It’s almost enough to simply hear Joey Ramone remark, "Things sure have changed since we got kicked out of high school." But there are a lot more reasons to enjoy this Roger Corman-produced punk-era gem. Rock 'n' Roll High School is a shamelessly goofy throwback to the first generation of teen-exploitation movies, wherein the kids just wanted to rock and the square adults were determined to shut them down -- until they learned to stop worrying and love the music. What RRHS brings to the party is a punk sensibility that leaves Vince Lombardi High in ruins and the hard-nosed principal, Miss Togar, in a strait-jacket! B-movie king Corman originally conceived this instant cult classic as Disco High, a rare zeitgeist miss from the producer. Fortunately, much cooler heads prevailed. Director Alan Arkush, with an assist from Joe Dante, anticipated Airplane! with this anything-goes, Mad magazine-style gag-fest. The cast is in a class by itself: P. J. Soles as Riff; Dey Young as her more innocent best friend, Kate; Vincent Van Patten as the clueless football hero on whom Kate has an unrequited crush; Mary Woronov, channeling Joan Crawford, as Togar; Paul Bartel as music teacher Mr. McGree, who becomes a Ramones convert; and the great Clint Howard as Eaglebauer, who runs his test-score and hall-pass black market from a stall in the bathroom. The soundtrack (which could prove fatal to laboratory mice, as Togar memorably demonstrates with explosive results) combines blistering blasts of the Ramones ("Teenage Lobotomy," "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," "Blitzkrieg Bop") with pop from Nick Lowe, Fleetwood Mac, Chuck Berry, and others.
Joe Dante co-wrote this funny, exuberant youth picture about a teenager named Riff Randell (Halloween's P.J. Soles) who is a huge fan of the Ramones and leads a rebellion against her school's uptight, anti-rock-music principal Togar (Mary Woronov in the role of her career). There are many odd touches in this delightful cult film, not the least of which is a giant delinquent mouse who went to seed after listening to loud music. Beyond the funny script and engaging cast, there is of course an incredible soundtrack, featuring all the Ramones songs that most people of a certain age know better than their algebra. Whether you like the Ramones or not, this picture is still a lot of fun and one of the most enjoyable musicals of its time. The "Corman Classics" videotape contains an interview in which producer Roger Corman reveals that the film was originally conceived as Disco High until director Allan Arkush fortunately convinced him that using rock & roll was a better idea.