At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

GO, JOHNNY GO (SPROCKET VAULT)

By • Oct 24th, 2017 •

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DVD review by Roy Frumkes

 

The image is shockingly pristine.   It’s the story and the budget that are a bit threadbare. There’s no way of improving those elements – but it scarcely matters.  These are the real people, self-promoting themselves in late 50s B&W just before the payola shit hit the fan. By 1962 the scandal had pretty much ended Freed’s career.

Alan Freed and Chuck Berry interact quite a bit on screen. In real life, they were business partners.  Freed actually shared song-writing credit on Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ (not performed in the film). Hence, Berry comes across as a nice guy.  I worked with him in ’88, and he was anything but a nice guy.  Of course, that was after thirty-years’ worth of water had passed under the bridge.  A lot could have changed.

Interestingly, possibly due to permissions issues, very few of the songs are the hits by the featured groups.  Berry’s are, and he does the duck walk for us. The Flamingos, the Cadillacs, and Jackie Wilson do lesser songs, but it’s a thrill to see them nonetheless. Ritchie Valens does a number with a few friends sitting nearby, as if he, and they, are just bystanders who inadvertently get to belt out a tune. It’s unsettling, knowing that shortly he’d be dead, killed in a plane crash along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. This was his only film appearance.

Jimmy Clanton portrays a rocker wannabe.  There’s something Elvis about him, probably intentional. In the scene where he is doing an usher stint at a rock concert and gets fired for being too energized, on the bottom right of the frame there’s a sullen kid who just sits there while everyone else is squirming in their seats.  Was it done on purpose?  It’s hardly noticeable since you’re eyeing are directed frame-center at Clanton, but check it out.  Did he just decide to do it himself?  Later on, there’s a dance sequence, and I could just barely glimpse him in the back, pretty much blocked by all the gyrating bodies, but there he was, dancing with a girl, and looking just as bored as he had in the concert scene.

Director/editor Paul Landres was mainly a TV toiler, though he helmed some good episodes for MAVERICK and THE RIFLEMAN, and also spun out 23 episodes of THE LONE RANGER.  More importantly, he directed THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958), an unassuming ‘B’ with the unique distinction of being a blood-sucker remake of Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943).  Discerning critics have noticed Dracula references scattered throughout SHADOW, so the vampire reboot is a fitting remake. You can find it on an MGM DVD double-bill with THE VAMPIRE (1957), also directed by Landres.

The wonderful restoration job, as well as its docu-drama subtext, makes this a keeper.  I also recommend a hard-to-see film called AMERICAN HOT WAX (1978, with Tim McIntire as Alan Freed) which captures the same time period, only with a larger chunk of cash being expended due to having to recreate the period that GO, JOHNNY GO gives us with no major capital investment because its all really there.

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