Film Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

Release Date: August 24th, 1979
Directed by: Allan Arkush
Written by: Richard Whitley, Russ Dvonch, Joseph McBride, Allan Arkush, Joe Dante
Music by: The Ramones
Cast: P.J. Soles, Dey Young, Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, Don Steele, The Ramones

New World Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Those Ramones are peculiar.” – Miss Togar

Roger Corman always liked to capitalize on whatever pop culture trends came along. Initially, he wanted to make a film called Disco High School. However, with the end of the film being capped off by the high school exploding behind dancing students, one of his collaborators said that the ending would fit much better with rock and roll. Corman agreed and after being pointed in the direction of punk rock legends The Ramones by Paul Bartel, a regular Corman collaborator, the rest is history.

Rock & Roll High School isn’t a good film but it is a ridiculous and fun motion picture that features the great tunes of The Ramones and the insane and infectious enthusiasm of its star, P.J. Soles.

The film also stars the always great Mary Woronov as the villainous principal and Paul Bartel as a music teacher that converts to a fan of The Ramones after getting doped up at a concert. We also get a good cameo by Dick Miller and get to enjoy a few scenes with the enigmatic and entertaining Don Steele. A young Clint Howard is also in this.

This movie is mostly a high school teen sex comedy with a heavy emphasis on The Ramones music. It isn’t quite a musical but it plays like one at times. The Ramones have a lengthy concert segment within the film but outside of that, we see P.J. Soles lead a group of girls singing in gym class, as well as the big finale which sees the students and The Ramones march through the school halls as they trash the place to the horror of the administration, their parents and the police outside.

Rock & Roll High School is highly entertaining but probably only for those who love the actors involved or who have a love for The Ramones. I’m not sure how it would resonate for others. It’s definitely a movie that is still well regarded by many because of its ties to punk music, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, P.J. Soles and because it has a massive nostalgia factor.

Documentary Review: House of the Rising Punk (1998)

Release Date: November 11th, 2008
Directed by: Christoph Dreher
Music by: various artists featured in the film

CLA, 60 Minutes

Review:

House of the Rising Punk is a German documentary about punk music, primarily in America but they do cover Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols, albeit from an American point-of-view. And even though it is German, the documentary is completely in English with a few German subtitles here and there. It is also available for free on Amazon Video if you have a Prime account.

For a one hour film, it covers a lot. It interviews several of the musicians and other people involved in and around the scene.

The film examines Richard Hell and his bands Television and the Voidoids, as well as the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, Alan Vega and Martin’s Rev’s Suicide and others.

It is pretty comprehensive for its running time. Sure, a lot is left out and the story is so broad it couldn’t even be covered in a one hour documentary but this is still a highly informative and compelling watch.

The highlight of the whole thing for me was hearing Dee Dee Ramone talk about the history of punk from his personal experience. It was also cool to see Richard Hell telling his story and Jim Jarmusch adding in his two cents. It also explained how Patti Smith’s unique style came to be.

House of the Rising Punk is a quick but meaty look into American punk and how it shaped pop culture.