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.
Thereâ€™s a plot of sortsâ€”Tuesday Weld (age 13, in her first role) needs a prom dress and gets involved in some really bad arithmetic (â€œone percent of $1 is $1â€) to get it, but it all works out. Meanwhile, she and a girlfriend, and her square pipe-smoking dad, watch Alan Freedâ€™s TV show on which her boyfriend shows up as a singer. He manages to get Freed (remember Alan â€œPayolaâ€ Freed?) to bring the whole shebang to the prom. Thereâ€™s a little more, but itâ€™s mostly an excuse for music and lots of it. The disc sleeveâ€™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 thatâ€™s it.
The good: Lots of great music of the times, and to Alan Freedâ€™s credit he didnâ€™t hold with racial boundaries. Chuck Berryâ€™s song is â€œYou Canâ€™t Catch Me,â€ one of his great car songs. The Moonglows and the Flamingos are wonderful (and do two numbers each, as do most others). Johnny Burnetteâ€™s rockabilly trio is interesting. Frankie Lymon is a tiny first-rate proâ€”even if his second number (â€œIâ€™m Not a Juvenile Delinquentâ€) is, well, strange. Tuesday Weld is charming as a beautiful, innocent, well-meaning but slightly dumb teenager (even if â€œherâ€ two songs are dubbed by Connie Francis). The square fatherâ€™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 simultaneouslyâ€”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 oneâ€™s just absurdâ€”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, itâ€™s sort of a flop, although one piece does get used a lot. The printâ€™s dark and damaged, dark enough to be annoying. On the other hand, itâ€™s a pretty good comedy, poking fun at â€œRuritaniaâ€-style monarchies, show biz and efficiency experts. If it werenâ€™t for the print, Iâ€™d give it more than $1.00.
Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Revue, 1955, b&w, Joseph Kohn (dir.), Nat â€˜Kingâ€™ 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 Bâ€”the two â€œRevuesâ€â€”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). Donâ€™t expect â€œRock â€˜nâ€™ Rollâ€ but itâ€™s quite a revue nonetheless. The sleeve reverses the timing for this and the next one. The print isnâ€™t great and, unfortunately, the sound is occasionally distortedâ€”but itâ€™s still worth $1, even for whatâ€™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 â€˜Kingâ€™ Cole, Nipsey Russell, Mantan Moreland, Amos Milburn. 1:11
Same setting, same host, but this is two episodes put together (thereâ€™s an obvious cut and Bryant welcomes us again halfway through). More music, including Joe Turnerâ€™s version of Shake, Rattle and Roll and Cab Callowayâ€™s astonishing Minnie the Moocher. Great stuff throughout, marred only by serious visual damage to much of the printâ€”but the soundtrackâ€™s OK, and thatâ€™s what matters. $1.75.