Rock ‘n Roll High School (1979)

I am in love with film. It inspires me every single day. And so does rock and roll. I have a few rock and roll rules that rule my life and I’ll share one with you: if you don’t like The Ramones, I really don’t trust you.

Sure, you can tell me every Ramones song sounds the same. And I’ll tell you that you’re an asshole — Bonzo Goes to Bitburg sounds nothing like Pet Sematary and those two songs sound nothing like Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue. The Ramones got me through my first year of advertising, keeping my sanity as I worked eighty hours a week and I will forever be in their debt.

This movie makes me insanely happy because it posits a world where The Ramones are the biggest band in the world, big enough to cause a major stir when they come to town. Roger Corman originally wanted Cheap Trick or Todd Rundgren for this, but come on. Only one band could make this work.

The students of Vince Lombardi High School are as good at driving educators insane as they are bad at actually learning. Foremost among their number is rock and roller Riff Randell (has P.J  Soles ever been lovelier?) who dreams of writing songs for the Ramones and meeting Joey Ramone.

When new Principal Togar (has Mary Woronov ever not been great in a film?) takes her ticket to the concert away from her, she and her best friend Kate have to figure out how they’ll get to meet their heroes, win true love and escape the drudgery of high school.

There’s a moment here where Riff imagines Joey in her bedroom singing “I Want You Around” to her. It breaks my heart in the best of ways — pure teen worry and angst and then there’s Joey — geeky, gangly, goofball Joey — the hero who comes to her room and there’s this pure puppy love bliss. No other band could have been in this film and communicated punk rock swagger and danger while still having this tender sweetness.

I love PJ’s clothes in this film. That may be because the low budget of the film meant that they couldn’t afford decent clothes for her, so she spent her entire salary on her outfits.

Between Don Steele, Clint Howard, Dick Miller and Paul Bartel, the only members of my favorite actors club not in this film are weirdo Italian gore icons like John Saxon, Ivan Rassimov and George Eastman to make it perfect. Fuck that — this is perfect. The end of the film, where Miss Togar snarls at Joey,  “Do your parents know you’re Ramones?” makes me get up and cheer out loud.

Talk about punk rock — The Ramones were only paid a total of $25,000 for acting in this, so they had to play shows every night to make up for it. Meanwhile, Dee Dee fought a roadie, OD’d in jail and woke up in the ER with a $3,000 medical bill. But that’s OK — Dee Dee was such a shitty actor in this that he only got two lines: “Hey, pizza!” and “Hey, pizza! It’s great! Let’s dig in!”

There’s also a giant mouse and mouse children that somehow go to this school for some reason. Who cares!

I love the end of this movie, when the school violently explodes as The Ramones rock out and Screamin’ Steve Stevens goes wild. It’s absolutely, totally perfect — and makes me wish that in my teen years, when no one in my high school knew or cared who The Ramones were, that Dee Dee would come and get me so high I’d wake up in the emergency room with one awesome story. Gabba gabba hey, indeed.

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