By the time Fred Sears’ “Rock around the Clock” arrived, the Bill Haley and the Comets song “Rock around the Clock” was already a massive hit thanks to “Blackboard Jungle.” It’d been accepted already as the quintessential youth anthem about rocking out and partying to rock and roll until the broad daylight. Banking on the beloved anthem was a stroke of genius, with a film that puts Bill Haley and the Comets front and center and zeroes in on the appeal of rock and roll. Well—the Caucasian version of rock and roll, anyway.
Steve and Corny are two musicians tired of the music scene in their city which involves tired old dance music. Seeking their fortune, they venture out on the road and end up at Strawberry Springs, a small town where everyone is dancing to this hip new groove known as rock and roll. Steve and Corny accidentally discover rock and roll, despite being two big squares, and decide that they want to make money off of the local rock and roll act Bill Haley, and his manager Lisa. Lisa is a stubborn but attractive woman with a fondness for dancing, and Steve decides he’s going to convince her to sign Bill and his band up while also romancing her socks off.
“Rock Around the Clock” is arguably the first of a sub-genre of movies that would pretty much exploit the appeal of rock and roll music and deliver the same old plotlines over and over. From “Don’t Knock the Twist” to “Go, Johnny Go!” this is one of the better titles with a fascinating story. Granted, there are endless moments of cheese, including how Johnny and Corny are mocked by young partiers for not being familiar with rock and roll. But that’s more than made up for with some good charismatic direction, and great choreography and excellent music. Along with “Rock Around the Clock,” the band performs “See You Later Alligator,” and “Razzle Dazzle.”
There’s also fun appearances and performances by The Platters who sing, “The Great Pretender” and “Only You,” there’s Freddie Bell and His Bellboys doing “Giddyup Dingdong” and “I’m Gonna Teach You How to Rock,” and there’s Tony Martinez and His Band with Spanish renditions of “Mambo Capri,” “Sad and Lonely,” and “Codfish and Potatoes.” There is also an appearance by the great Alan Freed. “Rock Around the Clock” allegedly grabbed a ton of controversy when it was released. Those darn special interest groups worried about the influence of rock and roll and demanded the film be banned from screening in most places. While it may not be a masterpiece, it’s a pretty important film that warrants a viewing; it surely helped usher in the rock and roll craze.