Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

rock n roll high school poster 1979 movie ramones
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun little movie that doesn't take itself too seriously

Pretty low budget

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Rock ‘n’ Roll High School

Studio:  New World Pictures

Genre(s):  Musical/Comedy

Release Date(s):  August 24, 1979

MPAA Rating:  PG

rock n roll high school pj soles gym class riff randell

Oh PJ, rocking the pigtails

Riff Randell (P.J. Soles) is in love with the Ramones and everything rock.  While Riff, her friend Kate (Dey Young), and the rest of the school wants to rock, the new principal Evelyn Togar (Mary Woronov) believes rock ‘n’ roll is destroying the United States and the youth of America!  The Ramones are coming to town, and Riff is determined to go to get her songs performed…leading to an explosive face off with Principal Togar.

Directed by Allan Arkush, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a low-budget musical comedy.  The film featured music and performances by the Ramones but a soundtrack encompassing more rock performers.

If Grease was the happy, popular musical, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is its anti-social opposite.  The movie is loud and proud with a complete genre blend that you’d expect from something like Troma or the film’s producer Roger Corman…and there is something about it that works.

rock n roll high school concert paul bartel mouse native american

So a mouse, a Native American, and music teacher walk into a Ramones concert… ***insert joke***

The movie feels like a combination of the Beatles’ fan movie I Wanna Hold Your Hand and something like Hairspray by John Waters.  The movie is pretty unapologetic in its cheese factor and it is one of those movies that it looks like the actors are actually having fun in the making of it.  It is this fun and goofiness which allows the movie to work.

The cast is so-so.  P.J. Soles allegedly didn’t like the Ramones when the movie started but they grew on her. Dey Young is a little bland as her friend, but I kind of like Vince Van Patten and Clint Howard as the nerdy jock and the man with the answers.  Eating Raoul stars Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel have big roles as the principal and music teacher respectively, and Corman regular Dick Miller also makes an appearance.  While essentially the “stars” of the movie are the Ramones, they weren’t the first choice with Todd Rundgren, Cheap Trick, and Devo all being considered first.

rock in roll high school ramones blows up school pj soles

Schools Out!!!

The movie also looks cheap, but it works with the style of the movie.  It is meant to be a “romp” type of movie and the style fits with it.  If the movie had been polished, high class, and clean, the movie wouldn’t have worked.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a fun little movie.  The counter-culture nature of it makes it a good flipside to the shiny pop nature of Grease which was also new and fresh at the time.  With the Ramones almost all but gone, it is also fun to see them when they were young and the rebels that made them popular.  Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’s cult success led to a sequel Rock ‘n’ Roll High School Forever in 1991 starring Corey Feldman.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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