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STUDIO: Buena Vista
RUNNING TIME: 84 min.
• Back To School: A Retrospective
• New Commentary with Roger Corman and Dey Young
• Original Commentary with Alan Arkush, Michael Finnell, and Richard Whitley
• Theatrical Trailer
• Audio Outtakes from the Roxy concert shoot
• Original Radio Ads
Times are tough at Vince Lombardi High. The kids are out of control with their loud music and crazy clothes, while even members of the teaching staff are cringing at the extreme law-and-order policies of newly-arrived Principal Togar (Mary Woronov). Tensions are mounting. Now, the Ramones (Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Marky) are coming to town and their number-one fan, Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) will do anything -anything- to attend their concert and make the world safe for Rock ‘n’ Roll.
"Can’t talk right now– I’m on some band’s album cover."
There’s no point getting cerebral about pop-music movies. Some work and some don’t, and the ones that do often succeed by accident. The quality of Cool is elusive, and often irreproducible. Think about it: 8 Mile and Glitter are essentially the same film, and yet…
Indeed, if Roger Corman’s initial concept, Disco High, had proceeded as he intended, it could have become another Roller Boogie, or even a Xanadu. How lucky are we that first-time director Alan Arkush had the presence of mind to insist on rock music? How fortunate are we that talents like Woronov and Paul Bartel knew to play their stock characters as archetypes instead of stereotypes? And how awful would the end result have been, a Grease-derived spoof of square 1950s Youth Culture movies, without a genuine Rock ‘n’ Roll band at its center?
"I don’t care if we are famous. Someone’s still gotta drive this thing."
The interesting thing about the Ramones (and the thing that makes them such a peculiarly good fit for this film) is that while they rightly share credit for kicking off the Punk movement in the 1970s, they were really an Oldies group at heart; more Beach Boys than Sex Pistols, always singing about girls and cars and having… er, fun. Where the Dead Kennedys laced their cover of “Viva Las Vegas” with drug references, and Sid Vicious utterly destroyed “My Way”, the Ramones’ approach to classics like “Do You Wanna Dance” was anything but ironic. They didn’t work at being Punk Rockers; they just happened to be punks, who loved to rock.
Mount Rushmore, at the end of the next century
It’s that enthusiasm, that —how else to put it?— joyful noise, that makes this movie endure. That, and P.J. Soles’ performance. You can’t take your eyes off her. She’s almost violently perky. Like a chipmunk with a machine gun.
9 out of 10
Now, the bad news.
Who the HELL releases widescreen movies in letterboxed 1.33:1 video anymore? The box text claims this disc is enhanced for 16:9 TVs– this is a LIE. The only anamorphic features are the menus. The film itself, as far as I can tell, is presented in the exact same transfer* as New Concorde’s “Roger Corman Classics” SE from 2001. Big disappointment.
3 out of 10
The original mix, in Dolby 2.0 mono. I’ve got no problem with movies sounding the same as they’ve always sounded. Sure, a re-master would be nice, but for the classic experience you can just hunker down between the speakers and crank it.
6 out of 10
Forced trailers for Casanova and Annapolis, evidently because 18th-century Lotharios and rebellious Navy cadets will be getting the most out of this movie. There’s also a combo trailer for the other flicks in the Roger Corman Early Films series, and a fantastically lame anti-piracy clip.
"You a real Cheesehead?"
Most of the supplements have been recycled from the afore-mentioned New Concorde disc. There are two new extras: a decent 24-minute documentary with lots of contemporary interviews including Marky, the sole surviving Ramone (no Soles though), and a good-natured but shallow audio commentary from Corman and actress Dey Young. Thankfully, we still get the old director-writer-producer track, which is a trove of inside information.
A welcome addition is the English subtitle track, which includes most of the lyrics to most of the songs.
7 out of 10
Slipcover and case with identical designs, a trend I’m done with. The original Animal House-style poster art has been cut up, and little bits of it pasted around a picture of a big red guitar. Apparently, Disney is trying to fool people into thinking this is American Bandstand.
4 out of 10
Officer Miller wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking at, but one thing was certain:
Kong had gone too far.
I love this flick, but considering that other movies in this series (notably Death Race 2000) have received genuine 16:9 transfers, the disc is a letdown. Add 1.5 points if you don’t have the previous release, but there’s little reason to upgrade until a proper transfer –or a Hi-Def edition– comes along.
*There have been reports that this edition contains a censored version of the film. I viewed it alongside the Corman Classics disc and encountered no changes. I do cherish a dim memory of Ms. Soles going topless for the “I Want You Around” number but that’s probably just a dream I had.