Blu-ray Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (40th Anniversary Edition Steelbook)

Growing up in Raleigh in the late ’70s, punk rock was not something that came naturally. The local rock radio station considered Molly Hatchet new wave. The local mall record store didn’t stock the Sex Pistols for fear of a police raid. Anytime a club had a punk night, the cops would bust it for fear of all the destruction. The only time the TV played anything “punk” it was when CHiPs and Quincy visited those violent and outrageous kids and their dangerous clubs where dancing was merely hand to hand combat. There was nothing fun about the depiction of punk around here until one afternoon when a pay cable channel ran Rock ‘N’ Roll High School. There were the Ramones in all their t-shirt, leather jacket, ripped jeans and sneakers glory. Their fast guitar based music proved their was a gear beyond The Who and The Eagle. The movie showed there was more out there than we were being allowed to believe. it also showed the positive fun in the destructive world of punk. Now Rock ‘n’ Roll High School: 40th Anniversary Steelbook gives this personally ground breaking movie the respect it deserves.

Vince Lombardi High School is about to get a new principal and she’s not going to put up with the same amount of nonsense that sent her predecessor into the funny farm. Principal Togar (Eating Raoul‘s Mary Woronov) is fierce as she seeks to clamp down on the troubled teens that give her lip. Her biggest target is Riff Randell (Stripe‘s P.J. Soles). She’s a rock and roll girl who is mad about The Ramones. She’s becoming a bad influence on campus genius Kate Rambeau ( The Serpent and the Rainbow‘s Dey Young) who wants to also be a wild child. Even with the new harsh rules at school, Riff refuses to be deterred from camping out for three days to not merely get a ticket for The Ramones show, but to buy 100 tickets so she can talk her pals at school including Kim. She also wants to meet Joey Ramone to give him a copy of her song “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. After she gives away 98 tickets, Togar takes the last two. Will Riff and Kim not be able to get into the sold out Ramones show that even nerdy music teacher Mr. McGree (Eating Raoul‘s Paul Bartel) is seeing? Can Togar break Riff’s reckless streak?

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a brilliant and rebellious film. After 40 years, Riff can be viewed as patron saint of rebellious high school girls with good taste. Even the dumb high school jokes don’t fall flat. There’s a subplot about Kim using campus black market Eaglebauer (Gentle Ben‘s Clint Howard) to hook up with goofball Tom Roberts (Hell Nights‘s Vince Van Patten) that would have fallen flat in another high school movie. But in this movie it glows. Perhaps what makes the movie extra special is the lack of a comeuppance reel. Not to give away the ending, but this is a pure teen dream when the kids get their revenge on the school. When the Ramones drop by the school, the students use this moment to go beyond merely trashing the hallways. It’s a glorious musical moment that doesn’t get interrupted by Togar and her student minions putting a final jackboot in the fun. It’s a blast on more than one level. After seeing the film, I wanted to at least hear more Ramones songs and whatever else was out there that Riff Randell loved. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a movie that can change your life even 40 Years later.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. This fresh transfer is a 4K Scan From The Original Camera Negative. The Ramones have never looked this good without seeing them in concert. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. You’ll be amazed at the range of a single speaker that works with The Ramones music and Riff’s riffs. The movie is subtitled in English.

“Class Of ’79: 40 Years Of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” (70:23) features new interviews with Director/Story Writer Allan Arkush, Co-Director/Story Writer Joe Dante, Actress P.J. Soles, Screenwriter Richard Whitley, Screenwriter Russ Dvonch, Cinematographer Dean Cundey, Editor Larry Bock, and more. Arkush talks about how the story first started when he was stuck in high school with a fantasy that the Rolling Stones shows up and destroy the place. Arkush reflects on his time working for the Filmore East which led to using the place for his student film at NYU. For those wondering why the Ramones aren’t a part of this bonus feature, sadly Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee have passed away.

Introduction with Allan Arkush (5:30) is for when the film ran at a film festival. He shows off the characters from his high school that became characters in his film. I’m impressed by his record cabinet. Now I want to hang out with Arkush and listen to the vinyl. I’d bring pastries!

Four Audio Commentary Tracks cover everything in the film. First is Director Allan Arkush, Producer Mike Finnell and Screenwriter Richard Whitley talking about the production and the creative process. Next there’s Executive Producer Roger Corman And Actress Dey Young dipping into the tales from making the rebellion on a shoestring. The third track has Allan Arkush And Actors P.J. Soles And Clint Howard. Finally there’s screenwriter Richard Whitley And Russ Dvonch. You can watch the movie four times with fresh voices.

“Back To School: A Retrospective” (23:46) features interviews with Allan Arkush, Executive Producer Roger Corman, Clint Howard, Joe Dante and others. This was from a previous release. Roger reminds us that he originally wanted to make Disco High. Arkush told Roger that you can’t blow up a high school with disco music.

“Staying After Class” (16:02) reunites actors P.J. Soles, Vincent Van Patten and Dey Young. P.J. jokes about saving the pizza Joey Ramone gave her. The ladies show off the stuff they saved from the film. P.J. talks of her fight with Roseanna Arquette over the part of Riff.

Interview With Roger Corman Conducted By Leonard Maltin (4:36) has Leonard saying he’s fond of the film. Leonard is a cool guy and get Roger to talk about his Disco fixation. Roger talks about the anarchy of the film.

Interview With Allan Arkush (11:35) includes a Look At Rare, Behind-The-Scenes Stills. He talks of the influence of The Beatles in A Hard Day’s Night in letting him understand what a director does.

Audio Outtakes From The Roxy (15:24) was recording of The Ramones on stage during the show in the movie.

Original Radio Ads (1:05) and TV Spot (0:34) has them selling the soundtrack along with the film.

Theatrical Trailer (2:11) promises rebellious girls, exploding mice and The Ramones. Do you want to dance?

Shout Factory presents Rock ‘N’ Roll High School 40th Anniversary Steelbook. Directed by: Allan Arkush. Screenplay by: Richard Whitley, Russ Dvonch & Joseph McBride. Starring:P. J. Soles, Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young & The Ramones. Rated: PG. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: November 19, 2019.

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