Based on a 25-minute television episode of The Jane Wyman Theatre from 1955 called “Little Guy” and part of a double bill with Drag Strip Girl, this is a Roger Corman attempt at capturing the feeling of rock and roll for the big screen.
In that version, Dane Clark starred. It was one of the first roles he took after a major incident in his life. During a performance of The Shrike at Los Angeles’ Carthay Circle Theater, co-star Isabel Bonner died in his arms, struck down by brain hemorrhage. Born Bernard Zanville, he was never comfortable with his new name.
Here, his role of Shorty is played by Corman regular Dick Miller. Lee Marvin’s role of Jigger is instead essayed by Russell Johnson seven years before he’d become a fixture in living rooms on Gilligan’s Island.
In order to make the story his, Corman gave it to Charles B. Griffith, who added characters like Sir Bop, who was intended for Lord Buckley. There was one instruction. Make it like Rock Around the Clock.
Songwriter and manager Buck Ram offered The Platters, The Blockbusters and Nora Hayes to AIP in return for having the sole rights for the soundtrack. Corman shot the bands on a separate set and then gave the rest of the production five days to finish.
This tale of a bar, a singer (Abby Dalton, who would later work with the aforementioned Wyman on Falcon Crest), some thugs and Dick Miller being Dick Miller is a favorite of Quentin Tarantino. The poster for the double bill of this film is what inspired Robert Rodriguez to make Grindhouse together with the director.