(1979, dirs. Allan Arkush, Joe Dante, Jerry Zucker)
Criterion calls Rock ‘n’ Roll High School “a counterculture sensation beloved by moviegoers and music lovers alike.” I count myself as both, but, man, did I hate this movie.
Shot on a shoestring budget and starring a handful of B-listers like P.J. Soles and Clint Howard, the movie is basically a soft sex comedy disguised as a rock musical. The script is a yawn-worthy collage of creaky cliches: free-spirited teens versus authoritarian grown-ups who want to squash their fun. The writing is pitched at sketch-comedy level, and the actors play it broad. Real broad.
The kids in this movie are fans of The Ramones—those icons of early punk music—and the band shows up late in the film to rally the student body. I don’t know much about The Ramones, but starring in a cheeseball movie like this doesn’t seem very “punk” to me. It feels like that time Davy Jones showed up on The Brady Bunch.
This is another Roger Corman production, and I suspect it will be the last to make this list. Death Race 2000 surprised me with its sharp satire, but how this movie became a cult sensation is baffling. It’s not funny. It’s not cool. It’s not well-written. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School belongs in a different kind of “hall of shame.”
Currently streaming on FilmStruck, with supplemental features.