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My Review of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

It wasn’t too long ago that I finally got into the Ramones and punk music as a whole. For a long time I just didn’t listen to the music because what I had heard at the time didn’t interest me that much. However, much like heavy metal, once I finally sat down and listened to it I found myself loving the music. As I got deeper and deeper into Ramones fandom I found out that they starred in their own movie. It didn’t mean much to me at first until I started to find out that people who loved that movie didn’t just love the Ramones, but also loved classic cult movies like Death Race 2000, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Night of the Living Dead. (Even though Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is nothing like those films.) It was then that I knew I had to go out and watch Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.

The film revolves around a group of High Schoolers, Riff Randell in particular, rebelling against their new evil principal Ms. Togar. The Ramones come to play at a club and eventually help Riff, Tom, Kate and Eaglebauer take over the school. Creating a rock ‘n’ roll high school of sorts.

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Something like that…

The great thing about this movie is that it still seems classic in every sense of the word. I mean, this movie had the Ramones in it, one of the best bands of all time! Not just that, but you have to remember that at that time they represented a raw rebellious type of rock. I don’t know how they could have picked a band that would be just as perfect as the Ramones. I know that Cheap Trick was interested in the movie, but wanted $50,000 for it, the Ramones were just cheaper. Cheap Trick would have been cool, but I feel like it may have felt like a different movie.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is also one of the few movies from that generation that is still genuinely funny. Comedies either age well or get forgotten over time, but Rock ‘n’ Roll High School will still make you laugh. The lead male in the movie is the star quarter back, but it doesn’t matter because the team sucks, there are all kinds of sight gags that make the film worth watching over and over again and it’s just a plain silly comedy.

Some of the comedy from the film comes from just how unskilled the Ramones were at acting. There is a whole running gag through out the film where the Ramones cannot get the name of the teacher correct, now if this is a running gag then it’s done perfectly. It was smart enough to show that the Ramones were so rebellious that they could care less who was named what. But I get this weird feeling that they really didn’t remember the lines. They knew it started with an “M” and Roger Corman is well known for having his movies done quickly and under budget if possible so… What if this was done because of circumstance? The actors all agreed that the Ramones had trouble with acting and sometimes just had to work with what they got. Either way, it’s hilarious.

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Happens all the time to Dee Dee.

I know this review sounds a lot less structured than my previous reviews, but that’s only because it’s hard for me to not geek out on how great this movie is. I mean it has one of the best soundtracks of all time! Devo, Paul McCartney, The Velvet Underground, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, MC5, Fleetwood Mac and more! This movie isn’t just about rebellious punk music, it’s about rebellious rock music as a whole! (Although Fleetwood Mac and Paul McCartney may not be the most rebellious artists on the list…)

The acting (Minus the Ramones) in the film is also very good. P.J. Soles, Vince Van Patten, Dey Young, Clint Howard and basically the whole cast does a great job in the film. They’re still pretty young in the film so it doesn’t feel like a bunch of 30 year olds are hanging out with High School kids.

I especially like Clint Howard in this film, his character of Eaglebauer constantly steals the show. I know he’s most well know for either being Ron Howard’s brother or that guy in the Austin Powers movies who starts the long gag about penises and testicles, but this is a shining moment in his acting career. Had things worked out for him he could have been working big comedies of the 80s, but I guess he’s a victim of circumstance.

Before I get done with this review you should know that the Blu-ray and DVD versions of this film are amazing! There is a ton of stuff on both of it, but what stands out is four commentaries on the film. Four! They’re not all good, but something I love about films is listening to what people went through in all stages of film making. That thing about Cheap Trick having the chance to be in the film? Learned that from the commentary. The director’s favorite albums? They’re shown during Riff Randal’s fantasy scene with the Ramones. (Nothing sexual, she’s just smoking weed and enjoying the music.) If you’re looking for a movie with a lot of replay value on disc then don’t be afraid to pick this one.

So there you have it, a cult classic starring one of the greatest bands of all time. There is some talk of a remake of the film, but I have to ask, “What band in this day and age is as well known, important, and rebellious as the Ramones?” Really, are you going to get the Black Eyed Peas to burst into the High School? Is Arcade Fire going to blow up a school to prove to everyone that they’re not going to take it anymore? Will Radiohead push the kids to rebel? Seriously, rock doesn’t have that same feeling anymore, how are they going to solve that problem? Who knows, maybe Animal Collective can save the day?

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We’re douche bags.