Rock 'n' Roll High School

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Rock 'n' Roll High School
Rock 'n' Roll High SchoolPoster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by William Stout[1]
Directed byAllan Arkush
Screenplay by
Story by
Produced byMichael Finnell
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited by
  • Larry Bock
  • Gail Werbin
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • August 24, 1979 (1979-08-24)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States

Rock 'n' Roll High School is a 1979 American musical comedy film directed by Allan Arkush, produced by Michael Finnell, and starring P. J. Soles, Vince Van Patten, Clint Howard, and Dey Young.[3] The film featured the punk rock group Ramones.


The film is set in 1980. Vince Lombardi High School keeps losing principals to nervous breakdowns because of the students' love of rock 'n' roll and their disregard for education. The leader of the students, Riff Randell (P. J. Soles), is the biggest Ramones fan at the school. She waits in line for three days to get tickets to see the band, hoping to meet Joey Ramone so she can give him a song she wrote for the band, "Rock 'n' Roll High School".

When the tyrannical Principal Togar (Mary Woronov) takes her ticket away, Riff and her best friend Kate Rambeau (Dey Young) have to find another way to meet their heroes: winning a radio contest. Riff succeeds in delivering her song to Joey Ramone, but the next day Principal Togar and a group of parents attempt to burn a pile of rock records. In response, the students, joined by the Ramones (who are made honorary students), overthrow the teachers and hall monitors to take over the high school, with Principal Togar asking the musicians "Do your parents know you're Ramones?"[4] When the police are summoned and demand that the students evacuate the building, they do so, but then the students and the Ramones burn down the school as a final act of youthful rebellion.



Roger Corman, executive producer of the film, was looking to make a modern teen film similar to the ones he made in his early career during the 1960s, with the focus on current music of the time. The initial title Disco High was selected for a story idea from Allan Arkush and Joe Dante. A script was developed by Richard Whitley, Russ Dvonch, and Joseph McBride. During this time, the film went through several different title changes including Heavy Metal Kids and Girl's Gym. Arkush directed the majority of the film, but Dante also helped when Arkush was suffering from exhaustion.[5]

Corman originally wanted Cheap Trick or Todd Rundgren to play the band, but due to a conflict of schedules, he was forced to find an alternative.[6] The Ramones were suggested by Paul Bartel, one of the actors in the film.

The genesis for the plot was a favorite story told to the film's original writer by his father, Raymond E. McBride of the Milwaukee Journal, who staged a walkout from his Superior (Wis.) Central High school in the 1920s.[7]

The film was shot on the campus of the defunct Mount Carmel High School in South Central Los Angeles, that had been closed in 1976. The school's actual demolition was used for the end of the film. The nighttime school explosions and fires were so great that many were scared away by and, temporarily, would not return to the on campus sets. Another location used for filming was Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, California. The American football uniforms and cheer-leading outfits were those from MCHS.[8]


The film was theatrically released on August 24, 1979.

Home media[edit]

Rock 'n' Roll High School was originally released on VHS by Warner Home Video in 1983, and was later re-released on VHS in 1996 by New Horizons Home Video (OCLC 36127344). A year later, in 1997, it was issued on DVD by Lumivision.[5] A second DVD release occurred in 1999 from Slingshot.[5] Shortly after Joey Ramone's death in 2001, New Concorde produced a third DVD release.[5] The film was once again issued on DVD in 2005 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment (ISBN 978-0-7888-6342-4 OCLC 62756806). DVDs in the PAL format were issued by Umbrella Entertainment in 2003 (OCLC 223658430) and again in 2007 (OCLC 368008921).

The film was a part of Shout! Factory's Roger Corman Cult Classics series,[9] reissued on DVD in May 2010.[10] Shout! Factory released the film with exclusive content on Blu-ray on May 11, 2010[11] and again on November 19, 2019, with a new 4K restoration.[12]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB[13]
The New York Times(favourable)[14]

A soundtrack album on Sire/Warner Bros. Records was released around the same time, but it included only a limited number of songs from the film. The two main Ramones songs (the title song and "I Want You Around") were recorded by Ed Stasium but remixed by Phil Spector for the soundtrack album. The original Ed Stasium mixes were not issued until the compilation album Ramones Mania (1988) and the compilation album Hey! Ho! Let's Go: The Anthology (1999), respectively.

Side One
1."Rock 'n' Roll High School" (Phil Spector remix)RamonesRamones2:20
2."I Want You Around" (Phil Spector remix)RamonesRamones3:04
3."Come On Let's Go" (Cover of Ritchie Valens, 1959)Ritchie ValensThe Paley Brothers and Ramones2:14
4."Ramones Medley: Blitzkrieg Bop / Teenage Lobotomy / California Sun / Pinhead / She's the One" (recorded live at The Roxy, Los Angeles)Ramones, Henry Glover, Morris LevyRamones11:04
5."So It Goes" (from Pure Pop for Now People, 1978)LoweNick Lowe2:31
6."Energy Fools the Magician" (from Before and After Science, 1977)EnoBrian Eno2:05
Side Two
1."Rock 'n' Roll High School"RamonesP. J. Soles2:12
2."Come Back Jonee" (from Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, 1978)Gerald V. Casale, Mark MothersbaughDevo3:47
3."Teenage Depression" (from Teenage Depression, 1976)Dave HiggsEddie and the Hot Rods2:57
4."Smokin' In the Boys Room" (from Yeah!, 1973)Cub Koda, Michael LutzBrownsville Station2:57
5."School Days" (single, 1957)BerryChuck Berry2:44
6."A Dream Goes on Forever" (from Todd, 1974)RundgrenTodd Rundgren3:26
7."School's Out" (from School's Out, 1972)Alice Cooper, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neal SmithAlice Cooper2:24

Other songs appearing in the film include:

As well as the following songs by the Ramones:


Rock 'n' Roll High School received generally positive reviews and has an 81% rating at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes from 26 film critics.[15]


On July 31, 2008, it was announced that actor/writer Alex Winter had been hired to script a remake of the film for Howard Stern's production company.[16][17]

In other media[edit]

Corman's short-lived comic book publishing imprint, Roger Corman's Cosmic Comics, released a two-issue take on the film in 1995, written by Bob Fingerman with art by Shane Oakley and Jason Lutes. Unable to acquire likeness licenses for the Ramones, the comic instead featured the Melvins.[18]


  1. ^ Film Art Gallery
  2. ^ Koetting, Christopher T. (2009). Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures (illustrated ed.). Bristol, England, UK: Hemlock Books. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-9557774-1-7. OCLC 707141398. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  3. ^ G., Rob; C., Mike (September 2004). "P. J. Soles interview - Halloween, Carrie, Stripes". Icons Of Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  4. ^ "Rock 'n' Roll High School Quotes". Stands4 LLC. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Sherman, Craig (July 2001). "Take Three: classic Corman film, examined". ArtsEditor. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
  6. ^ Stafford, Jeff. "Rock'n'Roll High School". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  7. ^ Holmstrom, John (2001). "Remembering Joey Ramone". Punk. New York City, New York, USA: Ged Dunn. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  8. ^ "40 Years Ago, the Ramones Roamed L.A. in "Rock 'n' Roll High School"". August 2, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  9. ^ DVD Empire
  10. ^ Barton, Steve (April 30, 2010). "Shout! Factory Offers Glimpse of New Roger Corman DVDs and Blu-rays". Dread Central. Beyond, Dread Central Media. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Rock 'n' Roll High School Blu-ray Release Date May 11, 2010 (Roger Corman's Cult Classics)
  12. ^ Rock 'n' Roll High School Blu-ray Release Date November 19, 2019 (SteelBook)
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: R". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 978-0-89919-026-6. Retrieved March 12, 2019 – via
  14. ^ Rockwell, John (June 8, 1979). "The Pop Life". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 2012. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  16. ^ Drees, Rich (July 31, 2008). "Stern Picks Writer For ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL Redo". FilmBuffOnline. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
  17. ^ Fleming, Michael (July 30, 2008). Gray, Timothy M. (ed.). "Stern sets 'Rock 'n' Roll' remake". Variety. Los Angeles, California, USA: Reed Business Information. ISBN 978-1-936168-42-2. ISSN 0042-2738. OCLC 806428356. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  18. ^ Reed, Patrick A. "Pop Music Comics: The 90s, part three. Roger Corman & The Melvins, and more KISS," Depth of Field (February 11, 2012).

External links[edit]