Judge P.S. Colbert once gave his love a cherry that had no stone.
"Swing…sing…and let yourself go with Hootenanny!"
What a difference five decades makes!
If I were reviewing The Young Swingers during its original 1963 run, I'd most likely be hammering home my extreme disappointment with this amazingly unimaginative excuse for a B-picture, with its bland, budget-conscious black and white photography, its cast of singing also-rans, and already-has-beens, its no-chart-potential collection of "hand-clapping hits," and its utter inability to match those levels of sophistication and wit readily on display in competing cinematic vehicles for Elvis, Frankie and Annette.
Ah, but benefited by a half-century's hindsight, I'm able to appreciate this breezy and brainless 70 minute programmer as a collector's item; a curio, if you will—its appeal strictly limited to goofballs like me who can't seem to get enough of the cinematic nonsense peculiar to this era.
Perhaps the most nonsensical thing about this swing set was somebody's insistence that what essentially amounts to a revue of disparate musical numbers must be accompanied by a story of some sort.
Here's the poop: rich, entrepreneurial Roberta Crawford (Jo Helton) drops in for a set at the Vanguard club, one of those dreadful hangouts where youngsters gather to sip "expresso" coffee, twist frantically and listen to approximations of folk, calypso and other forms of post-Presley, pre-Beatles pop music. Properly revolted by the loud (but otherwise extremely polite) goings-on, she instructs her fey, ineffectual lawyer, Bruce (Justin Smith) to have the joint bulldozed—immediately, mind—in preparation for an office building. She owns the property, see, and she's very heartless—a real "establishment type," you savvy?
Not so fast, "old lady" Crawford! Turns out the "kids" running the co-op have an ironclad lease, and they're not going anywhere, not if club manager Mel Hudson (Rod Lauren, Black Zoo) has anything to say about it.
Hmmm…an ironclad lease…
Apparently, profit-hungry Ms. Crawford hadn't counted on such tough opposition to her plans. Too bad she's only got ol' fey and ineffectual lawyer Bruce to fight her battles for her, while she has a plane to catch for an out-of-town business meeting.
One more thing: she's trying to keep on top of preparations for her niece Vicki's (Molly Bee) 21st birthday party, not that Vicki appreciates her efforts. No, her ungrateful niece just lounges around poolside at her aunt's gargantuan mansion, and complains that the party will be just another gathering of old-business fuddy duddies, attending only to curry favor with Roberta. Naturally, Roberta (now really in a hurry to catch that plane) decides to put Vicki in charge of getting Mel Hudson and his ragtag bunch of beatniks to vacate the premises by the time she returns.
At first, Mel and Vicki seem destined to be lifelong enemies, eternally quarreling, as representatives of different social classes are expected to do in movies like this. Fortunately, the scales fall from their eyes upon their second meeting, and lickety split, Vicki joins the fight to keep the Vanguard safe from the wrecking ball. This calls for a song—heck, this calls for several!
There you have it. Oh, the kids versus establishment folderol continues, but as time marches on, the "story" gets crowded out as various cast members take to the stage and perform musical numbers for each other. The whole scene becomes so infectious that (SPOILER ALERT!) even the old lady and fey, ineffectual lawyer Bruce get swept up in the fun.
Strangely, the musical performances (usually a time-draining drag in films of this genre) are what bring The Young Swingers to life.
You certainly shouldn't feel guilty if the names of the picture's "stars" don't ring any bells:
• Rod Lauren had but one top forty entry ("If I Had A Girl"), which peaked a good three years before he turned up here.
• Molly Bee was primarily a country singer, who made her biggest impression eleven years prior when she introduced the Christmas classic "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
• Third-billed Gene McDaniels had the best run of all, placing six singles in the Billboard top forty during 1961 and 1962, with three of them hitting the top ten! So why, despite delivering the film's two best musical performances, does his name appear underneath the title? Well…(whispered:) he's black.
Truth be told, the songs aren't very good, nor the least bit original, for that matter. Then again, they're not really bad, either, and their limitations seem to have proved no obstacle for Lauren, Bee, and McDaniels, a trio of attractive, likeable, and extremely talented singers, ultimately gypped by fate.
The same can probably be said for the DVD itself. Released via Fox's Cinema Archives On-Demand program (meaning it's been pressed as a DVD-R), the program begins with an ominous warning that "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen." I don't know what the original aspect ratio was, but the full-frame presentation doesn't seem to be much of a cheat—more than likely because there never was too much going on here in the first place. The 2.0 mono audio mix gets the point across, with some sacrifice to the dynamics of the musical numbers. Subtitles? Extras? No and No!
Full disclosure: against all expectations, I rather enjoyed The Young Swingers. Would I recommend it? Definitely, but only to "goofballs like me, who can't seem to get enough of the cinematic nonsense peculiar to this era."
Guilt is strictly Squaresville, dig?
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