The Ramones, PJ Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Clint Howard, the tight purse strings of Roger Corman
Premise: When a new principal takes over Vince Lombardi High School, rock music is endangered. But with the help of plucky young kids, the Ramones, and a complete school takeover, the rock can still rule.
Is It Good:
It’s a blast. Rock n’ Roll High School is a weird, silly and fun movie that’s dripping with great music and youthful energy. Corman wanted a movie that hit the youth market and originally was going to make Disco High School, but sounder minds prevailed and we ended up with a paean to mostly harmless teenage rebellion and the power of rock n’ roll. There’s a strange innocence to the movie – it has no nudity and fairly little swearing – that makes it incredibly charming.
The goofy humor is refreshing these days. You can see the template for self-spoofing teen movies in Rock n’ Roll High School, but this film isn’t cynical, despite being very sarcastic (although back in the day I think it was called being a wise-ass). And its cartoonish sensibilities make it the perfect showcase for The Ramones, as cartoonish a band as ever existed.
A Look: I think it’s worth a buy, and the Blu-Ray just hit stores (click here to buy it from CHUD). The movie is a lot of fun to watch but it’s also a really intriguing bit of cinematic history. Dean Cundey, one of the great cinematographers of the 80s and 90s, shot the film. Joe Dante directed some bits of it when director Allan Arkush couldn’t be there. The Zucker Bros second unit directed a very funny sequence with a paper airplane, before they went on to make Airplane!. It’s got a zip to it that’s missing from movies these days, even as shots get shorter and edits get tighter.
The Ramones cannot act. This could be PJ Soles’ best performance. Clint Howard’s Eaglebauer influenced a whole generation of dweeby high school entrepreneurs from Booger to Stiles and beyond. But seriously, The Ramones cannot act. At all. Famous FX artist Rob Bottin shows up at a Ramones concert in a big mouse suit. The first time you hear the title song PJ Soles is singing it for some reason. Paul Bartel is, as always, perfect.
Soulmates: Rock Around the Clock, A Hard Day’s Night, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, Never Mind the Bollocks