After enduring Spirit of '76 , I was hoping I would have better luck with my next choice and I certainly did with the dancingest high school this side of Rydell High - -- Rock 'n' Roll High School (RRHS) featuring The Ramones. I was hooked from one of the first scenes in the movie as Riff Randell (PJ Soles) plays a song over the school's P.A . system and ALL of the students in the school stop what they're doing and start dancing......HOW can anyone not love this movie!
It seems the Principals of Vince Lombardi High keep going crazy trying to keep the kids in line. The school board thinks they have found the right person for the job when they hire Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), the strictest of all administrators. But it looks like Miss Togar is really going to have her work cut out for her, when she comes up against Riff Randell and the students of Vince Lombardi High School.
There are a lot of subplots that run through the movie besides the struggle between the Principal and the students. Riff has written a song called "Rock n Roll High School" that she thinks would be perfect if she could just get it to The Ramones. Riff's best friend, Kate Rambeau (Dey Young) has a thing for nerdy football player Tom Roberts (Vincent Van Patten), who has the hots for Riff. Kate and Tom both seek love advice from Eaglebauer (Clint Howard), who holds court in a stall in the boys bathroom (you'll just have to watch the movie to see the huge size of his stall/office). Eaglebauer has a great scene in which he demonstrates "the art of dating" to Kate and Tom. All of this might seem disjointed, but the movie really flows from one scene to the next. The director Allan Arkush really knew how to keep the energy and the laughs flowing from the start of the movie until the explosive climax.
Of course, the main reason that most people are going to watch this movie is The Ramones. They make their first appearance arriving at the venue where they are going to perform. How do they make their arrival - sitting in the back of a pink Cadillac convertible singing and playing "I Just Want To Have Something To Do". They get out of the Cadillac and continue singing and playing as they walk down the sidewalk into the theater. This was a Very,Very Cool scene.
Riff skips school and waits in line for three days at the theater to get Ramones tickets for everyone at school. When Miss Togar finds out about this, she confiscates Riff's and Kate's tickets. After school is out for the day, we find Riff alone in her bedroom smoking a little weed and listening to The Ramones. This leads to a fantasy sequence with The Ramones in her bedroom (well, bedroom, backyard, and her shower) singing "I Want You Around".
The Ramones are up next in their concert which is attended by the kids from Vince Lombari High and their music teacher (Paul Bartel) in a giant yellow beret. Speaking of giant, there's also a giant white mouse at the concert (this will make sense....or at least as much sense as a giant white mouse can....when you watch the movie). The concert is emceed by DJ Screamin' Steve Stevens played by real life DJ Don Steele. Screamin' Steve lets Riff makes an annoucement from the stage: "On behalf of the students from Vince Lombardi High who are here tonight, I'd just like to say one thing: Screw you, Principal Togar, we made it to the concert anyway! " Miss Togar hears it over the live radio broadcast and has reached her boiling point.
Miss Togar is out for her revenge and the next day she gathers all of the parents to help her burn those horrible Rock and Roll records. I know this sounds like something out of the 1950s, and in a way, the plot of RRHS is reminiscent of some of the Rock and Roll teen movies from that era. But in RRHS there won't be a meeting of the minds between the two groups, because the teens led by Riff are going to take over the high school. The Ramones arrive in their Cadillac convertible just in time to join the students in their rebellion. There are a couple of great lines during this part of RRHS. Most people choose Miss Togar's line - "Do Your Parents Know You're Ramones" as one of their favorites; however, I think mine might be Johnny's line "Things sure have changed since we got kicked out of high school", it just sort of embodies the spirit of the whole movie.
Inside the school, we get The Ramones final number - "Rock n Roll High School", which is similar in choreography to their first performance in RRHS. This time The Ramones sing and play while walking through the halls of Vince Lombardi, as the student body has its final dance sequence. The cops are called to quell the riot and it looks like the students have given up when they exit the school...... but in the end there's one more surprise for Miss Togar, as we get every kid's fantasy that hated school.......BLOW THAT SUCKER TO THE GROUND!!!
Roger Corman originally had in mind using music as a backdrop for a teen movie like he did in a couple of his earlier productions, i.e. "Carnival Rock" and "Rock All Night". Roger's idea was to call the movie "Disco High" but was convinced, by the director Arkbush and the writer Joe Dante, that Disco wasn't rebellious and he needed to use Rock and Roll instead. According to the commentary from Corman, this was one of the few times he let someone change his mind. In a sly reference to Disco High, at the beginning of the first dance scene, you can see Tom reading "Dancing Fever", this was a book published by Rolling Stone that dealt primarily with showing you Disco moves. I can't even imagine what this movie would have been like if Corman had prevailed. As it is, RRHS is one of the best goofy teen movies I think I've ever seen.
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