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Rock 'N' Roll High School

Think music and education mean something besides band practice? So do fans of Rock 'N' Roll High School, the 1979 Ramones' vehicle and tribute to the joys of rock and rebellion. P.J. Soles (best known from her supporting roles in Carrie and Halloween) stars as Riff Randall — the world's biggest Ramones fan, who's hassled by Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), the new rock-hating principal at Vince Lombardi High. As their rivalry grows, Togar makes plans to burn the students rock records, but when The Ramones come to Riff's aid, the students burn the school down. Structurally the film is much like executive producer Roger Corman's '50s rock movies — including Rock All Nite and Carnival Rock — as an exploitation picture with the corny love stories that were old-hat when done by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney (but so was Grease). What in some ways makes this outing better than other genre musicals is that director Allan Arkush has a real rock-and-roll sensibility, lending credibility to Randall's tastes by making her love of rock more than just a fad to latch a movie onto (which Corman planned the film to be, at least under its original title, Disco High). By featuring The Ramones, RNRHS delivers their '50s rocker/'70s punk aesthetic, adding some menace to the proceedings but still managing to keep everything light-hearted. The soundtrack has good numbers from the The Ramones, Velvet Underground, Brian Eno, and Devo, who perform a handful of classics (including "Pinhead" and "Blitzkrieg Bop"). Though sloppy — name a Corman film that isn't — RNRHS has enough charm and clever supporting cast (Woronov, Paul Bartel, Clint Howard, and Dick Miller to name a few) to cover its faults. New Concorde has released the second DVD of this film, and the content is virtually the same as the original Lumivision DVD (which was essentially the same as the Lumivision Laserdisc). The movie is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and Dolby 2.0 mono, while extras include a rambling audio commentary by director Arkush, producer Michael Finnell, and writer Richard Whitley, an introduction with Corman and Leonard Maltin, theatrical trailers for this and other Corman films, stills, audio-only additional songs from the Ramones concert sequence, and radio spots. The only noteworthy new addition is a special film dedication by director Arkush to both Bartel (1938-2000) and Joey Ramone (1951-2001). Keep-case.

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