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Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: Rock On Edition DVD Review

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: Rock On Edition

February 19, 2006

Director: Allan Arkush,
Starring: P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Marky Ramone, Don Steele, Alix Elias, Loren Lester, Daniel Davies, Lynn Farrell, Herbie Braha,

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DVD Review

Hey Ho! Let’s Go! Listen up, kids. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School may have been released way back in 1979 but it still kicks the ass of any of those square MTV movies. Forget about Britney Spears and Mandy Moore’s brand of bubblegum pop music and their equally bland movies – they don’t hold a candle to the unbridled power of those punk rockers from New York City, the Ramones!

Riff Randell (Soles) is the ultimate Ramones fan. She’s introduced gleefully bypassing the school’s PA system so that she can blast “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” to the entire school population. The energetic song wakes up the students, shatters glass, and shakes tables and pictures right off the wall. The school erupts into complete anarchy and as the student body begins to spontaneous dance to the boisterous rock ‘n’ roll music.

Riff dreams of meeting the Ramones and giving them a song she wrote entitled, “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.” She even camps out for days to get tickets for their upcoming concert. But when Principal Togar (Woronov) takes her ticket away, Riff and her best friend, Kate Rambeau (Young) have to find another way to meet their heroes. Meanwhile, good girl Kate has a major crush on the school’s quarterback, the bland Tom (Van Patten), but he has his sights on the dynamic Riff.

The movie does a great job of playfully championing the Ramones as rock gods and yet shows them being accessible to their fans as well. The band first appears in a car driving down the street on the way to their venue as they play “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do.” Once outside the club, they get out of the car and interact with the crowd of ticket buyers (who were, incidentally, actual Ramones fans). The editing, coupled with the insanely catchy song, gives the scene an infectious energy.

From B-movie veterans like Paul (Eating Raoul) Bartel and Mary (Death Race 2000) Woronov to newcomers (at the time), P.J. (Halloween) Soles and Dey (Strange Invaders) Young, the entire cast has a lot of fun spouting the film’s wonderfully inspired cornball dialogue (“If you don’t like it, you can put it where you the monkey puts the nuts.”). The Ramones are good sports and mumble their way through the film and truly coming alive during the music sequences. The movie rightfully cements their reputation as legends.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School embodies the essence of the punk rock music that made the Ramones famous. The film is bursting with youthful energy, a dose of good ol’ fashion anarchy and is loads of fun to watch. These are also the ingredients that made Rock ‘n’ Roll High School a cult film. It was a commercial success upon its initial release and repeated midnight screenings, coupled with steady appearances on TV, have helped the film endure over the years.

While Rock ‘n’ Roll High School will appeal predominantly to fans of the Ramones (duh!), it is also one of those fun, goofy movies to invite friends over and watch with copious amounts of junk food on hand. This movie is all about loving music and a particular band unabashedly. Riff gives herself up to the music and this translates into an enthusiastic celebration of the Ramones and the rowdy, rebellious spirit of rock ‘n’ roll music.

Special Features:

New to this edition is a “Back to School: A Retrospective” that takes a look back at this cult film with new interviews with producer Roger Corman, Alan Arkush and cast members Clint Howard, Dey Young, Mary Woronov and Loren Lester and the surviving Ramone from that time, Marky. Corman and Arkush recount the well-known story about how the veteran producer wanted to originally call the movie Disco High but was persuaded otherwise by Arkush. Originally, they wanted Devo then Van Halen before approaching the Ramones. This is an affectionate, fun look at this movie with everyone reminiscing fondly about their experiences.

Producer Michael Finnell, screenwriter Richard Whitley and director Alan Arkush deliver an engaging and rather chatty audio commentary. The three men laugh and joke about working on Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. They clearly have fond memories of their experiences on the movie. They talk about its long history: how it was originally called Girls Gym, then changed to Disco High by Roger Corman, who wanted to capitalize on the disco craze, and finally they settled on Rock ‘n’ Roll High School after Arkush convinced Corman that the Ramones were the perfect band for the movie. Fans of the film will find a lot of great anecdotal information on this track and the casual tone makes one feel like they are sitting with the filmmakers watching the movie over snacks and drinks.

Another new addition is an audio commentary by Corman and Young. She still keeps in touch with Corman and crosses paths with Mary Woronov occasionally at auditions. Corman points out that the film was shot in only 15 days and they remark at how good it looks despite this short shooting schedule. Young admits that in reality she was more like Riff Randell than her character. There are several lulls but it is nice to hear these two reminisce about their experiences on the movie.

Also included is a dynamic theatrical trailer that gives away the ending! Definitely watch this last if you haven’t seen the movie.

Gone is the Leonard Maltin interview with Roger Corman.

There are also two 30 second radio spots over a slide show of stills from the movie.

A real treat for fans of the Ramones are several audio outtakes during the filming of the concert sequence. These are the original audio tracks of the band in action.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 90%

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