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USA 1979
Directed by
Allan Arkush
94 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Rock N Roll High School

Executive produced by Roger Corman, it was the good fortune of the makers of this film that they cast the then relatively unknown New York band The Ramones as the centrepiece of this '50's style teen flick about the pernicious effects of rock 'n' roll on young people. Joey Ramone and the boys got paid $25,000 from the $300,000 budget and could not have got better exposure had they made the film themselves. In turn they went on to achieve cult status and with extensive footage of them playing live the film has a raison d' être it might not otherwise have had.

Written by director Arkush and co-writers including Joe Dante, in true Corman B grade style the film tells the story of Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) a student at Vince Lombardi High and rock 'n' roll devotee with a crush on Joey. She teams up with nice girl Kate Rambeau (Dey Young) and they take on new principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov, an Andy Warhol actress), whose mission is to transform the low-achieving school into an academic exemplar.

The high-spirited,film is less of an outright comedy than an updated version of an unashamedlyteen genre. Whilst the central axis of the film is about Riff and the Ramones, most of the fun comes from the supporting characters, in particular Eaglebauer (Clint Howard, brother of Ron) who runs a dating service from a smoke-filled boy's room, Mr. McGree (Paul Bartel, best known to cult fans for his performance opposite Woronov in Eating Raoul, 1982, which Bartels directed and in which Joe Dante appears), the square music teacher who goes over to the side of the kids and Tom Roberts (Vincent Van Patten, son of Dick) a good-looking sports jock with an unrequited crush on Riff.

Of course, it's The Ramones who make the film and fans are well rewarded with not only with performances of "Teenage Lobotomy," "Blitzkrieg Bop" "I Wanna Be Sedated," "I Want You Around," "California Sun," "Pinhead" and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" as well as the title song but also the lads gamely playing themselves within the film.

FYI: Todd Rundgren and Cheap Trick both turned down the opportunity to play the band. There was a 1991 sequel  Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever (1991) that went straight to video.

DVD Extras: This good quality transfer is enhanced by a strong suite of extras: two audio commentaries, one with director Arkush, producer Michael Finnell and screenwriter Richard Whitley, the other with Corman and Dey Young; Back To School: A Retrospective, featuring interviews with Arkus, Dante, Corman and cast members; an interview Roger Corman; radio spots; the original theatrical trailer and live audio outtakes of The Ramones from the concert portion of the film which was later studio dubbed.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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