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Rock 'n' Roll High School! (1979)

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100% Weird Gabba gabba hey! Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, Paul Bartel, Andy Warhol staple Mary Woronov, and Roger Corman favorite Dick Miller all in the same movie? And they're all in a movie about an obsessed fan of the seminal New York band the Ramones? It looks too good to be true, but it is indeed this week's MonsterVision feature, Rock 'n' Roll High School!

The story opens at Vince Lombardi High School, where the slogans are "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" and "winning is better than losing." The evil Miss Evelyn Togar steps in as the new principal the same day that Riff Randell proves to the administration that her schoolmates would rather listen to "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" than Beethoven's Fifth. Miss Togar, with the aid of Hall Monitors Franz Hansel and Franz Gretel, attempts to squash the teen rebellion and mayhem ensues.

Although the dialog sometimes sounds ad-libbed, the enthusiasm and spirit this flick's got, more than make up for any technical shortcomings. After all, this is a Roger Corman movie. The script was written by director Allan Arkush who's since gone on to direct a number of television shows, including Ally McBeal and Dawson's Creek. Working with Arkush on the script was another Corman alum, Joe Dante of MonsterVision's Gremlins fame.

The movie was originally supposed to star Cheap Trick in the Ramones role, but they became too popular by the time filming began. In Roger Corman terms, they became too expensive. It's really just as well; the movie just wouldn't have been the same without the Ramones. High school girls everywhere swooned over Robin Zander. As it is, Rock 'n' Roll High School veers off into science fiction territory when the smitten Riff waxes poetic on how dreamy Joey Ramone is. Besides, it's much more fun to follow the bouncing ball and sing along with "Teenage Lobotomy" or "Blitzkrieg Bop" than it would have been had the tune been "Surrender."

While you're watching Rock 'n' Roll High School, try to pick out all of the cameos. Here's a head start -- the Cafeteria Lady who gets pelted with Apple Brown Betty and the Tuesday Special during the riot is none other than Barbara Walters (now being taken much more seriously on The View).

The soundtrack not only features the Ramones, but also the Velvet Underground, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, the MC5 and Bent Fabric and His Piano. Rock 'n' Roll High School is much more than a movie about the trials and tribulations of high school students. This movie asks, and sometimes answers, the age-old questions: "what happens to white mice when they listen to rock 'n' roll,"
"why isn't there an Eaglebauer in every high school?" and
"why won't Joey Ramone eat his riboflavin?" Watch this movie, and you too will understand when the Ramones' manager tells a crestfallen P.J. Soles, "This is the big time girlie. This is rock 'n' roll."

Now here's Joe Bob Briggs hisself:

"The only high school movie in which riot, arson, mass hookey and mayhem go completely unpunished, this is the best wild-youth picture of the seventies, completing the cycle that begins with ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK.  Instead of ragged blue-jean jackets, these kids wear Danskins and button-down collars and listen to punkers like the Ramones, and the familiar plot has become parodic: teachers and parents hate rock-and-roll because it destroys the mind. The chief evidence is P.J. Soles, high-kicking her way through the halls until terrifying principal Mary Woronov gives her detention hall for life, and Clint Howard as Englebauer, the diabolical guy with an office in the boys restroom who can get you anything for a price. A lot of funny gags, and the greatest ending in the history of rock cinema. With Paul Bartel as the music appreciation teacher, Vincent Van Patten as the football star, Dey Young, Dick Miller."   4 stars

2000 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved.

Rock 'n Roll High School (1979)
July 9, 2000 at 3:30am on TNT, Rating: TV-14-D


Produced by Sam Katzman, who coined the word "beatnik," this is the granddaddy of all rock musicals,
so controversial when it was released that there were several incidents of seat-
slashing in theaters, resulting in bans in several cities.
Bill Haley and His Comets do nine songs, including the opening title number
"Rock Around The Clock," in a backstage story about an agent (!).
Also featuring The Platters, Freddie Bell and the Bellhops.4 stars

2000 Joe Bob Briggs All Rights Reserved.

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A record collector and film buff from his early days, ALLAN ARKUSH brought his two loves together in directing the cult classic Rock 'n' Roll High School. Allan's day job is directing television series like Moonlighting, Ally McBeal, Crossing Jordan, and the mini-series The Temptations, for which he won an Emmy. He currently stays busy as an Executive Producer and Director of Heroes.

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