Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

“Oh, wow! This is the happiest day of my life!”

When a new principal (Mary Woronov) arrives at a rock ‘n roll-obsessed high school, she vows to make life even stricter and less pleasant for its students — especially Riff Randall (P.J. Soles), a hardcore Ramones lover. Meanwhile, a “love broker” (Clint Howard) promises to help a socially awkward football team captain (Vincent Van Patten) get a date, while also helping Riff’s nerdy best friend (Dey Young) to catch Van Patten’s eye.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Dick Miller Films
  • Generation Gap
  • High School
  • Obsessive Fans
  • Rock ‘n Roll

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that Rock ‘n’ Roll High School — “directed by Allan Arkush and [uncredited] Joe Dante” — is the “prime example of a picture that was designed to be a cult movie,” given that “New World [Pictures] premiered it as a midnight movie, hoping that it would attract fans of its musical stars… as well as college-age viewers who were curious about any midnight movies”. He writes that “a strong following has kept it one of the most popular of the midnight movies”, but I’m curious if that designation still stands. Peary notes that the film is “full of nonsensical humor”, but “lacks diabolically conceived outrageousness and sick humor” — indeed, he argues it “needs more bawdiness and, better, raunchiness in spots”: while it’s “fun watching fascist monitors demand hall passes, watching rebellious students throwing ‘Tuesday Surprise’ at the cooks, and Woronov threatening Soles with ‘detention for life!'”, there’s “not enough of this.” He asserts that the “best thing about this film is the high-spirited cast headed by Soles, bebopping and high-kicking non-stop,” and notes that the Ramones “are amusing in this film and fun to watch while performing”. Discussed in further detail in Peary’s first Cult Movies book.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A colorful and energetic satire

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a one-time look for its cult status.


2 thoughts on “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    An entertaining teen anarchy flick set to the tunes of the Ramones. P.J.Soles is splendid in the lead and drives the film forward giving it a bubbly edge but everyone else is lots of fun as well. A genuine cult item but only a must see for those so inclined.

  2. First viewing. Not must-see.

    I’m in agreement with Peary that the film under-delivers. It sets out to be anarchic but the humor falls flat (though there’s the occasional joke that’s mildly amusing). As a result, the film just plods along in one-note fashion with no real surprises.

    The central ‘music score’ (pretty much comprised of the same three chords) is terrible.

    Fave moment: seeing (music teacher) Paul Bartel let loose during ‘Do Ya Wanna Dance?’. (But check out Bartel and Woronov in the superior ‘Eating Raoul’ instead.)

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