Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Back when I was a perky, precocious party girl of 16, my best friend Kathy and I had this weekend routine. We’d go to a keg party, kiss as many football players or artistes-to-be as possible, and drunk-drive back to her place to watch a movie. There were only a few films we deemed worthy of watching in this state and we’d watch them over and over again. Most weren’t terribly intellectually challenging, except for Clockwork Orange, which somehow squirmed its disturbing way into our repertoire. Mainly we watched Racing with the Moon and Animal House, and we could quote most of Stripes, starring Bill Murray. Then there were the musicals—Gillian Armstrong’s Starstruck and, drum roll please, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (the DVD is being released this fall). The Roger Corman-produced, over-the-top teenage rebellion tale epitomized the wildness we craved without being that wild at all. Perky, precocious party girl Riff Randall (P.J. Soles) dreams of writing rock songs—and of The Ramones magically appearing in her bedroom. Meanwhile, the evil fascist principal Miss Togar and her creepy henchmen try to ban rock music from campus and make cute little white mice explode by subjecting them to Ramones’ songs—the most dangerous drug of all. (When Togar finally meets the troublemaking rockers, she explodes, “Do your parents know you’re Ramones?”) The result is lots of silliness and the most hilarious collection of seventies fashion monstrosities available on screen. With Joey’s tragic recent death, this depiction of The Ramones’ power to ignite is more poignant than ever. (The DVD features interviews with friends of Joey Ramone, audio commentary by director Allan Arkush, an interview with executive producer Roger Corman, and outtakes from The Ramones’ concert sequence.)