As a producer and director, Roger Corman earned his reputation as "King of the B Movies" with efforts like Attack of the Crab Monsters and Galaxy of Terror. Shout! Factory is issuing many of them on DVD, including this cult classic. The gloriously campy 1979 Rock 'n' Roll High School centers around the students of Vince Lombardi High and the Ramones "No. 1 Fan," Riff Randell's (P.J. Soles) attempt to turn the student body into pogoing punks and get her songs to the band despite the horribly repressive school principal, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Along the way, she's aided and abetted by her nerdy/sexy best friend (Dey Young), the captain of the football team who can't get laid (Vincent Van Patten), a hip teacher (Eating Raoul director Paul Bartel) and the gloriously sleazy Clint Howard as a sort of Mr. Fixer who can score you weed, concert tickets and sexual devices out of his office in the boys' restroom.
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The characterizations are broad, the acting over the top, and the dialogue overly stagey, but so what? It's a fun and frothy time capsule held together by Soles' bouncy performance. And she was clearly robbed of the Best Actress Oscar. What else other than sheer Streep-level pretending could explain Riff's intense sexually arousal by an anemic, ripped-jeans, black-jacketed Joey Ramone looming over her as he spits/sings "I Want You Around" in her bedroom? Despite the fact that most of the performances were later overdubbed, the concert footage shows the band at the peak of their powers - all force and rawness. But as thespians, the bruddahs are hilariously wooden in their scant dialogue (Marky has one line). Though we do get Johnny deadpanning "We're not students, we're RAMONES," as well as Dee Dee's immortal "Hey, PIZZA!" The generous bonus features for this 2010 re-release include current interviews with many of the production and talent principals (Corman, director Allan Arkush, Howard, Marky Ramone, Woronov), and we learn that the original (and thankfully discarded) concept was for Disco High, and both Devo and Van Halen were later considered to star as the film's headlining band. But the best part is a sit-down on a high-school bench between Soles. Van Patten and Young that is both nostalgic and moving. Rocks Off couldn't help but smile the entire time. Shout! Factory, $19.98, 84 mins (just movie).