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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • 4 Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Interviews
  • Music-only track
  • 2 Radio spot

Rock'n'Roll High School

Umbrella Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 94 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

ONETWOTHREEFOUR!

Teen films come and teen films go, but despite its wobbly B-grade origins, the riotous Rock’n’Roll High School has endured and remains a true classic of the genre. After all, it has all the staples of a truly great B-grade flick – Paul Bartel is in it. What, you want more?!

As is the way with such things, the tale is quite simple. There’s been a changing of the guard at Vince Lombardi High School, with the Vinegar Tits-styled Miss Togar taking over as principal. Along with her two uniform-encrusted hall monitoring henchdorks she plans to un-deviate the deviations from the school’s schedule caused by rock music and get these spoiled heathen punk students back in line. But she hasn’t counted on the school’s queen bee in Riff Randell, the type of girl many of us wish we were at school, who takes no stick from no one. Oh, and she’s also quite the dedicated little fan of The Ramones.

A few little plot threads wend their merry way along as so boring his brother’s an only child jock-extraordinaire Tom Roberts (without a paintbrush or canvas in sight) fancies Riff, her nrrdgrrl friend Kate Rambeau fancies him and they’re both using Eaglebauer Enterprises (fourth cubicle on the right) to try to facilitate their hormonal-driven desires. Meanwhile Riff has written a song she’s trying to get to the Ramones and Togar continues trying to run the school with an iron fist. It’s when the Ramones come to town for a gig at the Rockatorium that things heat up, with Togar confiscating our heroines’ tickets, causing the gauntlet to be well and truly thrown down. So the question is, will the new principal beat the brats into line, or will rock’n’roll win through?

"This incident is going down on your permanent record."

Producer Roger Corman's name is one that should not be unfamiliar to any fan of B-grade fare, and it’s no surprise to find it sticky-taped onto Rock’n’Roll High School. Bound and gagged by budgetary constraints, things are delightfully cheesy from go to woe - there’s never a dull moment with all manner of running gags, visual humour, blink and you’ll miss them laugh-out-loud moments and great dialogue to take in – much like a Zucker brothers film – in fact one Jerry Zucker even had a hand in some scenes, including the best use of a paper airplane that’s ever been committed to celluloid. What more could we want? Well, massive chunks of the mighty "Beethovens of our time" The Ramones performing live and even “acting” would be a start, and that’s what we get. Combine this with the great, appropriate acting turns from all and sundry who were roped into appearing for peanuts and you have a classic of both the B-grade and teen film oeuvres, which in its own way ranks right up there with the likes of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Animal House. As long as you like that kind of thing, of course.

  Video
Contract

B movie = B quality is often the way, and sadly the video transfer we get here lives up (or perhaps down) to this credo. The good? It’s in its correct ratio of 1.85:1. The bad? It isn’t 16:9 enhanced. More good? The colour is quite lovely throughout. More bad? The film is quite affected by the presence of white specks and other assorted pieces of unwanted garbage at most points – notably around the cretinous placement of the layer change (just after the ten minute mark no less) where the utter crapness of the vision at this point is exaggerated whilst waiting for things to continue. At least grain isn’t really a problem, nor wobbles or the like, and detail can be reasonable at times, as long as things don’t go dark as it all tends to become a bit of a blob-fest in the shadows. Still, this is apparently after a digital remastering, so it could have been so much worse, and the film has probably not been given the respect it deserves in its storage, However anybody expecting a great print will definitely wanna be sedated after clapping eyes on this.

  Audio
Contract

The film was made in mono, we get it in Dolby Digital stereo mono. Now if you wish to compare the quality of the audio with the video then the latter is reference quality – this is truly disappointing stuff. Whilst despite regular hiss throughout dialogue generally manages to be clear – which is just as well as it appears that nobody could be shagged putting subtitles on the film – anytime music pipes up so does the distortion – and we’re not talking the good, up to eleven guitar-type stuff. Basically if you listen to this on Pat Boone levels you may find it bearable, but crank it up past Frampton and The Who into Ramones volume levels and it’s really grating and annoying.

For what it’s worth, as well as a fabulous grab bag of choice Ramones tunes – Blitzkrieg Bop, Teenage Lobotomy, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, Pinhead and heaps more – some other cool soundtrack additions are here. Just don’t expect them to sound good. These include the likes of Devo, Nick Lowe, the MC5, the Velvet Underground, Alice Cooper (yes, you can guess the song) and even Brian Eno pops up with quite a few of his nicely weird instrumental doodles.

When it comes to the quality of sound on this release we’re NOT a happy family.

  Extras
Contract

The menu may be static, however the full version of the film’s titular song plays over top – and thankfully it sounds about a googol times better than it does in the film. A reasonable amount of extras has been assembled for a film you wouldn’t necessarily expect any to appear on – although one has the sneaking suspicion that the original Laserdisc release of the film may have come in quite handy for sourcing them…

First up is a commentary from director/writer Allan Arkush, co-writer Richard Whitley and producer Mike Finnell. With never a dull moment, the three have a ball revisiting their baby, and this track is full of fun anecdotes (it could have featured Cheap Trick!), pointers to running gags and little background goings on you may have missed, useful production information and the odd one or 500 references to budgetary constraints. With plenty of fab Ramones goss, this one should keep anybody entertained – if you’re looking for a nerdy, boring old technical type commentary, however, you may wish to look elsewhere.

An Interview with Roger Corman follows, whereby he gets the Leonard Maltin treatment for 4:39, and we discover that Rock’n’Roll High School started life as a disco film. Shudder! Two 30-second radio spots advertising the film ensue, accompanied by some black and white stills from the flick. We then come across a 1.85:1 (un-enhanced) trailer (2:10) that’s been quite unloved over the years. Audio outtakes are next, which is an audio-only selection of seven Ramones tracks recorded live at the Roxy Theater for the film pre-overdubs. If you're lamenting the fact that I Wanna Be Sedated was cut from the finished film then you’ll be bopping ‘til you’re dropping at news that it appears here. All up there’s around 15 minutes of audio fun – if only it sounded better.

The final relevant extra consists of some brief bios on the Ramones as a band, plus Joey and Dee Dee, and then we get the usual slab of Umbrella propaganda, this time bringing us trailers for/clips of A Night With Lou Reed, Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare, the cool Iggy Pop doco Jesus?.. This is Iggy and the schlock horror flick Trick or Treat.

  Overall  
Contract

With the Ramones rocking the roof off and a fabulously fun story, Rock’n’Roll High School is an absolute blast of exuberance. Unfortunately both the video and audio transfers have been somewhat lobotomised, however it does seem to be a case of it’s this or nothing, and some work has been done on the video to give it a bit of a spit and polish (eww!).

Despite these reservations, if you’re a fan of either the film or the Ramones then this is still a must have, just don’t forget the pizza – or your earmuffs…

Gabba gabba hey!


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      And I quote...
    "An absolute blast of exuberance..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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