Monday, July 12, 2004

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!: The Ramones on Film

With Johnny Ramones' health issues making news recently, I thought it would be good to revisit a couple of Ramones films. In 1979, the band blasted onto the screen in Roger Corman's great ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL. Filled with a joyful mix of silliness and rebellion, the film follows your Riff Randall (P.J. Soles) as she tries to make her way to a Ramones concert while trying to outwit evil principal Miss Togar (Mary Woronov), who has banned rock 'n' roll music from the school. The centerpiece of the film is a 20-minute Ramones concert, featuring such classics as "Lobotomy" and "Blitzkrieg Bop", later coming to an explosive end when the teenagers and the Ramones take over the school. ROLLING STONE magazine recently listed the film among the top 10 of rock 'n' roll movies ever made. I agree--it's pure fun.

In 2003, Extinkt Films released HEY! IS DEE DEE HOME?, a small documentary on the Ramones' punk icon bassist. This film happened as an afterthought. The director, Lech Kowalski, made a documentary on seminal punk rocker Johnny Thunders called BORN TO LOSE: THE LAST ROCK & ROLL MOVIE (1999), in which Dee Dee participated. After Dee Dee's death in 2002, Kowalski culled through his footage and decided he had enough material to make a stand-alone piece. In the film, Dee Dee is shown in a sit-down interview format--he tells a lot of drug stories and talks a lot about Johnny Thunders (naturally). Essentially, the doc gives a glimpse of Dee Dee--in his own words--but does not give a full picture of his life and work.

Speaking of Johnny Thunders, I recently finished an excellent biography on the New York Doll and Heartbreaker called JOHNNY THUNDERS: IN COLD BLOOD by Nina Antonia. This exceptionally written book chronicles the life and tragic end of Thunders and gives a very vivid account of the punk era in both New York and Europe. As a bonus, the book comes with a DVD featuring a late 1980s concert, clips of a film Thunders made in Europe, along with interviews. If you are interested in this scene, I highly recommend this book.


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