Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rock 'N' Roll High School

Judging from ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, the first (along with SUBURBIA) of Shout Factory's new series of fifty (!) Roger Corman Cult Classics to hit DVD and/or Blu-ray, these New World drive-in movies are in great hands.

The new disc apparently includes all the extras from all previous LDs/DVDs, so I guess you can eBay your old disc off. This one has four (!) commentary tracks (two of them exclusive to this disc), three featurettes (including a Van Patten/Soles/Young reunion that is dishy and fun), radio spots, trailers, stills, and audio outtakes from the filmed Ramones concert. I listened to the new Arkush/Howard/Soles commentary, which was fun, but is heavy on Ramones info and trivia.

Oh, and the film looks marvelous, though some may be upset only the original mono track is present.

As for ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL itself, which New World and executive producer Corman released in 1979, boy, is it still a lotta fun!

Allan Arkush, whose first film for New World, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, was co-directed by Joe Dante (THE HOWLING), made his solo debut with this delightfully rebellious slice of Seventies teen spirit. Corman gave Arkush and producer Michael Finnell (PIRANHA) $300,000 and three weeks to shoot a rock-and-roll comedy about perky Ramones fanatic Riff Randell (P.J. Soles, just off HALLOWEEN), who skips school to camp out at the arena box office to buy tickets for their concert. Riff’s rival is stern principal Togar (Mary Woronov), who schemes to rid the entire high school of rock and roll. Meanwhile, fast-talking scrounger Eaglebauer (Clint Howard) works his magic to bring together dorky nice guy Tom (Vincent Van Patten) and Riff’s shy best friend Kate Rambeau (Dey Young in her film debut).

Led by the enormously likable Soles, the cast is extremely charming and fun, but ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL’s highlight is definitely the New York punk band the Ramones, who are terrible actors, but fantastic musicians with the right goofy look and charm to fit perfectly into Arkush’s anarchic vision. He managed to compile a fantastic soundtrack including Paul McCartney & Wings, Nick Lowe, Fleetwood Mac, Devo, Alice Cooper, the Velvet Underground, and other top acts of the day, but the fantasy sequences and the big concert scene leave no doubt the Ramones are the musical stars of the picture.

The puns and sight gags are silly and kind of corny, though the absurdist humor anticipates AIRPLANE! a bit (Jerry Zucker directed some second unit), and manages a difficult balance of old-fashioned japery and cutting-edge material, such as the destruction of Vince Lombardi High School, which must have driven audiences wild in 1979. Also with the great Dick Miller, Paul Bartel (his and Woronov's roles were written for them), Loren Lester (HUNG), Daniel Davies, The Real Don Steele, Herb Braha, Grady Sutton, Rob Bottin as a giant mouse, and a motorcycle from DEATHSPORT. Arkush fell ill on the last day of shooting, so his pal Dante was enlisted to direct the gym-class musical number.

Other Corman productions to get the Shout Factory treatment include GALAXY OF TERROR, FORBIDDEN WORLD, DEATHSPORT, PIRANHA, THE EVIL, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, NOT OF THIS EARTH, and more. Collect them all!

1 comment:

Christopher Mills said...

I got my copy today and will have my review up on my site on Tuesday.

Now I can trade away both of my other RnRHS discs...