Rock ‘n Roll High School

Ultra-canny low-budget producer Roger Corman originally wanted to make “Disco High School.” Thank the rock gods hipper heads prevailed. Directed by Allan Arkush with assists from Jerry Zucker and Joe Dante, 1979’s “Rock ‘n Roll High School” is the cartoonish tale of the literally explosive results of the arrival of original punk rockers The Ramones at Vince Lombardi High. Free spirited hipster Riff Randle (P.J. Soles) and her straight-arrow best pal Kate Rambeau (Dey Young) must evade fun-hating Principal Togar (Mary Woronov) if they are to party down with two-chord musical geniuses Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky Ramone. Meanwhile, besotted but romantically inept football player Tom Roberts (Vincent Van Patten) enlists the aid of strangely suave ultra-dork entrepreneur Eaglebauer (Clint Howard) to woo Riff, unaware that the bespectacled but equally adorable Kate is the one carrying a torch for him.

It’s even sillier and messier than it sounds, but it all comes together, more or less, because of the likable chaos fostered by Arkush, a dominating performance by actress/performance artist Woronov who gets the film’s best lines — “Does your mother know you’re Ramones?” — a generally amazing cast, and, most of all, the music and presence of the aforementioned Ramones, three of its four members now sadly deceased. Featuring lots of performance footage — alas, in very low-fi monophonic sound — this is a big, sloppy kiss to the rock and roll spirit. It may not be the funniest comedy ever made, but it’s close enough for punk.

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The Wraith: Special Edition

Every film, no matter how good or bad, has its fans, and if there are enough of those fans, then the film is inevitably destined to receive a special-edition DVD. This has been proven time and time again, which means there’s no longer any point in seeing such DVDs and howling with laughter at the suggestion that such treatment is warranted of a film like…oh, say, “The Wraith.” If you’re not part of the camp that’s already in love with the film, then better you should treat it like a pop culture experiment: watch it and see if you can determine why it’s developed such a cult following over the years.

Written and directed by Mike Marvin, “The Wraith” revolves around the mysterious Jake Kesey – played by Charlie Sheen, in his first leading role – who turns up in town right at the same time as a masked man who drives a completely kick-ass car known as…you guessed it…The Wraith. It seems that there’s this gang of drag-racing car thieves, led by a thuggish jackass named Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes), who challenge local teens to races where, if they lose, they have to surrender their car. Packard’s ego has gotten so large that he’s convinced himself that Keri (Sherilyn Fenn) is his girlfriend, but she’s got eyes for Jake, and it is mutual, baby. You can imagine how Packard feels about that development. Meanwhile, The Wraith is challenging members of Packard’s gang to races which tend to end in only one participant making it out alive, leading Sheriff Loomis (Randy Quaid) to begin investigating the strange goings-on. Say, is it possible that Jake and The Wraith are one in the same? And what’s the story on Keri’s ex-boyfriend, Jamie, who was killed in one of Packard’s races? You don’t suppose that Jake is actually Jamie, having been brought back to life by some unspecified means, given a change in appearance, and provided with the aforementioned kick-ass car in order to extract his revenge?

Nahhhhhhh.

If you’re not an aficionado of cars, ’80s cheese, or Sherilyn Fenn’s Breasts (yes, they deserve capitalization), then you may struggle to make it through “The Wraith,” but if you’re determined to do it in the name of science, then watching while listening to Marvin’s commentary helps a great deal. It’s also a major bonus that the film’s special features are the work of Red Shirt Pictures, who’ve made a great name for themselves by providing excellent bonus material for cult “classics” like this, so be sure to check out the interviews with Marvin and co-star Clint Howard (whose hair in the movie is fucking outstanding), as well as the featurette about the cars used in the film and the cult that surrounds “The Wraith.” That cult isn’t likely to grow any larger as a result of this special edition, but it’ll sure make the existing membership happy.

Click to buy “The Wraith: Special Edition”

  

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

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