Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Rock 'N' Roll High School

Joey Ramone was one weird-looking dude. With their greasy hair, hunched postures, and lumpy, sullen features, none of the Ramones were exactly photogenic, but Joey had a face only a Muppet could love. As actors, the whole lot is barely sub-par, delivering lines like "Hey, pizza" with all the charisma and enthusiasm of an otter on Quaaludes. It works, though. Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, director Allan Arkush's seminal high school blowout picture, is an antidote to all those clean-cut, good-looking pop star vehicles of the ’50s and ’60s. When super-fan P.J. Soles waxes rhapsodically on the aesthetics of her favorite singer, no attempt is made to pretty up Joey's gawky frame, and it's a joke that manages to poke fun at an image without deflating it. Because the Ramones were awesome, and to be that awesome and odd at the same time is an invitation for all the freaks, geeks, and heroes of the teenage set to come together against the real enemy: anyone trying to shut them down.


For a while, Rock ‘N’ Roll behaves like a typical teen comedy. While Soles blasts her records through the halls of Vince Lombardi High, her best friend Dey Young pines for jock and all around doofus Vince Van Patten, and Men's Room Machiavelli Clint Howard works to see that everyone gets a happy ending. His efforts may be for naught, though, because VLHS has a new principal, Mary Woronov, and she's determined to finally put a stop to all the loud music, dancing, and various other unsavory youthful activities. Young tries to put the moves on Van Patten, who thinks he's in love with Soles, Woronov subjects mice to the indignities of loud music, and Soles camps out at the local theater for a chance to buy tickets to a local Ramones concert, and maybe get a copy of her new song to the only people she'd ever want to play it.

All of this should lead to some kind of plot, but what makes Rock ‘N’ Roll fresh even today is Arkush's willingness to create the ultimate adolescent power trip, logic and good sense be damned. Soles is a bouncy, charismatic leading lady, and the whole cast (including the always wonderful Paul Bartel and the traditional Dick Miller cameo) is game. But the stars here are Arkush's ramshackle approach to comedy and the Ramones, whose music serves as the closest thing in the narrative to a driving force. Underneath its chipper, anything-for-laugh grin, Rock ‘N’ Roll is as subversive as teen movies get, with an ending that, for all its absurdity, is still surprisingly shocking. It's hard to imagine a similar conclusion being shot today. When the inevitable remake arrives, expect Justin Bieber to headline and everyone to learn the power of unthreatening hugs.

Key Features: Multiple commentary tracks (including a new one recorded for this DVD and Blu-Ray release), behind the scenes interviews, and anything a budding Riff Randell could want.