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Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)

Disco High

Tonight, they’re calling the shots.

Directed by:

Allan Arkush

Rating: 2/10

Running Time: 93 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

Producer Roger Corman – a man who’s been behind more dodgy B-movies than Michelle McManus has had hot dinners – is perhaps best known for giving us ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’, a painfully bad teen-com which would be completely unwatchable were it not for the extended presence of The Ramones and their legendary punk music.

This excruciatingly-bad exercise in sticking it to the man (or, as it is in this case, woman), has P.J. Soles pushing the boundaries of High School student believability (she was 29 at the time!) as playground rabble-rouser Riff Randell. Her heroes – The Ramones – are coming to town to play a concert, and the prospect has her practically cacking her slacks with excitement, so she skips classes for three days in order to wait at the box office and snap up a bundle of tickets. This being 1979 and long before the days of e-Bay, she has to make do with handing the spares over to her classmates – but her own presence at the big gig looks to be in jeopardy when, in a plot turn which frankly makes no sense, her own ticket is confiscated by wicked school principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Will she makes it to the performance anyway? Well, if not, she can always just wait 20-odd years for it to come out on DVD.

With a rotten line in comedy (an indication of the film’s level of humour can be found in character names like “Angel Dust” and “Coach Steroid”) and an appalling storyline, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’ scrapes the very bottom of the teen-movie barrel. Sure, there’s some great music to be heard (particularly if you’re a bit of a punk fan at heart), but it only really serves to make the whole thing feel like a 90-minute advertisement for The Ramones’ albums. By the time the thing’s lurched to its uncomfortable record-burning climax, it’s turned into a full-blown Ramones gig – which is fine by me, but why not just sell it as that, instead of making such a limp attempt at surrounding it with a bona fide movie?

As it is, this is little more than musical propaganda, and might as well have been titled ‘Hey Kids, Buy a Ramones Album Right Now or You’re a Loser!’ (okay, so it wouldn’t be quite as catchy, but the sentiment is certainly the same). Far be it from me to question the punk credentials of a band widely-regarded as the genre’s founding fathers, but this particular snap-shot of their history surely represents one big fat sell-out.

It's Got: Joey Ramone displaying some of the worst lip-synching skills you’re likely to see.

It Needs: To ditch the superfluous crap and just show us a Ramones gig.

DVD Extras Radio spots, a 5-minute interview with Roger Corman, an audio commentary, and a particularly grainy-looking trailer. Version reviewed: Rock N Roll High School (Prism Leisure Corporation) DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

End of the Century, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever

Summary

There’s something distinctly non-rock-n-roll about any movie trying this hard to sell us a product. Since when was shameless commercialism part of the punk ethos?

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