Wonderful time capsule of a transitional period
Andre M. | Mt. Pleasant, SC United States | 05/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is essentially a collection of music, dance, and comedy acts from Harlem's Apollo Theater strung together from a variety television series in 1954-55.
This is of special interest to fans of oldschool R&B and Rock anmd Roll, as it represents the transitional period between R&B and Rock and Roll. Of the former genre, we have Amos Milburn singing the underground classic "Bad Bad Whiskey Made me Lose My Happy Home" and Big Joe Turner's better known "Shake Rattle & Roll." Some nice numbers are included from jazz songbirds Sarah Vaughn, Ruth Brown, and Dinah Washington. The wave of things to come with Rock and Roll is shown with early doo-wop groups the Clovers and the Larks, who are both as entertaining to see as they are to listen.
Apollo legend Leonard Reed does some nice comedy turns with MC Willie Bryant and dancers Coles and Atkins. Freddie and Flo, a husband and wife team who dealt with mildly (by todays' standards) suggestive banter do some skits that would not make it to mainstream television at the time. The past and the future of African-American comedy is beautifully shown when a young Nipsey Russell teams with an old Mantan Moreland for a rendition of the latter's classic "Indefinite Talk" routine. Sort of a representation of the changing of the guard.
Duke Ellington does a nice few songs with his band, but one of the best numbers of the film involves Nat King Cole accompanied only by a bongo player (Jack Costanza) as Cole beautifully and softly sings "Calypso Blues." Sheer bliss.
As films of black performers doing their thing at that time were rare due to the racial politics of the time, plus considering that this is a happy case of the historical value equalling the entertainment value, I would strongly suggest that you snap it up."