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Film / Rock 'n' Roll High School

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Rock 'n' Roll High School is a 1979 musical comedy film produced by Roger Corman, directed by Allan Arkush, and featuring The Ramones.

Vince Lombardi High School greets its latest principal, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), replacing yet another principal who went mad trying to keep the kids in line. Togar sets her evil sights on Riff Randall (P. J. Soles), who's popular, sexy, uncontrollable... and the school's biggest fan of the Ramones. When the Ramones have a concert scheduled in the city, Riff tries out various schemes to ensure she gets to see the concert and meet the band to give them a song she's written... but Togar wants Riff punished with detention for eternity, to rid the school of rock and roll.

A sequel called Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever followed in 1991, which featured a few returning characters in addition to many new ones.

This film contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Powerful School Jurisdiction: Convinced that rock and roll and especially the Ramones are the source of truancy and hooliganism, Principal Togar tries to ban student attendance at their concert.
  • Adults Are Useless: The parents do absolutely nothing when The Ramones show up. And the band is asked, "Do your parents KNOW you're Ramones?"
  • AM/FM Characterization: In addition to loving The Ramones, Riff is shown to be a rock fan in general, owning The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers, Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and The Who's Who's Next among others. She also has a picture of Talking Heads on her wall. She also plays Velvet Underground's "Rock & Roll" from the record.
  • Animal Motifs: White mice. They're frequently blown up upon exposure to Ramones songs, and two human-sized, anthropomorphized mice show up.
  • Anything but That!: The lunch ladies' reactions to being pelted with the "Tuesday Surprise".
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Quoth Mr. McGree, "You know, people say your music is loud and destructive and lethal to mice, but I think you're the Beethovens of our time."
  • Ascended Fanboy: Riff gets to hang out with the Ramones, and they let her know they're going to record the song she wrote for them. They play the song and they help her blow up the school!
  • As Themselves: The Ramones, natch. Vince Lombardi only appears in photos.
  • Berserk Button: As soon as Miss Togar sets her students' records on fire, the students RIOT, put out the bonfire as quickly as possible, and then take over the school with help from their favorite band, The Ramones, whose concert they (and Mr. McGree) had attended the night before.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Ramones appear right when Miss Togar tries to burn her student's records — and just as the students are putting out the fire.
  • Book Dumb: Riff gives barely a thought to her studies, yet has amassed quite an impressive songwriting portfolio.
  • Brick Joke: How could Togar have known there are nuns in this world who love rock 'n' roll?
  • Captain Obvious: "Do your parents KNOW you're Ramones?"
    • Can count as an In-Joke as none of the band were actually related; the name was taken from an early alias of Paul McCartney. The stage names, and the gimmick of the boys pretending to be brothers, were both Dee Dee's idea.
  • Chainsaw Good: At the end, Riff takes a chainsaw to the permanent records.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Riff's Ramones record, which Togar uses at the end to light up the bonfire, thus triggering the climax.
  • Cool Car: The customized Chevy Van that Eaglebauer provides for Tom for his big date, and the '59 Cadillac convertible used by the Ramones.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. McGree who by the end, becomes the only teacher who supports the students' revolt, and dances with Riff.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted when Riff sings the title song - it still has the lines "I just wanna get some chicks" and "the girls out there knock me out you know". Then again, In-Universe she wrote the song, so it's presumably from a male POV because she wanted Joey Ramone to sing it.
  • Creator Cameo: Allan Arkush is a ticket-taker at the theater, and Joe Dante is a riot cop wearing sunglasses. Dante's mother Sylvia plays one of the nuns, too.
  • Cute Bookworm: Kate.
  • Dance Party Ending: To "Rock 'n' Roll High School".
  • Dean Bitterman: Miss Togar really, really hates rock and roll to the point she actively tries to prevent Riff from going to a Ramones concert. When Riff goes anyway she gathers rock and roll memorabilia belonging to the students and sets fire to it while crowing to the students "behold, the Final Solution!" and when they rebel and take over the campus, she calls the cops and really hopes that there's some bloodshed.
  • Dream Sequence: Riff fantasizes about the Ramones in her bedroom.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Riff Randall is introduced stealing a record player and using it to play The Ramones out in the school hall.
  • Establishing Character Music: Riff using a stolen record player to blare The Ramones in the school hall.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Features a solo Fake-out Make-out in which one of the protagonists turns towards a corner, wraps his arms around himself and mimics the sounds of a couple making out, successfully fooling his pursuers.
  • Fanservice: Riff is in her underwear on her way to the shower while she has a fantasy of the Ramones playing "I Want You Around" in her room, only to find Dee Dee in the shower playing bass in his street clothes.
  • Fat and Skinny: The Hall Monitors.
  • Freudian Slip: Miss Togar is constantly asking one of her henchmen to read back notes, which constantly turn into his BDSM fantasies of her.
  • Funny Background Event: Frequently, an example of which is when Riff puts a slice of pizza in a folder as a memento and Dee Dee looks at her like she's crazy.
    • When the announcer (an uncredited Jay Stewart) begins describing Kate inside Eaglebauer's office, Tom seems to be looking for where the voice is coming from.
  • Gambit Roulette: There's no way Riff and her friend planned on getting their tickets back because they didn't plan that method — the RADIO STATION did. What's more, the station itself didn't hear of Riff's latest confrontation with Miss Togar, making this a mix of this and Spanner in the Works.
  • Genre Throwback: Producer Roger Corman's intent was to recreate the teen movies he started out making.
  • Girl Next Door: Kate (Dey Young), the Hollywood Homely best friend to Riff, who has a crush on star athlete Tom Roberts.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The music teacher Mr. McGree.
  • High-School Hustler: Eaglebauer. He works in a office room installed in one of the boys' bathrooms, complete with secretary managing his deals.
  • Homage: The "I Want You Around" number was based on the "Cry Me a River" sequence in The Girl Can't Help It.
  • Hong Kong Dub: The lip-synching is off in parts, but gets really noticeable during the end performance of "Rock 'n' Roll High School".
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Mr. McGree frequently praises classical music over modern music (although he feels that Mrs. Togar is too strict in her determination to ban rock and roll), but when he's sent to attend a The Ramones concert, he has the time of his life and begins actively supporting the students.
  • Loony Fan: Both Riff and Angel Dust for the Ramones, the latter being a more negative example than the former.
  • Madness Mantra: All Miss Togar can say in the end is "Detention."
  • Nocturnal Emission: Implied. Tom mentions that he frequently dreams about his crush Riff but always wakes up "just before the good part."
  • Next Sunday A.D.: Released in 1979, set in 1980.
  • Nun Too Holy: Downplayed. Among the oddball concertgoers are two nuns.
  • Odd Friendship: The Book Dumb, outgoing, rock and roll-loving delinquent Riff is best friends with the shy honors chemistry student Kate.
  • Out-Gambitted: Possibly the only film where a gambit falls victim to another gambit, which falls victim to a cross between a Gambit Roulette and a Spanner in the Works.
  • Parental Abandonment: When Riff tries to excuse herself from school in order to wait in line for Ramones tickets: she sends letters claiming her father, her mother, and her goldfish die. Miss Togar proves she lied when her school guards find the goldfish alive and well.
    Togar: We can assume the parents are still alive... somewhere.
  • The Power of Rock: The Ramones using rock and roll to help take over a high school? It doesn't get much cooler than that.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Screw you, Miss Togar, we made it to the concert anyway!" Worth mentioning because it was spoken over the radio.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Riff and Kate, respectively. And they're often color-coded as well.
  • Rule of Cool: Mixed with Rule of Funny, of course.
  • Running Gag: The Ramones' music is apparently lethal to mice to the point where they blow up.
  • Shipper on Deck: Before Tom tells him that he wants a date with Riff, Eaglebauer is quick to offer Kate up as an option, saying that the two are perfect for each other.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: White mice, and the school itself.
  • Stuffed into a Locker: Happens to a hapless and anonymous freshman in a throwaway gag.
  • Surreal Humor: Constantly, an example being the scenes with Mr. McGree at the concert, flanked by a giant anthropomorphic mouse and a Native American in traditional garb who offers him a pipe.
  • Trash the Set: Mount Carmel High School, where the film was shot, had closed a few years earlier, so they were free to have a giant party and blow the whole place up at the end.
  • Vanity License Plate: The Ramones' Cadillac has "Gabba Gabba Hey" as a license plate.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Miss Togar winds up in a straitjacket.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The last we see of Angel Dust, Togar's minions are giving her a full-body search; she doesn't appear at all during the climax.

The sequel contains examples of:

  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Inverted when Principal Vadar lists the punishable offenses under her new regime. Singing and dancing are at the top, while smoking is considered among the least offensive to her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Principal Vadar just loves this trope. Scarily enough, she's more lenient toward smoking (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Happy Ending Override: The school finds itself on probation for consecutive years due to the events of the first film. Averted (for all the wrong reasons)invoked when Principal Vadar takes over.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Principal Vadar. Unlike Miss Togar from the first film, she actually turns her school into a concentration camp.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Since McGree started running things, Rock N Roll High School Day has become an annual tradition at the school (which had relocated due to the destruction of the previous location in the first film). This contributes to the school landing on probation for consecutive years, which gives rise to the regime of Principal Vadar...
  • The Power of Rock: Weaponized here again.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: How does McGree react to his school being destroyed a second time? He simply shrugs it off as déjà vu and another opportunity to relocate.