Twist Around the Clock

Old TV shows get turned into movies, video games get turned into movies, heck, even board games get turned into movies. So why not a dance craze, right? Back in 1990 there were two movies that were inspired by the Lambada dance craze…and that wasn’t even a real craze! But a legitimate dance craze was, of course, The Twist. In 1961, Chubby Checker and a bunch of other popular singers brought The Twist to the big screen in “Twist Around the Clock.”

The film centers on Mitch Mason (John Cronin) who has been managing a washed up rock ‘n roll act. You see folks, rock is on the skids and in desperate need of something new to give it a jump-start. After an argument with his current act, Mitch goes his own way along with his buddy, Dizzy (Alvy Moore…yep, Hank Kimball from “Green Acres”).

One day, they pull into a strange little mountain town where everyone seems to be obsessed with sanding the bottoms of their shoes. Why do they sand the bottom of their shoes? Well, it makes it easier to do The Twist, you see. The Twist is all the rage in this town and every Saturday night everyone, young and old, heads down to hear Clay Cole (playing himself) and his band and twist the night away. They also love to see lovely Tina Louden (Mary Mitchell) and her brother Larry (Jeff Parker), who are the best Twisters around.

After seeing this act, Mitch is sure these youngsters can make The Twist the next big thing. Mitch takes a poolside meeting with Tina, who is quite the negotiator, and works out a deal. But before this act can make it big, Mitch needs some help. He goes to talk to Joe Marshall (Tol Avery) who books some of the biggest acts around. Problem is, Mitch has a testy relationship with Joe. It all has to do with Joe’s daughter Debbie (Maura McGiveney), a spoiled rich brat who get everything she wants…and she wants Mitch.

Now, apparently Joe is a man who is rich enough to ignore an opportunity to make money in favor of helping his nasty daughter exact revenge…so, he books the new act at a high-society fundraiser where he is sure they will not be warmly received. He and Debbie even turn out to watch the melee, but it turns out these hoity-toity types are just as nuts about The Twist as everyone else. Still, even after this success, Mitch has trouble booking the band and his hot young twisters. So, he calls in a favor from an old buddy who happens to be working with Chubby Checker, the real king of The Twist. Chubby lets the group play the club in his place and they are a hit. Now Joe is anxious to sign them, and have them perform in a huge show alongside Chubby Checker, Dion, The Marcels, and Vicki Spencer. However, the big condition of the contract is that Tina agree not to marry for three years…thus giving Debbie time to get her mitts on Mitch. Will true love, and The Twist, win in the end?

This is a quick moving, harmless little movie that primarily exists as a way to get popular musical acts of the day to bring teenagers to the movie theater. There are a whole bunch of songs. In fact, I’d wager that the total time devoted to musical performances exceeds that allowed for the minimal story. The performances are nothing flashy, most of them are just the artists standing on a stage and singing, but there are some classic numbers in the mix. Not to mention a few obscure tunes like The Marcels’ rendition of “Merry Twist-mas.”

With so much emphasis on the music, the acting really didn’t get a whole lot of attention. Most of the actors are pretty hum-drum. Even good ole’ Hank Kimball doesn’t manage the fun quirkiness he brought to Hooterville. But, there’s no denying the appeal of Mary Mitchell who does bring some degree of spunk to her role…and she is a darn good twister. Maura McGiveney is also a kind of fun in a “love to hate her” kind of role.

It’s no great cinematic achievement, but this is a fun movie. I suppose if film producers feel the need to use pop culture fads as the inspiration for their cinematic dreams, “Twist Around the Clock” is an enjoyable enough result. At least we never got “Pet Rock: The Movie.”

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