Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a musical comedy – a genre that all but died out in the 1960s. However, a soundtrack featuring The Ramones, Devo and The Velvet Underground can’t really be classified as a typical musical.
There is an endearing retro quality to the film. There are no drugs, the kids just want to rock, and The Ramones . . . they just want pizza!
Riff Randell (PJ Soles) is a surprisingly clean-cut Ramones fan who is so exuberant you don’t care that she is obviously too old to still be in high school (this is complimented by casting the entire student body with actors in their mid-20s).
Riff has penned a song for the band and hopes to deliver it in person when they come to town.
Rounding up her pals Tom (Vincent Van Patten) and Eaglebauer (Clint Howard), Riff heads out to see the concert and meet her heroes in person. But the new iron-fisted principal at Vince Lombardi High, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) has declared an all-out war against rock & roll.
Togar has even gone so far as scientifically proving the damaging effects of rock by exposing lab mice to Ramones music. In a running gag the mice become progressively more degenerate, donning little leather jackets and eventually exploding from the influence of the music . . .
The teachers and parents hold a vinyl-fuelled bonfire and the outraged kids set out to teach the adults a lesson. With the help of The Ramones they take over the school and rock ‘n’ roll mayhem ensues.
After the untimely deaths of Joey Ramone (from cancer in April 2001) and Dee Dee Ramone (from an overdose in June 2002) the film enjoyed a resurgence of popularity.
The building blown up in the ending is the condemned Mount Carmel High School in the South section of Los Angeles, California.
Look carefully during the live Ramones set for Darby Crash of The Germs in the front of the crowd (he’s wearing a white jacket). Rodney Bingenheimer puts in an uncredited performance as a (pink) Cadillac driver. Johnny Ramone’s wife Linda also has a small background cameo.
The Ramones were paid a total of $25,000 for appearing in the film and had to play shows in southern California to help pay their hotel bills. During the 21-day shoot, Dee Dee Ramone got arrested for fighting with a roadie, overdosed in jail, and wound up in Cedars Sinai Hospital with a $3,000 medical bill.
Vincent Van Patten
Screamin’ Steve Stevens
Dee Dee Ramone