director Allan Arkush
Rock, rock, rock, rock, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School!
The Roger Corman/Allan Arkush/Joe Dante teenage rebellion movie, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School has definitely been filed in my chagrined category of movies I had never, *ahem*, seen. When you talk about foreign cinema or avant-garde or something, perhaps it’s a little more understanding if you’ve never seen a Alain Resnais film or a particular Godard film. But some films, especially films of the midnight movie ilk or cult status, especially one that features the great rock’n’roll punk band, the Ramones, it’s almost downright shame-facing.
How? How? How? How could I have never seen it? Why? Why? Why? Why had I never seen it. No good explanation exists.
It’s frickin’ brilliant. For a late-1970’s teen rebellion film, it’s almost squeaky clean. And cute. Charming. And features the Ramones in their heyday, capturing lightning in a bottle, or at least on celluloid and audio.
It’s so cute. Really. That’s the main word that came to mind.
P.J. Soles (who I think I remember fondly from Stripes (1981)) is as cute as cute can be as the Ramones number one fan Riff Randell. Mary Woronov is pretty iconic as the evil school principal whose cutting down hard on anything remotely fun. And Paul Bartel is gloriously funny as the hip unhip music teacher.
It’s an amazing. It’s kind of like the anti-Grease (1978), with it’s all retro 1950’s rock’n’roll filtered vaguely through disco. The Ramones exemplify a particular aspect of punk that is unrepentantly tied in a key way to the sounds of the 1950’s and early 1960’s but is entirely of itself, of a new and at the time contemporary era. It was an amazing act of genius to land the Ramones, such a unique, bizarre thing.
It also ties back to films like High School Confidential (1958), the whole teenage movie genre, particularly with a contemporary soundtrack. It also brought to mind the much less successful Rude Boy (1980) which was more of a film dedicated to the Clash with a story stuffed into it, but it’s probably closer in production to the Jack Arnold flick.
The Ramones were such a gloriously unlikely band. Brilliant misfits turned punk rock gods. Any glimpse is a worthwhile glimpse.
The whole thing is great and frickin’ cute.