Rock Around The Clock, etc.

Rock Around The Clock, etc.

When Rock Around The Clock and Don't Knock The Rock toured the country in 1956, their mission wasn't just to bring legions of teenagers into theaters, but to send them out armed with talking points. Both aim to prove that rock 'n' roll is wholesome fare, no more dangerous than jazz or boogie-woogie. From a "convincing the squares" perspective, it helped that the Rock films were built around Bill Haley, a smooth-voiced middle-aged dude playing a slightly more energetic kind of jump-jive music. It also helped that their plots were as old as show business itself.

In Rock Around The Clock, talent scout Johnny Johnston hitches his wagon to Haley's star, but his ex-flame—a top theatrical agent—gets jealous of Johnston's interest in a teen dancer, and conspires to get his bookings canceled. In Don't Knock The Rock, the scout has been replaced by another young rocker, Alan Dale, and the agent has become an implacable newspaper columnist, but the basic arc is the same. In both movies, the problems come to a head at a big concert full of top stars (The Platters! Little Richard!), after a few more shots of hot-panted hoofers shaking their hinders.

Five years later, those premises got dragged out of the trunk for Twist Around The Clock and Don't Knock The Twist, two movies in which the blue-hairs get huffy about a wild new dance, and the youth respond that, like rock 'n' roll, The Twist is here to stay. (Well, one out of two ain't bad.) It's almost a joke how much the Twist films copy the Rocks, right down to scheming villainesses and glamour shots of girls in low-cut bathing suits. But the music is better in the Twist diptych, thanks to the deep roster of Cameo-Parkway. There's Dion, The Dovells, and of course, Chubby Checker, who appears in both Twists as a saintly seer, contorting his torso to get our minds right.

Key features: Like, nil, daddy-o.

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