Rock 'n' Roll High School (Allan Arkush / U.S., 1979):

The Ramones as the calm center of this rambunctious jamboree, which is the joke—the thrashers feast on pizza while Joey is force-fed alfalfa by their manager in an indelible bit. "Ah, the sweet, staring passion of youth." Vince Lombardi High, where spaces open up to reveal the gags within: The freshman crammed inside the locker of the dorky jock (Vincent Van Patten), the bathroom stall behind which the campus impresario (Clint Howard) has set up shop (fake ids, test results, necking tips with blow-up dolls, etc.). New discipline from the new principal (Mary Woronov, in a redoubtable fusion of Eve Arden and dominatrix), resistance is a coed (P.J. Soles) bouncing down the hall with a portable radio. ("I'm a teenage lobotomy," she proclaims with a sunny grin.) The Allan Arkush art of pure ebullience, from Dobie Gillis shenanigans to Sunset Strip guitar shreds to full-on Vigo uprising. A perpetually swirling student body, Soles the heavenly punkette and her pal the eager wallflower (Dey Young): "Once I played nurse with the boy next door and got sued for malpractice." Muzak and Pat Boone at the bottom of the short-circuiting Rock-o-Meter, cartwheels and pirouettes in the gym for the title tune, a centrifugal Joe Dante contribution. The Girl Can't Help It, the waterbed in the shaggin' wagon, Lord Love a Duck, "a lesson in deportment," even Browning's Freaks figures in the fun. A mini-concert documentary photographed by Dean Cundey, "Blitzkrieg Bop" at full blast while in the audience a foreglimpse of Resnais' white mouse (Mon Oncle d'Amérique), with leather jacket and headphones serenely sharing a peace-pipe with Paul Bartel in a yellow beret. "Boy, when you have recess, you go all out!" A great comedy greatly mined in subsequent years, the opening banner reads "on to the 80s" so the ending credits roll over flames. With Dick Miller, Don Steele, Loren Lester, Daniel Davies, and Grady Sutton.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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