Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

Seen: On my tv, streamed from netflix instant.

This movie has been on my radar for a while but for some reason it took me forever to actually sit down and watch it. After several friends talked it up recently (including Ryan at the Matinee) I was finally motivated. And I've been on a serious Ramones kick ever since! Brought to us by Roger Corman, Rock 'n' Roll High School follows the students of Vince Lombardi High as they rise up against the tyrannical new principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Ramones fanatic Riff Randall (PJ Soles) leads her peers in a rock and roll revolution, while her best friend, science genius Kate (Dey Young), navigates the troubled waters of first love with socially awkward football quarterback Tom (Vincent Van Patten).

With a plot as thin as tissue paper and a lot of bad acting, Rock 'n' Roll High School fights to reach its 90 minute runtime but has so much fun getting there that you'd barely notice. Packed with wacky musical scenes featuring rockin' Ramones tunes, likable castmembers, and a lot of ridiculous jokes, the film easily entertains despite its narrative lack. I was never into The Ramones much before (my teenage punk phase consisted most strongly of The Clash and The Dead Kennedys) but now I totally get it. I felt like rockin' out all day after watching this movie, especially once the band is introduced, singing "I Just Wanna Have Something to Do" to the fans waiting in line for tickets. The scene is equally supercool and supergoofy, capturing the essence of their music and image I think.

One thing that immediately appealed to me about this movie is the cast, my goodness it's good! Mary Woronov, be still my heart, is so great as the stern disciplinarian who experiments on mice to determine the effects of rock music on the brain. And The Real Don Steele, my imaginary best friend, is his wonderful chatty self as a radio DJ who hosts the Ramones concert. Corman stalwart Dick Miller gets a cameo with the best line "These Ramones are ugly, UGLY people" (which was basically my main thought every time the band was on screen, my goodness, get a toothbrush Joey). Clint Howard is hilarious as an entrepreneurial student who hooks up his cohorts with fake ids and first dates. And Paul Bartel is there as a square music teacher who tries to defend his students! Aaaaand PJ Soles, possibly the most adorable person in the world. The best thing about her is that her character is weirdly progressive for a teen sex comedy-type movie. She's the main female character and she has no romantic subplot at all. Sure she's got a crush on The Ramones but that's about it- she's just a hip lady who wants to rock out and write songs. And I loved that!


Pair This Movie With: Any other movie that makes you want to rock out. Some of mine are The Runaways, Empire Records, and Almost Famous.


  1. One of the greatest visual jokes I have ever seen is the dean's poster illustrating the effects of playing rock music to mice.

    Glad you had a great time with this, and that Lindsay and I could tilt you towards finally tracking it down!

  2. A fun movie. Nice to see The Ramones managing to stay awake for their various scenes!