Chaos and destruction reign in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) as Ramones-worshipping Riff Randell (P. J. Soles) battles the anti-rock-and-roll agenda enacted by authoritarian principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). Then the Ramones cruise into town to play a concert and find themselves embroiled in the ensuing adolescent insurrection. The film depicts an illogical world where a beauty like Riff swoons over Joey Ramone (not a heartthrob by any traditional standards), a world where Clint Howard is the school’s powerful wheeler-dealer, a world where your favorite seventies punk band overthrows your high school administration — a better world, in short.
This homage to the rock and roll musicals of the fifties was arguably one of celebrated B-movie producer Roger Corman’s most fulfilling cinematic ventures and ultimately the perfect vehicle for the Ramones, who played accelerated versions of the catchy songs produced during that same era. The band mimes and lip-syncs its way through a few anarchic musical numbers scored to its studio recordings, but the centerpiece concert sequence is where the real treasure is located: live versions of several Ramones classics, surely what will reel in the fans.
One of the film’s funniest jokes has the hopelessly square music teacher, Mr. McGree (Paul Bartel), showing up to the concert out of curiosity, only to have his mind blown so severely that he joins with the students against Togar and later tells the band, “You are the Beethovens of our time.” Although the Ramones laugh at this, it is difficult not to sympathize with Mr. McGree’s enthusiasm by the film’s literally explosive conclusion.