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Don't Knock the Rock / Rock Around the Clock
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Dont Knock The Rock spotlights rock music in its infancy and features some of the genres true originals. DJ Freed is credited with inventing the term, "rock n roll," and Haley was a durable star for over a decade, selling 22 million copies of his hit, "Rock Around the Clock," and helping to establish rock music once and for all. Little Richard had his first bonafide hit, "Tutti Frutti," while making this film, and the film shows this self proclaimed architect of rock and roll at the beginning of his storied career. Rock Around The Clock, is a title based on Bill Haley & His Comets enormous hit from 1954. In this film, also produced by Sam Katzman and directed by Fred Sears, Haley and friends get to demo their singing chops, singing a string of hits, including the title song.
Rock 'n roll movies have rarely been more true to the spirit of the music than these two from the mid-'50s. That's not to say that Don't Knock the Rock and Rock Around the Clock, both of which were directed (in black & white) by Fred Sears and released in 1956, are anyone's idea of classic cinema. On the contrary, this is assembly-line stuff: the stories are flimsy and predictable; the dialogue is often risible, and much of the acting is on a high school drama club level. But these movies are all about the music (featuring multiple performances by Bill Haley and the Comets, Little Richard, the Treniers, the Platters, and others), with a lesser but still heavy emphasis on dancing, and on those levels they are an unexpected but unqualified delight. In Rock Around the Clock, agent Steve Hollis (Johnny Johnston) and his bass playing pal Corny (Henry Slate) quit their big band gigs and hit the road, where they happen upon Haley and his band in a Podunk farming town. Although they don't quite know what to make of the Comets' music ("It isn't boogie, it isn't jive, it isn't swing it's kinda all of 'em!"), they know a hot prospect when they find one and promise to secure them a legitimate shot at the big time (with the help of Alan Freed, the pioneering Ohio disc jockey, who plays himself, albeit in a different capacity). Complications ensue, including romantic ones, but, well, who really cares? Haley and his band are on fire; they're lip-syncing, but the recordings of "See You Later Alligator," the title tune (which had made its debut a year earlier in Blackboard Jungle), and others are filled with snap and crackle, the musicians are great (especially jazz-influenced guitarist Franny Beecher), the stage show is a riot, and the dancing siblings played by Lisa Gaye and Earl Barton are simply amazing.
It's more of the same in Don't Knock the Rock, in which reluctant star Arnie Haines (Alan Dale, a crooner who's not entirely convincing as a rocker), weary of life on the road, packs it in and heads home to sleepy Mellondale, wherever that is. The kids love him, but the adults, led by the odious old mayor, ban his "outrageous, depraved" music; Arnie then sets out to show them that "rock 'n' roll is a safe and sane dance for all young people." Once again, the plot is about as subtle as a Slayer concert, but Haley, Little Richard, and especially the hip and hilarious vocal trio the Treniers more than make up for that, as do several dynamic, beautifully choreographed dance numbers. The two-disc set includes no bonus features. --Sam Graham
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These movies show off the new (In 1956) sound, it's advocates, detractors and the kids. You see performances by The Platters, Little Richard, Bill Haley and some other excellent, but lesser known acts... And dancing! These were some of the "Founding Fathers" of Rock and Roll. The rest is history but these are views to the revolution.
JOHN J. MARCO
However, the cover looks like it was designed by an alien who cut Bill Haley's head off his body and put it on an unknown individual in dire need of a tailor for his pants (because that's exactly what they did on the cover). Even though plot wise neither movie was an Oscar contender, "Rock Around The Clock" should have been the A movie. Little Richard fans be cautioned he is in "Don't Knock the Rock" for about two minutes, he was not the featured star, Bill Haley was, and he's not even on the cover of the disc. Overall rating: FILMS are B+, cover is D- (well, at least they got Bill Haley's head right).
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