Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

1h 33m / PG / Comedy

Roger Corman, sui generis movie producer and unofficial patron saint of REWIND, used to come up with movies by thinking of a good title and then building a picture around it. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a particularly illustrative example — because it started life as Disco High (from a story idea from Joe Dante, director of Gremlins & The Howling and Roger Corman’s trailer editor). From there, it became Heavy Metal Kids. Clearly this was a group of people with strong aesthetic principles and their fingers on the pulse of youth culture. Finally one of the actors suggested that the Ramones (it was almost Cheap Trick) should play the band central to the plot of the movie everybody was already making, and things became to congeal.

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a slanted take on your typical teen comedy, built around two major distinguishing factors: the soundtrack, full of early-ish punk rock and led by the frankly fake-looking presence of the Ramones acting in the actual movie, and the climactic set piece in which a real high school explodes. The other thing Corman did was build movies around big, single images — and since he happened to know that Mount Carmel High was about to be demolished, well, guess where he sent the cameras. It is, as critic Nathan Rabin says, a “live-action cartoon” about the eternal allure of teenagers rebelling against whatever happens to be nearby. But who cares, you’re here for the music anyway. Fun fun. Join REWIND for three chords about being a teenager, played loud and fast: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.