“Dance Hall Racket” (1953)
Critics have been arguing for decades over the genius/mediocrity of the late comedian Lenny Bruce, but with scant direct filmed evidence to make a case either way (certainly the horribly miscast Bob Fosse directed biopic “Lenny” did not help in any way), the verdict may perpetually be unresolved. “Dance Hall Racket”, the only extended feature film appearance of the late comic as an actor will only further roadblock the cause for cultural canonization as Bruce is awkward, hesitant and often physically unable to spit out his admittedly horrible dialogue. The situation may be worse than first imagined, however, as Bruce is also credited with writing the same admittedly horrible dialogue.
Directed by Phil Tucker between his work on the notorious SF hiccup “Robot Monster” and one of his sociological treatises on ecdysiasts, “Tijuana After Midnight”, “Dance Hall Racket” is the kind of backyard production that might have resulted when Mickey and Judy decided to “put on a show”, if their intention was imitate the tried and true gangster film by divesting themselves of every healthy creative instinct, all the while emphasizing the nickel and dime production values (and having change left over) that would make any PRC production look like a Cecil B. DeMille opus by comparison.
Low level racketeer Umberto Scalli (Timothy Farrell) runs a run down dance hall while running a diamond smuggling operation in his office. His hot-tempered flunky Vincent (Lenny Bruce) kills one of his contacts- a off-duty sailor -in the crowded hall, but as in keeping with the traditions of bad movie convenience, no one notices, and Vinnie and an associate easily dispose of the body. Enter the authorities, who send an undercover man to solve the mystery, but whose genuine function only seems to be to contain the story within the confines of the film’s few crummy sets. Oddly, none of this will have any relevance to the outcome of the movie.
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