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Summer Rerun: Let’s Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer.

August 4, 2010

It’s summer vacation time here at Desuko World HQ, which means it’s time to revisit some favorite reviews from the past. This is the last of the summer reruns, so let’s go out with a bang. Look for new posts to return next week. [Originally posted May 8, 2007.]

*****

The last post about “Don’t Knock the Rock” got me thinking about it’s knock-off, “Don’t Knock the Twist.” That, in turn, brought up all the rest of that wave of Twist movies, so here’s your introduction to four of them.

Twist Around the Clock (1961).

The Scoop:
After Chubby Checker’s success with “The Twist,” there was a movement afoot in the early ’60s to establish the Twist as separate musical genre to itself. Never mind the fact the music sounded identical to rock ‘n’ roll and that all the lyrics were about the Twist and nothing else — obviously, this was an effort doomed to failure. Still, that didn’t stop Hollywood from making a wave of Twist movies to cash in on the burgeoning craze. The first was, appropriately enough, “Twist Around the Clock,” which (as the title would suggest) is a remake of the pioneering rock ‘n’ roll film “Rock Around the Clock.” Only this time, instead of rock ‘n’ roll supplanting sentimental big band music, this features Checker trying to get the Twist to supplant rock ‘n’ roll. A severe miscalculation, although it is fun to see Dion and the Belmonts on hand to do a couple of their big hits, “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue.”

Best Bit:
The line of kids sandpapering their shoes.

Side Note:
The screenplay credit went to “Rock Around the Clock” screenwriter James B. Gordon (real name, Robert E. Kent), because the producers essentially used the same script, only changing a few Twist-related details here and there.

Companion Viewing:
“Rock Around the Clock” (1956).

Links:
IMDb.

Take a Look:
Tom Funk gets the gang rockin’:

Hey, Let’s Twist! (1962).

The Scoop:
Devised as a star-making vehicle for Joey Dee and the Starliters and to capitalized on their hit “The Peppermint Twist,” “Hey, Let’s Twist!” tells the story behind the opening of New York’s famed Peppermint Lounge. Like any true Twist movie, it’s underwritten and poorly acted, but at least the music is entertaining. What sets it apart from the other Twist movies, though, is the sheer Noo Yawk Italian-ness of it. The non-musical scenes come off like G-rated Scorcese, and the fleeting presence of Joe Pesci (in his film debut) only reinforces that.

Best Bit:
The Starliters’ performance of “Shout.”

Side Note:
Joey Dee’s still working the nostalgia circuit — he’s even available to play your event!

Companion Viewing:
Oddly enough, “Mean Streets” (1973).

Links:
IMDb.

Take a Look:
Joey Dee and the Starlighters do the title track:

The Continental Twist (a.k.a., Twist All Night) (1961).

The Scoop:
A momentary diversion in the Twist movie cycle, this one barely even features the dance. Instead, the wonderful (although very un-Twist-like and un-rock-like) Louis Prima fights to save his night club from a greedy art forger. The plot really doesn’t matter. All that matters is Prima’s incredible music, performed along with Sam Butera and the Witnesses. Watch it for that alone.

Best Line:
“Oui! Le Twist!!

Side Note:
Originally released with a 9-minute color prologue called “Twist Craze” directed by Allan David.

Companion Viewing:
“Hey Boy! Hey Girl! (1959).

Links:
IMDB.

Take a Look:
A smattering of clips:

Don’t Knock the Twist (1962).

The Scoop:
Oh, the strange, strange world of the Twist movies. It’s an alternate universe where Chubby Checker is revered as a demi-god, and where every aspect of culture is revitalized by hip youth with a special Twist flair — there is Twist music, Twist dance, Twist cuisine and Twist sociology. In this particular movie, the focus is on Twist fashion. It’s not immediately discernible how the Twist clothes on display here are different than regular clothes of the period, but they are. The filmmakers insist that they are. There’s also a plot about a TV producer having to stage a “Twist Spectacular” to save an orphanage and restore his discredited girlfriend’s good name. Odd.

Best Bit:
Vic Dana’s creepy song “Little Altar Boy.”

Side Note:
Our old screenwriting pal Robert E. Kent is back, not only writing the script, but also many of the lyrics for the Twist songs in the movie.

Companion Viewing:
Any other Twist movie you can find.

Links:
IMDb.

Take a Look:
Checker and Dee Dee Sharp perform “Slow Twistin'”:

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