• Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (Roger Corman Classics)

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: 5/11/2010
    Director: Allan Arkush
    Cast: The Ramones, PJ Soles, Vincent Van Patten, Clint Howard, Dey Young, Mary Woronov, aul Bertel, Dick Miller
    Year: 1979
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    The Movie:

    The immortal PJ Soles plays the equally immortal Riff Randell in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (a film that began life as Disco High!), a 1979 Roger Corman production co-written by Joe Dante (of Gremlins fame) and directed by Allan Arkush (of Caddyshack II and a ton of TV series).

    Riff is obsessed with The Ramones. They’re her favorite band in the universe (evidently she has great taste!) and she wants nothing more than to experience them live when they roll through her town in the coming days. In order to score herself some tickets, Riff is going to have to camp out at the box office.Seeing as she’s a high school student, that might be a problem, as she’s supposed to be in class all day and there’s no way that the hardnosed principal, Ms. Togar (Mary Woronov of Sugar Cookies) is going to let her skip out.

    Riff comes up with some interesting excuses to get out of class but things are starting to get kind of odd at the school when a new boy shows up named Tom Roberts (Vincent Van Patten of Hell Night). He is almost instantly smitten with the lovely young Riff. Tom’s a bit of a dork though, and he knows he doesn’t stand much of a chance with his new found heart throb. He’ll need some help if he wants to win her heart and so he turns to Eaglebauer (The Ice Cream Man himself, Clint Howard), the businessman of the school in hopes of learning a few pointers on how to get in with the fairer sex.

    While all this is going on, it turns out that another new student, the quiet but oh so cute Kate Rambeau (Dey Young of The Running Man), has got a huge secret crush on Tom. Riff has no problem with this whatsoever, for as we already know, her heart belongs to none other than Joey Ramone.

    With concert tickets firmly in hand, Riff hopes to bring her new song, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, to Joey and the rest of the band in hopes that they’ll record it but Ms. Togar soon uncovers Riff’s plot to skip out on class and she confiscates her Ramones tickets. Will Riff be able to make it to the show on time? Will she get to meet Joey Ramone and ply her song on him and the rest of the band? Find out, in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School!

    Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is goofy, hokey, really corny, and a whole lot of fun! The humor is as cheesy as it comes but it works in the context of the film. Sure, most of the characters are clichés but again, in the context of the world where the story takes place, it only makes sense. The performances suit the tone of the movie perfectly and Mary Woronov in particular really nails her part. PJ Soles has never been more likeable here, she’s completely cute and you can see why Tom falls for her pretty fast. While she might be better known for her work in Halloween as it was more commercially successful, for many fans her signature performance will always be her turn as Riff Randell. Clint Howard is fantastic and while the whole concept of taking love life advice from him (at one point he teaches kids about necking!) considering his acting work in The Ice Cram Man and Evil Speak is completely bizarre, he does do a good job with the material.

    The pacing of the movie is dead on, there’s never a problem where too much time passes between jokes. These run the gamut between more subtle attempts at humor by way of some clever dialogue, though there are plentydownright stupid slapstick pieces like a mouse who explodes when introduced to the pure rock fury of the Ramones by way of a rock-o-meter. Speaking of the Ramones, their performance here is perfectly suited to the movie. Joey’s not known for his acting ability (anyone who has seen Bruce McDonald’s Roadkill will remember his performance there) but it doesn’t matter here – Riff sees him as a rock n roll God and in turn, so do we and as such, share her enthusiasm for their music.

    While the production values are low and it times it might borrow a little bit from Grease, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School has managed to stand the test of time because it has spirit. The movie plays around with themes of teenage rebellion and of the generation gap – two things that will never go out of style – and it does so with a playful sense of humor. In short, it’s just plain fun.


    Shout! Factory presents Rock ‘n’ Roll High School on Blu-ray in a good AVC encoded 1080p high definition 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While the image has a fair bit of grain inherent in it, it’s never overpowering or really distracting in the least and it offers a considerable upgrade over the standard definition release in terms of clarity and detail (a prime example being that when we go into the boys’ room to meet Eaglebauer, we can clearly see that someone has written ‘GOOD TITS’ on the wall). Facial detail is quite strong in close up shots and there’s just a lot more texture to the picture. It still looks like the modestly budgeted B-movie that it is, but fans will definitely appreciate the upgrade in picture quality that this Blu-ray offers up.

    The 48 kHz 192 kbps English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Channel Mono track on this Blu-ray is identical to the one contained on the standard definition release. That said, it sounds crisp and clear. There are no major problems with hiss or distortion to note and the levels are well balanced. Dialogue is always easy to understand and just as importantly the music has just the right amount of kick to it, never sounding weak or tinny but full and punchy just as it should be. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are supplied, however. Despite the fact that a Dolby TrueHD logo appears on the back of the case, no such mix exists on the disc itself.

    Good God almighty there are a lot of extras on this disc. Let’s start with the commentary tracks. Carried over from the previous New Concorde release is the commentary track with director Allan Arkush, producer Michael Finnel and the film’s screenwriter, Richard Whitley. For those who haven’t heard it before, this is a really great commentary that throws a lot of information at you very quickly but does so with a nice sense of humor and friendship. The three crew members have a lot of fun memories to share about making the movie and the whole thing is, just like the movie, a lot of fun. Carried over from the more recent Buena Vista release is the commentary track with executive producer Roger Corman and actress Dey Young. This is a pretty interesting track as Corman has a memory like an elephant and is able to supply all sorts of details about the casting and how he assembled the crew for the film. Young gives us a different perspective than Corman on the movie as her work was all done in front of the camera but the two obviously get along really well and are having a good time here. Most of Corman’s recollections pertain to the pre-production and to the way that the movie has endured over the years and he’s not at all ashamed to admit that the movie remains a big money maker for him.

    If that weren’t enough, however, Shout! Factory has included two brand new commentary tracks for this release. The first features P.J. Soles, Allan Arkush and Clint Howard. Arkush has the most to say here, his memory is very sharp, but Soles and Howard are definitely not afraid of the microphone. Soles tells how Corman told her to make her hair more blonde to get the part while Howard expresses his surprise when Arkush and Soles talk about how The Ramones showed up for the dailies. The three talk about working with cinematographer Dean Cudney, tell plenty of stories about the cast and crew, and discuss the film’s ‘synchronicity’ that the film has (Howard says that the Gods came down and kissed the film!). It’s a great track with no dead air at all which moves at a great pace and which has a really nice sense of humor to it. The second new commentary brings together screenwriters Richard Whitley and Russ Dvonch who note that they’re more or less winging it as they didn’t make any notes beforehand. Regardless, this is a great way to experience the history of the film from the writer’s point of view. They talk about where some of the ideas came from, and also discuss a fair bit of material that didn’t make it into the final version of the screen. They detail how they got the Paul McCartney song in the film, how the film evolved, and about the comedic timing that many of the cast members show. Again, this is a really interesting track (particularly when they discuss the bits that didn’t make it – apparently Soles did have a topless scene that was cut to get the PG rating).

    From there, cruise on through the Interviews section where you’ll find the Back To School – The Making Of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School featurette (carried over from the Buena Vista release) that runs for about twenty three minutes in length. Interviewed in this featurette are Allan Arkush, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Dey Young, Marky Ramone, Loren Lester, and a couple of other people involved in the production. Everyone seems to look back on the movie very fondly and while some more in depth interviews might have made this a more interesting featurette, there’s enough trivia and cool stories about life on set and various people’s involvement with the movie that this definitely makes for a fun watch. Carried over from the original New Concorde release (and omitted from the Buena Vista disc) is the Interview With Roger Corman Conducted By Leonard Maltin. This four and a half minute piece lets the world’s most famous bearded film critic quiz the King of the B’s about his career and about Rock ‘n’ Roll High School in general and it’s a nice little retrospective look at the film.

    New to this disc are two exclusive interviews, the first of which is Staying After Class (presented in HD), a sixteen minute piece where P.J. Soles, Dey Young and Vincent Van Patten sit around a table and wax nostalgic about their work together on the movie. P.J. shows off the famous jacket that she wore in the film and her original copy of the script, before getting into a fun conversation about their characters and their experiences on set. It’s not as informative or as structured as the commentary tracks are but it doesn’t need to be – it’s more like you’re sitting around with these guys just listening to them tell stories out of class and chit chat about all of the different people who worked on the film who have gone on to much bigger things (including James Cameron). They laugh a lot and goof on one another a bit and seem to be having a good time here, though P.J. is way louder in the mix (she seems to be closer to the microphone). The second new interview is with Allan Arkush (HD), it’s an eleven minute piece in which he talks about how seeing A Hard Day’s Night changed his life and made him want to become a film director. There are some nice vintage photographs used here but most of it is just Arkush talking about camera movements, how they can work with music, and how The Beatles were such a huge influence on him before he got a job working at the Filmore East. It’s a good interview, quite candid and relaxed and full of some fun stories.

    One of the best extra features (albeit one that was also included on the previous releases) comes in the form of roughly fifteen minutes worth of audio only concert footage outtakes recorded during the performance at the Roxy, courtesy of the Ramones.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a few more minor extras like a new introduction which is simply a text piece from Arkush, a TV spot for the feature, a minute’s worth of radio spots for the feature, six different still galleries (Photos From Richard Whitley’s Personal Collection, Pressbook, Script Pages From A Deleted Scene, Script Page From Deleted Shower Scene, The Ramones Gallery, and last but not least, Photos, Posters And More!), a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Corman films (Suburbia and Grand Theft Auto). The packaging advertises an Eli Roth commentary over the trailer, but it doesn’t appear to actually be on the disc.

    Inside the case is a fourteen page full color insert booklet containing text interviews with Arkush, Johnny Ramone, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov as well as brief essays from Arkush, and Whitley and Dvonch.

    The Final Word:

    There’s nothing here that isn’t included on the standard definition release but the increased clarity and detail offered by the high definition transfer ensures that it definitely trumps that DVD version in that department, making this the version to get if you’re Blu-ray equipped.