Welcome to Vince Lombardi High School, where new principal Mary Woronov (coming on like a cross between Miss Jean Brodie and Ilsa) is determined to stomp the student body into submission. In order to do this, she wants to banish rock music. Her chief antagonist is PJ Soles, a huge fan of the Ramones, and she eventually enlists the band itself to help defeat Woronov and her fascistic hall monitors.
The chaos may reach epically destructive proportions (KABOOOM!), but this is all in g…od, clean fun. Even the sexual innuendo comes across as very innocent. The humour is just quirky enough to make even the bad, tired jokes (of which there are many) seem pleasingly eccentric, and the cast is a cult movie fan’s wet dream: Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Clint Howard AND the Ramones? The stuff of which classics are made.
One wonders what it might sound like to have listen to a stereo remaster of the film and get the Ramones performing in full surround. One will have to continue to wonder, as only the original mono is provided here. As the film is budget-conscious, so is the audio (and the picture, see below). The mono is clear enough, but there are some moments of minor distortion on the dialogue.
The picture is more of a problem. First the good stuff: the colours are vibrant, the flesh tones are accurate and the blacks are strong. The image is sharp. Now the bad: the case lists the aspect ratio as 1.85:1 anamorphic, but this is, in fact, vanilla 1.85:1. The colours are prone to shimmering and artifacting. The reds are especially bad, often dissolving into polka dot patterns. The print, furthermore, has speckling throughout. I guess a restoration process was too expensive for Roger Corman’s blood.
Here, at least, more attention was paid. There are two commentaires. One was present on a previous release, and is the engaging, funny and informative roundtable by director Alan Arkush, producer Michael Finnell and co-writer Richard Whitley. The new commentary track is by Corman and Dey Young (who plays PJ Soles’ bookish sidekick). As well as revisiting their memories of the film, they also touch on the movie’s long life, and Young at one point talks about an outdoor screening at the Hollywood Memorial Gardens. “Back to School: A Retrospective” is a solid little collection of interviews with the filmmakers, and is frequently very funny. Archival material consist of two radio ads, the theatrical trailer, and audio outtakes of Ramones performances. The menu’s main screen is scored and partially animated, and the other screens are scored.
The extras and the film itself make this worth picking up, but the picture quality is a real disappointment.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- “Back to School: A Retrospective” Featurette
- Audio Outtakes
- Radio Ads
- Theatrical Trailer