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.