Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 19, 2020

Stay-At-Home Film #4, TWIST ALL NIGHT (aka Continental Twist), starring Louis Prima (US, 1961)

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TWIST ALL NIGHT (also released as CONTINENTAL TWIST)

starring Louis Prima, Sam Butera and The Witnesses, and June Wilkinson

released in 1961 by American International Pictures as a pick-up from Prima’s own production company (with his then-wife Keely Smith)

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I’ve rarely met a twist record, or twist movie, I didn’t like, and I’ve been collecting both as long as I can remember. Outside of the names most associated with The Twist—-its creator, Hank Ballard, and its best-known musical exponents, Chubby Checker and Joey Dee–hundreds of other artists made twist records, the world over (just yesterday I was listening to the fine twist LP by society bandleader Lester Lanin!). Perhaps the most under-rated is the one by Steve Alaimo, which you should find a copy of immediately. Louis Prima also seized upon the twist, doing a twist album for Dot (as did his spouse Keely Smith) and also this low-budget twist film, an independent production released by AIP.

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When I went to do a little research on the film for this write-up, imagine my surprise when I see that I had reviewed it online 18 years ago! Here’s that review:

=============================
LOW BUDGET TWIST MUSICAL, GREAT FOR FANS OF LOUIS PRIMA

This z-grade Twist musical stars (and was made by the production company of) the great trumpeter/vocalist/band-leader/personality Louis Prima, backed by the equally great Sam Butera and the Witnesses. In fact, Butera gets a lot of screen time here.

The old “small club is about to lose its lease but people who believe in the music band together to keep the club open and in the meantime win everyone over to their music” plot is trotted out once again– it was used in the mid-50s rock’n’roll movies and in early 40s swing movies too, and it works well here. But then, you are watching a movie like this because you like the Twist and/or Louis Prima’s music, and on that level it delivers the goods. Legendary Playboy model June Wilkinson looks beautiful as Prima’s girlfriend, the music is hot, and as a vehicle for Prima’s antics the film is a complete success. Some people complain that Prima–who made his recording debut in the early-mid 1930s!–is much too old to do the twist, but he is one of the fathers of rock’n’roll (especially those “jive” artists such as Jimmy Cavallo, Charlie Gracie, Mike Pedicin, etc.) and since his act is based on self-parody anyway and he never takes himself seriously, I can’t see anyone having a problem with that.

Unless you like Prima and the Twist, though, you’d probably hate the film. It’s shot on two minimal sets, basically, and is as static as a Barry Mahon film. However, for me that only adds to the charm (who needs complex camera work when you are basically seeing Prima do his show and do some light comedy?). Perhaps someone will release this on DVD?

(review originally published in 2002)

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Watching the film again in late April 2020, I find it a wonderfully entertaining B&W blast, with wall-to-wall music, the jive-talking antics of Prima and Butera, echoing their legendary stage act without the viewer having to travel to Vegas or Atlantic City, and the charm of June Wilkinson, who has worked in many aspects of the entertainment industry since the late 1950’s, and who has both an upbeat screen presence and good comic timing.

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Someone else who’s written about the film online suggested that Prima and Butera should have been in a haunted house movie with the Bowery Boys, and if that concept appeals to you, and you like basic raw rock and roll delivered with a jive attitude, you can’t help but enjoy this 76 minute feature, which never wears out its welcome and has outrageous plot complications that will put a smile on your face after a long workday. It will also annoy holier-than-thou philistines who will point out how primitive and noisy and shallow it is, not realizing that those are exactly the film’s selling points. Louis Prima knew how to market himself and what his public enjoyed, and he gave it to them in spades.

If you’d like to see his twist-era shtick in a film that’s on the same garage-y level as ROCK BABY ROCK IT!, then here’s your chance.

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Director William J. Hole, Jr., worked primarily in television….a lot!…but his name was ringing a bell in the back of my mind, and checking his filmography, I now see why…he was director of the classic GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW, as well as other films I’ve enjoyed that seem aimed at the same kind of audience, SPEED CRAZY with Brett Halsey, and THE DEVIL’S HAND with Robert Alda and Linda Christian. He also directed fine episodes of SURFSIDE SIX and BOURBON STREET BEAT….and if that’s not enough, he was associate producer of 449 (!!!!!) episodes of PEYTON PLACE.

He no doubt was reliable and punctual and got the film in the can quickly and moved on to better-paying studio projects.

I’ve watched this film every 3 years or so for the last 25 years. It delivers the goods…if these are the kind of goods you want.

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Below is a link to a clip from the film that will show you EXACTLY what you’re going to get, along with some on-the-money remarks about Prima and the film from the late great Nick Tosches, always a champion of Prima as an unsung hero of rock and roll, which he certainly was!

 

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