Chubby Checker managed to get a lot of mileage out of his dance hit “Twist.” Not only did he get three movies, but he presents variations of the dance with a variety of the songs where he beckons us to twist. There’s “Don’t Knock the Twist,” “Slow Twistin’,” “Salome Twist,” “Bucket Twist,” “La Paloma Twist,” and “I Love to Twist”! “Don’t Knock the Twist” is a sequel to the 1961 movie headlined by Chubby Checker. Though he’s the headliner he’s not the star per se, but he does show up every so often to present another performer or twist for us.
“Don’t Knock the Twist” is a sequel centered on a network president named Herb who wants to bank on the latest craze: The Twist! He tells his special programming manager Ted a deadline of four weeks to produce a ninety minute Twist special, so he can beat a rival network to the punch. From there Ted begins scrambling to find Twisting dancers, and enlists the help of Chubby Checker. Meanwhile Ted is pressuring his designer girlfriend Dulcie (the sexy Mari Blanchard) for marriage and she’s struggling with criticism of her new clothesline. When Ted enlists the services of brother and sister dancer Billy and Madge, Ted’s girlfriend Dulcie tries to sign Madge on to promote her clothing. The premise is shockingly complicated to the point of being convoluted, but this type of cinema that exploits a current dance fad has its charms here and there.
The narrative takes a back seat to the dancing most of the time, presenting an interesting look at a dance craze that, for a moment, clicked with everyone thanks to its simplicity. Here, the twist solves just about every problem, and director Oscar Rudolph makes a point of zeroing in on women’s waists and derrieres whenever they’re doing the twist. Along the way there’s a wonderful soundtrack, from “Duke of Earl,” the fun “Bristol Stomp,” and one of my all time favorite pop diddies, “The Mash Potato Dance.” It should be noted though Billy and Madge are charismatic dancers at no point do they actually do the mash potato. The acting is at the very least serviceable, with Mari Blanchard playing the heel well. Chubby Checker sure isn’t an actor, but he’s okay when working off of other people. “Don’t Knock the Twist” isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a solid bit of sixties escapism with raucous dancing, and some great pop music.