50 Movie Pack Classic Musicals, Disc 7

Rock, Rock, Rock. 1956, b&w, Will Price (dir.), Alan Freed, Tuesday Weld, Teddy Randazzo, The Moonglows, Chuck Berry, The Flamingos, Jimmy Cavallo and the House Rockers, the Johnny Burnette Trio, La Vern Baker, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Cirino and the Bowties. 1:25.

There’s a plot of sorts—Tuesday Weld (age 13, in her first role) needs a prom dress and gets involved in some really bad arithmetic (“one percent of $1 is $1”) to get it, but it all works out. Meanwhile, she and a girlfriend, and her square pipe-smoking dad, watch Alan Freed’s TV show on which her boyfriend shows up as a singer. He manages to get Freed (remember Alan “Payola” Freed?) to bring the whole shebang to the prom. There’s a little more, but it’s mostly an excuse for music and lots of it. The disc sleeve’s a little off: It claims this is in color, but it was filmed in black and white (with no budget, apparently), and it lists Chuck Berry as the star. He does one really great number, but that’s it.

The good: Lots of great music of the times, and to Alan Freed’s credit he didn’t hold with racial boundaries. Chuck Berry’s song is “You Can’t Catch Me,” one of his great car songs. The Moonglows and the Flamingos are wonderful (and do two numbers each, as do most others). Johnny Burnette’s rockabilly trio is interesting. Frankie Lymon is a tiny first-rate pro—even if his second number (“I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent”) is, well, strange. Tuesday Weld is charming as a beautiful, innocent, well-meaning but slightly dumb teenager (even if “her” two songs are dubbed by Connie Francis). The square father’s strangely amusing.

The not-so-good: One awful female child singer. A few musical acts that could have been replaced with more Berry, Moonglows, Flamingos and Lymon. Mostly, though, the pain of watching Freed clap hands at apparently random intervals (or, in one case, add odd vocal chops to a sax-heavy instrumental) and other cases where the kids (some of whom appear to be in their 30s) clap hands simultaneously—but at intervals that bear no relation to the beat. Strangest case: One where band members are clapping to keep time, but one claps on the downbeat while one claps whenever he feels like it. A cheapie, but with some great music if you can get past Freed and some of the others. As to the IMDB reviews: Most are on the money, but one negative one’s just absurd—and one other negative one manages to place Chubby Checker in this movie, which is simply wrong. $1.25.

King Kelly of the USA, 1934, b&w, Leonard Fields (dir.), Guy Robertson, Edgar Kennedy, Irene Ware, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Franklin Pangborn. 1:06.

As a musical, it’s sort of a flop, although one piece does get used a lot. The print’s dark and damaged, dark enough to be annoying. On the other hand, it’s a pretty good comedy, poking fun at “Ruritania”-style monarchies, show biz and efficiency experts. If it weren’t for the print, I’d give it more than $1.00.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue, 1955, b&w, Joseph Kohn (dir.), Nat ‘King’ Cole, Delta Rhythm Boys, Ruth Brown, Willie Bryant, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington, Joe Turner, the Clovers. 0:37.

The two movies on side B—the two “Revues”—are pretty much the same thing, which in these cases is high praise. These appear to be three episodes of a (TV?) show set in the same Harlem theater, with the same host (Willie Bryant) and an incredible variety of music with some dance and comedy thrown in. Both cast lists here are incomplete (Bryant really pushes the acts through one after another). Don’t expect “Rock ‘n’ Roll” but it’s quite a revue nonetheless. The sleeve reverses the timing for this and the next one. The print isn’t great and, unfortunately, the sound is occasionally distorted—but it’s still worth $1, even for what’s basically a half-hour short subject. $1.

Rhythm and Blues Revue, 1955, b&w, Joseph Kohn and Leonard Reed (dir.), Lionel Hampton, The Larks, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Bailey, Count Basie, Joe Turner, Delta Rhythm Boys, Cab Calloway, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Nipsey Russell, Mantan Moreland, Amos Milburn. 1:11

Same setting, same host, but this is two episodes put together (there’s an obvious cut and Bryant welcomes us again halfway through). More music, including Joe Turner’s version of Shake, Rattle and Roll and Cab Calloway’s astonishing Minnie the Moocher. Great stuff throughout, marred only by serious visual damage to much of the print—but the soundtrack’s OK, and that’s what matters. $1.75.

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