeted gay kid would have been going completely out of his mind in that setting. And as we see in the end there was at least one.

    The five student protagonists are Kevin Dillon, Andrew McCarthy, Malcolm Denare, Patrick Dempsey, and Stephen Geoffreys. Stephen Geoffreys the poor sexually frustrated kid who was constantly doing some self fulfillment left acting for a career in male porn. However it is the dynamic of the relationship between Kevin Dillon and Andrew McCarthy that drives the film. I met quite a few back in the day who were like both Dillon and McCarthy. Dillon is the school rebel, but McCarthy is the one who commits the ultimate act of defiance.

    The best performance in the film is by Jay Patterson as Brother Constance. The only thing I can say is that the man had issues. I really can't say more, you have to see Heaven Help Us. The man on some level truly thought he was building character.

    Last year the movie Saved came out and did for Protestant Christian schools what Heaven Help Us does for Catholic education. That's the best description I can give it.
  • While I can't comment on the accuracy in which the "Catholic School for Boys" is depicted in this movie, having once been a teenage boy, I can attest to having known (or been) a kid who is represented by nearly every character in the movie. I identified most with Andrew McCarthy's character, but saw a little of myself in many of the other kids.

    The movie is at times funny, touching, and intense. I believe it has been largely forgotten and was ignored even in its initial run. It is vastly underrated, and if you happen across it in the TV Guide or in the older titles at the video store, it is worth two hours of your life. Recommended.
  • This movie depicts a time that has now become a part of history. St. Michael's School closed its doors earlier this year. The neighborhood which was populated by Irish and Italian kids is now primarily Latino and lower-income,who couldn't afford the rising tuition.

    The situations, as portrayed, were actually quite realistic for an inner-city parochial school. Some might say the brutality toward the boys was extreme- but pretty close to the truth.

    Actual scenes were used in the neighborhood. The building that housed the candy store is still there, empty and derelict.

    The movie caught the aura of the era and is becoming a 'cult classic'
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I disagree with previous reviewers who called this movie anti-catholic bigotry. I think the humor is in good fun, and the film is ultimately respectful of Catholic worship and traditions. I am catholic and I am not offended. I also think the corporal punishment scenes are quite real and not "over the top." The catholic high school I attended did allow slapping, punching, kneeling on cement, being in push up position, kicks in the butt, slams into lockers, and hard paddlings. Frankly I was glad I never had to take that scary stuff on the open palms; brothers who used paddles or straps were mercifully allowed to strike only the buttocks. We also had to swim nude, but after the first embarrassing freshman day it was no big deal. Virtually all boys at all schools had to use public showers, so why is nude swimming a big deal? A brief synopsis: Michael Dunn is a Boston teenager sent to live in Brooklyn. His chain-smoking grandmother has delusions about him being a priest someday, and he is sent to a rigid, stern Catholic boys academy. After befriending the school's brain and a group of non-academic goofballs, he ends up in trouble with the school's strictest teacher, the unethical Bro. Constance. Michael falls in love with a local girl, a truant who runs a soda fountain and takes care of her disabled father. The brothers shut down the shop, and the police take the girlfriend away. A hilarious prank is launched for revenge, and chaos ensues. This film succeeds on two levels: it is both a comment on Catholic education and an engrossing character study. You really come to love and root for the characters.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS!!!!! I would call this movie a "dramody." It has many comic elements, but it also is the very serious story of a kid whose parents die in a car accident and who has to start life over in a new city.I disagree with the previous reviewers who seem to think that the movie was sadistic and/or anti-Catholic. True, the physical punishment scenes in the movie might repel us today,especially those of us who have young nephews who will be attending Catholic schools in a few years.However, I dare say that the beatings depicted in the movie are relatively mild compared to what used to go on in both private and public US schools, to say nothing of boys' school in the UK prior to 1960. (Also, a word about swimming au naturel- it was quite common for schools with pools, public as well as private, to require boys to swim in the nude.The tradition of required nudity started in the YMCAs of the 1930s, a time when swimsuits made made of terrible fibrous fabrics and messy dyes. The rationale was one of keeping the pool clean. The tradition stuck until the early 1980s, when increased awareness about pedophilia and teenage homosexuality killed the practice.) The movie shows a positive side of Roman Catholicism, with the brothers' deep faith. Sutherland's character is wonderful- a stern but sincere man of God and the church.The boys are rebels, but have an inner goodness that comes out in the end.Wallace Shwan is great in his cameo as "Father Abruzzi" doing a rip-roaring condemnation of LUST! The Catholic Mass is always in the background of the movie, and for me, the sincerity of devotion overcame the cruelty of fallible, sinful men. The love story between Danni and Dunne was an afterthought and needed more development. The story morrors my own struggles at such a school-mean kids, meaner teachers, academic pressure, but the Mass and the Virgin in the background,reminding me that wounds heal in time and in eternity.
  • winsfordtown31 October 2001
    This gentle, warm comedy set in a Catholic school in New York in 1965 seems to have been overlooked for a longtime. Maybe it got lost amongst the so called 'Brat Pack' movies of the mid eighties or maybe the name change to 'Catholic Boys' for it's UK release didn't help it's recognition. This is certainly a hidden gem with plenty of funny lines from Rooney (Dillon) and a nice understated romance between Michael (McCarthy) and Danni (Masterson) that doesn't get in the way of the plot.However most terrifying are the Brothers presence and their interpertation of the catholic religion. If their is a longer director's cut I would definatly like to see it on DVD. This film is certainly well worth a look at.
  • This film takes place during the mid-60s in Brooklyn, at a fascist-like Catholic school for boys. The kids who attend this school, have to deal with ridiculously strict teachers, who are all church elders. The teachers walk around in long brown robes, and have haircuts like monks. Naturally, the boys find clever ways to rebel against their school's stifling regulations, and are constantly getting into mischief.

    Back in the mid-60s corporal punishment was still common in all schools, not just Catholic ones. The difference in this film, is that the teachers try to use Catholic religious values, to justify their harsh punitive treatment of the students. One teacher in particular, is very sadistic whenever he wants to punish his pupils. He locks them in a closet, viciously whips their hands with a wooden paddle, slaps them, pulls their hair, ETC.

    When a group of boys vandalize a statue, the sadistic teacher tries to paddle their behinds with a gigantic wooden paddle. This is the last straw for the boys, who are fed-up with being brutally disciplined by this teacher. And they decide to take matters into their own hands. This is a good film overall, about 60s teens. It was very realistic, in showing the life that urban teens led in that era. By showing how barbaric corporal punishment was back then, this movie can make the viewer glad that it's been abolished in schools nowadays.

    I can only imagine how many kids who were in school in the 60s, have been psychologically damaged by getting beaten by their teachers. Since they had to cope with this, it's no wonder that most young people growing-up during the 60s, vehemently rebelled against authority.
  • "Heaven Help Us" is a warm, funny, and insightful look at Catholic high school life in the 60s. The cast is great, and I'm glad they cast actors who actually look like teenagers, instead of actors in their 20s. I'm also glad the movie had some serious moments, because it makes all the antics and events all the more realistic.

    These serious moments are the best parts of the movie. Unfortunately, a lot of them seem undernourished - I have to agree with a writer of an earlier user comment that this movie seems to have been cut down in the editing room. As a result, many subplots seem unfinished or lacking detail, and this includes the characters of some of the Brothers.

    I enjoyed this movie a lot, but I would love to see a director's cut one day.
  • ..and I was an altar boy, and went to church every day, and confession..

    So watching this the other day brought some of that back to me. There were Brothers in the parish but nuns taught school.

    As some other comments have suggested, this movie is unimaginable without Kevin Dillon. He's riotous, from beginning to end. He's given all the good lines and makes the most of them. You barely hear Patrick Dempsey's voice at all.

    I was and am not an Andrew McCarthy fan, but he's very tolerable in this. Its the lead but the less showy part. His scenes with Mary Stuart Masterson don't exactly jump off the screen, but they are adequate to the movie.

    Movie also gets some points from me for the Elvis references. The guys go to an Elvis movie after seeing the Pope (and get in trouble for it), plus the King is heard over the credits at the end. 8/10.
  • OK, so a couple reviewers thought this film was anti-Catholic, and with that attitude couldn't see the film for what it was. A Comedy, with some Drama, and actually a very very good film. Anti-Catholic? "Bullocks!" I say. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    I attended 12 years of Catholic school in southeastern Pennsylvania... and while this was a movie, with a fair amount of exaggeration (think Pool scene), it was the best representation of those years that I've ever seen. My H.S. was co-ed, but my fathers was an all boys Catholic H.S. in Philly. His 1950's experience with Brothers was spot-on with the movie. My experience in the 1970's in PA was with Nuns. The Nuns we had in those days were identical to the Sisters shown in this movie. Full black and white attire, including flat-top headgear, and firm white covering across their forehead. Nicknamed Crows, Penguins, etc. (I do not mean to be disrespectful here, just saying...)

    The opening Church scene was as authentic as it was hilarious. The all- girls Mass Communion scene was genuine. As Altar Boys we served reverently (or else), but our minds were all-American boy.

    One war story I'll share here: In 6th grade, one boy spit into the hair of a boy sitting in the pew in front of him during our weekly Friday 09:00AM Mass. Sister V. didn't see that happen, but when she dealt with the aftermath in the classroom 20 min's later, the boy that did it was thrown over 2 rows of desks and landed in the isle beside my desk. So absolutely, corporal punishment was dealt out on an "as needed" or even regular basis. You did not run home and tell your mother or father that a Nun hit you, BECAUSE your father would beat the tar out of you for doing something, or being part of something, that required a Nun to hit you. True story.

    When quarterly Reports cards were handed out by our Parish Priest, you'd have thought God himself was coming to your classroom. And you behaved accordingly, or risked the scorn of an angry Nun, which is far worse than the scorn of an angry woman.

    My compliments to the entire movie crew, writers, producers, actors, all. The Confessional scene is to die for, and that scene alone is worth the price of admission. The interaction between Michael Dunn and Brother Thaddeus was so good it took me back to my own early 70's catholic school years. 5-Stars from this Altar boy :-)

    Lastly, just so you know I'm not some mincer with an Ax to grind, if I had to go to school again, I'd want to go through the same experiences again. Catholic School: Tough? Yes. Fair? Most of the time. Worth while? Absolutely. Enjoy the movie.
  • First: I'm not Catholic and I didn't attend a parochial school in New York City. I grew up in the Midwest and most of the Catholic and Protestant students attended the public school system.

    My partner of many years grew up Catholic, though is no longer practicing -- and he's told me that what is depicted in the movie is pretty darned accurate even given the satire; and I've checked with other who grew up Catholic and they've said pretty much the same thing.

    So, for some of us -- this movie is a window into what life was like in strict, 1960s-style, just-barely-past-Vatican-II Catholicism.

    It's interesting to note that the ultra-conservative, fundamentalist tradition I grew up in during that time is not so terribly different in attitude from what the students in this movie (and real-life ) endured: the books we read, the movies we watched, the television programs we watched, the friends we made were all prescribed by our ultra-fundamentalist pastor.

    I think the movie is very under-rated and well deserves to be viewed in its uncut version.
  • Goodness, how many years had it been since I'd seen this film? At least 20, I'd guess. And after recently seeing it again, it more than exceeded expectations. Many of the lines were still memorable, and there were some big laughs at things I'd forgotten. Anyone who's seen this will never forget the immortal line, "Caesar, you fat fagot! You always wear gum on your nose?". No matter how many years its been. But the biggest howler I saw was when the boys are all watching an Elvis Presley movie (Blue Hawaii?) and Kevin Dillon asking, "What'd they do to Elvis, cut his balls off or something?". So many funny lines in this film about some rowdy boys attending a Catholic high school in 1965. The film offers an exceptional cast, a thoughtful script, and many, many laughs.

    Kevin Dillon as the most ornery student doesn't just walk away with this movie. He grabs it and runs away, making one foul-mouthed comment after another. But those around him shine as well. Donald Sutherland as the dean of the school got top billing, but he likely didn't work long on the project as he's only in a few scenes. The always undervalued Andrew McCarthy is pretty much the main character playing the shy new kid in school who has a tough time adjusting to the rougher atmosphere and physical discipline. He's good, but always overshadowed by Dillon. Mary Stuart Masterson is sweet, yet worldly as the girl who runs the drugstore across the street. She's pretty, smart, and has had to grow up rather quickly. Malcolm Danare is hilarious as Caesar, the overweight nerdy intellectual who is constantly feeling the wrath of both teachers and fellow students. Jay Patterson is frightening as Brother Constance who seems to enjoy beating the crap out of any student who even slightly misbehaves. John Heard adds a human touch to the school as a new less-strict member of the faculty. Look out for future gay porn star Stephen Geophreys as a student who cannot stop touching himself. And hell, how did I forget to mention this was Patrick Dempsy's debut, too? The film moves quickly between scenes of comedy and painful punishment of the students. About every negative stereotype about Catholic schools is on display, but since I've never been to one I'll reserve judgment regarding authenticity. Kudos to McCarthy and the other boys for taking their punishment. It really looked like McCarthy was taking those shots by both fist and paddle from Jay Patterson. Ouch! The constant profanity has kept this film off many cable channels for years, but by all means try and catch it on DVD! 9 of 10 stars.

    The Hound.
  • HEAVEN HELP US (1985) *** Andrew McCarthy, Kevin Dillon, Mary Stuart Masterson, Malcolm Dunare, Patrick Dempsey, John Heard, Donald Sutherland, Wallace Shawn, Stephen Geoffreys. Nice coming-of-age comedy set in a Catholic boys' school in 1963 with some fine ensemble acting. Vintage soundtrack.
  • As a Patrick Dempsey fan, I picked up this movie. Only, Dempsey is hardly in it, and barely has dialogue. It turned out to be a pretty funny little movie about the trials and tribulations of five Catholic School Boys at St. Basils in the 1960s.

    Our central character is Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy), who is new to St. Basils and has yet to learn of it's sadistic rituals and largely paranoid and overbearing Brothers. Dunn makes friends with self-proclaimed genius, Caesar (Malcolm Danare) who's self-gratification can be quite annoying.

    Dunn and Caesar eventually join forces with underachiever, Rudy (Kevin Dillon), quiet Corbet (a very young Patrick Dempsey), and the horny kid, Williams (Stephen Geoffreys). As such, the five of them get into their fair share of trouble and adolescent antics at St. Basils, which makes for some pretty funny sequences.

    Mary Stuart Masterson costars as Dunn's girlfriend who runs the soda fountain, a sanctuary to the Catholic School students where they can smoke and cuss and whatever without fearing sanctions from the Brother. She's basically just a nice girl trying to get by and seems like a good match for Dunn.

    Donald Sutherland plays the rather lackluster headmaster at the school. Wallace Shawn has a small role as the paranoid Brother who fears the potential of the horny student body (just listen to his dumb speech at the dance), and John Heard has a good part as the laidback Brother who seems to be the only buffer between the Brothers and the students.

    Despite Andrew McCarthy being emphasized as the main character, the whole movie is really Rudy (Kevin Dillon)who has the bulk of funny dialogue and dumb ideas and without which, would probably be just another 'blah' movie. McCarthy's character alone is not all that interesting, and so they needed something to play off of that. And that's what Dillon's character is there for. And it works so well, he basically is the whole movie.

    I recommend picking up this one if you get a chance, especially if you really like 80s movies.
  • In the mid 60s, a group of free spirits find it hard as Hell to toe the line at a very strict Catholic school. Strong willed and full of vinegar does not a choir boy make. Besides there are times you just can not respect authority. This well acted drama touches the emotions at times. Strong acting from the likes of Andrew McCarthy, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Dillon, John Heard, Mary Stuart Masterson and Jennifer Dundas. Some comedy included and well worth your time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It is an article of faith among certain Protestants that every Catholic is tormented by sexual guilt, a guilt inculcated in them by priests who, because they have no sex life of their own, take an unhealthily prurient interest in everyone else's. The script for "Catholic Boys", as "Heaven Help Us" is generally known in Britain, would appear to have been written by a Protestant of this particular creed.

    The film is set in St Basil's School, a strict Catholic boys' school in New York. The main character is the sixteen-year-old Michael Dunn, a new student at Saint Basil's, who has been sent to live with his grandparents upon the death of his parents. His grandmother is determined that Michael should eventually enter the priesthood, even though he shows little evidence of having a priestly vocation. The film follows the adventures of Michael, his non-Catholic girlfriend Danni, his classmates and the monks who teach them over the course of a school year. Among the other students are the fat, unpopular would-be intellectual Caesar and Ed Rooney, the foul-mouthed class bully. The three monks who play important roles in the film are the headmaster, Brother Thaddeus, Brother Timothy, a young novice, and Brother Constance, a "strict disciplinarian" (an expression which, in this context, is a euphemism for "sadistic bully").

    Like most of his fellow Brat Packers (Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore being exceptions), Andrew McCarthy has rather faded from view in recent years. In the mid-eighties, however, he was regarded as a major star in the making, and this film makes good use of his clean-cut persona as the "good boy" Michael, who is strongly contrasted with Kevin Dillon's bad-boy Rooney. The three monks Thaddeus, Timothy and Constance are also well played, especially by Jay Patterson as the last.

    Some Catholics have objected to the way in which their religion is portrayed in the film, and there certainly appear to be elements of satire at the expense of traditionalist Catholicism, especially its attitude towards sex. Perhaps the best clue to the film-makers' intentions lies in the date at which the action takes place; 1965. Ever since about 1980, a 1960s setting has frequently been cinematic shorthand for "clash between traditional values and trendy permissive ones". By the mid-sixties, a clash of this nature was taking place within the Catholic church itself following the Second Vatican Council, but the school remains a strongly traditionalist institution; Mass, for example, is still said in Latin rather than English. As the film progresses, however, we see that a version of the clash between tradition and progress is being played out even in St Basil's. After an incident in which Constance savagely thrashes several students for their part in a prank, we discover that his vicious sadism has appalled not only the liberal Brother Timothy but also Brother Thaddeus, who is far from liberal but is at least humane enough to realise that Constance's methods should have no place in the education of the young.

    "Catholic Boys", is not, however, primarily a serious film about conservatism versus liberalism in the field of religious education. Indeed, it is not primarily a serious film at all, but a comedy, albeit one that has some satirical points to make. Indeed, it is the satirical scenes which are often the most amusing and memorable ones, particularly the ones set in the confessional which strengthened my long-held belief that the sacrament of confession is a rather ridiculous institution and that its abolition was one of the wiser moves of the Protestant Reformation. I also liked the scene where the boys are only allowed to attend a dance with pupils from a local girls' school after being treated to a hell-and-brimstone sermon on the sin of lust. (Or rather, the thin of lutht- the priest who delivers it speaks with a strong lisp). A highly amusing comedy, well worth watching. Those who saw it as anti-religious or anti-Catholic need to get a sense of humour. 7/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Many details set this movie a mile ahead of its competition. First, we should be reminiscent of the fact the movie is from 1985. That was the period of the countless "academy", goliardic, school/dorm/frat movies cheering Reaganian America at its best of (roughly conservative/ upper) middle class fame days. We recall Porkies (Canada), Police Academy, Back to the future, Howard & countless others.

    The back cover of the VHS i got tries to describe it as one's usual sleazy/light/"funny" movie... "National lampoon's animal house get religion -...- when the devoutly sadistic brother constance discovers what's being practised while he preaches! the irreverent antics these unorthodox catholic boys get up to is enough to test the patience of a saint ".

    Nothing could be more far from the truth. This movie, although technically a B movie ( no soundtrack ala Top Gun, no exteriors, nor interiors; no fancy exotic locations ) is a world away from piquant, sleazy or slapstick juvenile movies. It has no "cheerleader" going around topless; no shower scenes teasing the soft core audience; no row of pranks to be pulled; no cartoon characters ala LT Harris, as that description lets believe (probably trying to set suckers up ).

    It is the realistic portrayal of catholic irish/Italian boys dealing with a rigid and alas desuete educational system ( ex. the heart-throbbing speech father Abruzzi delivers at the opening of the dance party, finger pointing the dangers of lust and foretelling the excruciating pains of hell for those who dare to taste the forbidden fruit against the church's imparted teaching. Then you get friars making sure boys&girls don't dance "too close" or "inappropriately" ).

    Mind you, private schools are/were expensive and we thus deal with the offsprings of the upper middle catholic class, with short glimpses of sociological reality. For example, before the swimming lesson, the instructor (also a friar) talks about the need of keeping fit because "killing catholics" comes first in the commies' agenda.

    It is about teenage psychology ( actors at least look credible in their role, unlike others ). Take the opening scene when the headmaster tests the newbie, making him short-circuit in seconds. Actors are upto the mark.

    Overall a nice, enjoyable movie worth watching twice.
  • I attended a Catholic school in my youth and that's why, when I saw a story written by Charles Purpura about life in a Catholic setting I had to see how many inaccuracies they would offer. The film is called " Heaven Help Us " directed by Michael Dinner. It purports to relate the story of a transfer student named Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) who due to family problems is transferred to a new academic setting. The headmaster of the school is Brother Thadeus (Donald Sutherland) a fair minded, but serious disciplinarian who reminds all students of the obligation they owe to friends, family and community at large. Dunn is befriended by a local group led by a bragging, trouble starting, self- centered boy named Rooney (Kevin Dillon) who reminds Dunn of the need for close friendship and loyalty. Although one or two of the Teachers are harsh and overly strict, favor the physical punishment by the 'Rod', most are good souls like Brother Timothy (John Heard) who offer understanding and compassion. This surprising story is full of wonderful school memories and innocent interaction with young girls. Indeed, most of the film allow audiences to re-live their youth, if only to remember the social difficulties which many thought would never end. The result, a fond look at yesterday and the actors who reminded us of ourselves. Great fun. ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a realistic comedy about old fashioned Roman Catholic education. Some catholic schools did require daily mass, and the hilarious scene with the "clicker" actually happened many times. The corporal punishment scenes may have been brutal, but if anything, they are less violent than the reality of those days. And if you are wondering about the "au naturel" swim class, yes, it was once common practice, and would have been required at Catholic schools, YMCAs, and many public schools as well, at least for male students, in 1964. Summary: Dunne is a 16 year old from Boston who is sent down to Brooklyn after his parents die in a car accident. He and his sister are taken in by his grandparents. His grandma is convinced that he will become a priest and maybe the Pope. Dunne is enrolled in strict St. Basil's Academy, a no-nonsense Catholic school run by tough Irish religious brothers. Dunne is an excellent student who befriends both the school nerd and a group of underachieving wise guys. His association with the wise guys results in a confrontation with a violent brother. In the meantime, the honest and unaffected Dunne has time for a romance with a local working girl. He also befriends a young, hip religious brother, later to play Kevin's dad on Home Alone. See this film; it could hardly be better.
  • I liked a lot of scenes in this film.The drawbridge opening and closing on Rooney's(Kevin Dillons character)dad's new car while trying to score with Janine after getting her drunk is my favorite.

    This movie does address serious subjects,violence towards schoolchildren,the church's responsibility to remove adults with inability to control abusive behaviour which I sure wish the church had done in the 60's,70's,etc to have prevented acts of pedophilia that came to attention later on and the effects of melancholia(not sure I spelled that right).But it is a comedy and though I only went to catholic school in Philadelphia for 8 years(66-74) it sure did make me laugh at many scenes.

    Donald Sutherland at the end saying "I always hated that statue" after cleaning bird droppings off the statue having been the standard punishment at St Basils is such a surprise near the end that it shows there were good people teaching at Catholic schools and it was not all abuse and punishment(he suspends them for knocking the head of the statue) and when the kids realize they're off school for two weeks they jump for joy.It is a favorite movie of mine.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Heaven Help Us is set in 1965 out of Brooklyn New York. A new transfer student Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) must deal with the difficulties of adjusting to the strictly disciplined Catholic school, while trying to find his identity group at the school. There is a geeky kid named Cesar, and a stand-out rebel named Rooney (Kevin Dillan, in a classic role!) At home, Michael, who's parents are deceased lives with his younger sister and grandparents. His grandmother is dead set on Micheal becoming a priest. But Michael, although not explicitly stated, seems to question his role in becoming a priest in seeing how strict the school is.

    Their no-nonsense almost sadistic teacher Brother Constance, uses corporal punishment in his classroom for students who barely step out of line. This role, played by Jay Patterson in an unforgettable performance may make you wish you HADN'T gone to a Catholic school in the 60's! There are also some nice little sub-plots. Micheal's love-interest Danni owns the local malt shop where the students hang out. Living with her isolated and withdrawn father due to tragedy in her own family, the malt shop is her financial means of support.

    The school sees her malt shop as a threat to their authority and threatens to bring in law enforcement to close down her business, (which happens.) The students, angered by the school doing this, pull off a very strong prank, which is noticed by the mean teacher Brother Constance at a school assembly.

    The kids are taken to the gym where they all are to be placed over a saw horse and beaten with a belt by Brother Constance unless the guilty party comes forward where only he would be punished. Typically, no one wants to be a stool pigeon, so they all get it with the belt.

    Dunn sees his friend Cesar plead to Brother Constance not to beat him, But Constance grabs Cesar and just keeps beating on him and beating on him with the belt as poor Cesar cries. Dunn charges Brother Constance knocking him down and runs like hell along with his friends back to the assembly.

    Brother Constance soon follows with a look of disdain. In front of the whole student body and faculty, he says "You Bastard!" and punches Michael in the eye. In retaliation and self-defense, Micheal lands a hard hook to Brother Constances' jaw and decks him! The whole student body leaps up and applauds! In Brother Thaedas, the Headmaster's office, (played by Donald Sutherland,) Brother Constance demands expulsion and assault charges, there is some talk of expulsion/suspension behind closed doors. In the end, the Headmaster says that all the kids acted as one and will receive the same consequences.

    BUT he agrees that that Brother Constance started all the trouble in watching his behavior change (although he always was the way he was IMHO) from an ultra strict teacher to one who can no longer control his temper.

    The students are suspended for 2 weeks each and Brother Constance is required to take a transfer out of the school and must no longer work with children anymore.

    This is an excellent example of how religious authority abuses their power,and how the kids can come together to see a faculty members' abusive treatment of them. Friends of mine say that Heaven Help Us is VERY realistic in how abusive teachers were dealt with in those days. What we don't know is, would Brother Constance just go to another school and work with kids again despite being transfered out of one before? Pass the Buck games are often played when authority abuses their power even today. The underlining message that is so powerful in this movie is that there could be so many people in positions of authority, especially religious authority and educational authority who may have violent tempers to begin with and should not be teaching in the first place

    I could see some Catholics becoming atheists after seeing this movie! Another reviewer commented that this film should be playing non-stop during the Catholic Church/Pedophile Priests investigations that have really come out of the woodwork in recent years. This movie is not only a comedy, it makes you think with very poignant and realistic experiences.

    Update: Upon seeing the movie again recently, I have changed my rating from an 8 to a 9.
  • susan-broadbent211 November 2006
    As a Catholic with Catholic parents, my mother spoke of vindictive and may i say it nuns who prayed on terrorising young impressionable girls and boys in the 40's and 50's, even my cousins in the 60's and 70's. I didn't have a bad experience of nuns but from what i heard the Brothers in the film were exactly like the nuns my family were subjected to. I have watched this film a number of times and every time i feel for the boys in the film. I loved it and thought it was well acted and actually showed how the Brothers and nuns etc are starved of affection and take out there frustrations on the impressionable young people in there care..its quite sad and funny but so watchable. I would recommend any parent thinking of sending their children to to this kind of environment should be made to watch this film, its an excellent and brilliantly acted film. I cant fault the film in any way and all i can say is watch it with an open mind, be open to the innocence of the time its set in and be swept away with the story..its quite magical and took my breath away. I would recommend this film to anyone. Especially as Andrew McCarthys in it.
  • A real favorite from the 1980s, during the slew of 80s films that took place in the 60s (see Stand By Me, Porkys, Mischief, etc.) Perennial movie nice guy back then Andy McCarthy enrolls at a tough-as-nails Catholic school in 1965. Apparently his parents have just died, and he and his sister move in with their religion-toting grandmother who envisions McCarthy as, if not the Pope, a future priest. But Catholic school or not, your usual assortment of wily teen boys occupy the place. You have the chronic masturbator Geoffrey's, tag-along Dempsey, frumpy nerd Danare, and malcontent Dillon, who hilariously refers to everyone as a "faggot". A forgotten performer would be the strong supporting turn from Jay Patterson as a hot-headed teacher. Before reform by the Catholic church in the 70s, guys like Patterson existed, usually in the form of nuns. He takes their "ruler-to-hand" approach many steps further. The boys deal with them, plus their hormones, various school activities, and spending time at their favorite hang-out. This is where a slight but sweet romance develops between McCarthy and Masterson. She's such a downtrodden personality---with an appropriate speech about "meloncholia"---that the romance lacks punch. Throw in a slight theft from "Risky Business" involving the demise of a father's car, and you have an enjoyable comedy that sustains itself from start to finish. Purpura's script and Michael Dinner's fluid direction aid a fun story with a monster pay-off involving McCarthy and Patterson. Nice Brooklyn period atmosphere and music make this a must-find for obscure 80s comedy.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Sixteen-year-old Michael Dunn (Andrew McCarthy) has just arrived in Brooklyn and has started at a new school, St. Basil's for Boys. While at Saint Basils he confronts Caesar (Malcolm Danare) the school nerd, Rooney (Kevin Dillon) the school bully, and Brother Constance (Jay Patterson) the violent teacher. Somehow Dunn manages to become friends with Caesar and Rooney all the while Rooney calling Caesar a faggot.

    All the while they collide with the girls school and the violent Brother Constance. It is truly a bunch of teens being against authority (what else is new) and trying to have a good time. But soon Dunn's life turns when he falls in love with the local tomboy Danni (Mary Stuart Masterson) and a new defiance comes within the boys causing an uproar between the faculty. The students soon have an ally of their own in the faculty in Father Timothy (John Heard) and helps the boys to come-of-age.

    The movie is very dark and tells of the a very bad era in Catholic teaching (priests smacking students, banging heads against blackboards, and paddling) and gives a sense of how students aren't powerless. Each character is developed throughout the film and the plot is heavy with points of emotion and depression.

    Heaven Help Us. Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Malcolm Danare, Kevin Dillon, Mary Stuart Masterson, Donald Southerland, and John Heard.

    4 out of 5 Stars.
An error has occured. Please try again.