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Dance Hall Racket (1953)

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A gangster who operates a sleazy dance hall uses a sadistic bodyguard to keep his girls afraid and his customers in line.



(original story), (screenplay)
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Title: Dance Hall Racket (1953)

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Cast overview:
Timothy Farrell ...
Lenny Bruce ...
Bernie Jones ...
Punky, the Swedish Sailor
Honey Bruce Friedman ...
Rose (as Honey Harlow)
Sally Marr ...
Bunny Parker ...
Dancehall Girl
Joie Abrams ...
Dancehall Girl
Ronald Lee
Bill King
Mary Holiday ...
Dancehall Girl
Frankie Mann ...
Dancehall Girl
Harry Keaton
Joe Piro ...


A merchant marine seaman is found murdered and suspicion falls upon the operator of a dime-a-dance honky tonk joint. A federal undercover agent is planted in the place to gather evidence, and he soon learns that the dive is only a cover-up for diamond-smuggling activities, and that one of the operation's henchmen, who is handy with a switch-blade knife, is the killer. Before they can be arrested, the henchman kills his boss and is shot while trying to escape. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Fast and Furious Action Suspense Drama and the Exploitation of Sex... See more »





Release Date:

20 February 1953 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


Vincent: Big deal! I killed a guy, it just makes me a criminal.
See more »


Featured in Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Phil Tucker does Robert Altman.
2 October 2002 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

This endearing sleaze classic is another "film a clef" from the Grade Z mastermind of ROBOT MONSTER, BROADWAY JUNGLE and CAPE CANAVERAL MONSTERS. This pulpy exposé film is best known for the casting of the notorious Lenny Bruce and his wife Honey Harlowe, but actually they're secondary characters in this "dance hall". Lenny plays the henchman of the gangster-owner, slapping around anyone who tries to double-cross this dubious entrepreneur.

All things "Tucker-ian" are in abundance here: non-existent art direction (check out when customers want "to go to Hawaii", which basically means having some crummy palm tree put in front of their table while a dance hall girl smooches with them; that's the best set decoration in the entire film); badly overacted performances which go to the realm of baroquely cartoonish; impossibly dreary single-take medium-long shots in which you can view all the non-decor and the non-actors; and spare, washed-out cinematography only rivalled by Dreyer.

But also, DANCE HALL RACKET is perhaps Phil Tucker's most structurally challenging film. Not bad for a movie taking place entirely in a shabby set with three tables, a cramped generic office and a back alley (these limited locations also compliment the stagnant lives of their inhabitants). This "complex meta-narrative" operates on several planes at once. The time-old tradition of having a wraparound story is in effect here, as one detective explains to another that "shocking story" of all the crime and corruption in this dance hall, where we view scenes the detectives couldn't possibly have known, much less been a part of. Despite the known presences of Bruce, Honey, and everyone's favourite world-weary bad guy Timothy Farrell, there are really no major characters. Even the eccentric customers "wanting to go to Hawaii" take equal precedence. There is really no plot in this impressionistic study, despite the faint whispers of racketeering. I've only ever seen this movie on the video offered by Something Weird, and that print more than a few times has some small scenes repeated. Evidently, the reels were mixed up and someone stopped it, put the right one on and kept going. But leaving these moments in adds another bizarre touch to the screwy narrative. It's as confounding as anything by Alain Resnais.

By the same token, the latter incident is a classic example of how Tucker's filmography is in disrepair. Isn't it sadly ironic that the most well-preserved film in his legacy is ROBOT MONSTER... the film over which he threatened to commit suicide? Otherwise, the only remnants I've ever seen of Tucker's work come from some tattered composite prints. Phil Tucker is perhaps the last undiscovered country of Grade Z filmmaking. I mean, even Andy Milligan had a book written about him! Little exists in print about Mr. Tucker, and perhaps there are a few more films signed by him, that are collecting dust somewhere that need to be found. Because of his poverty row films, and the enigma surrounding their creator, his legacy remains a fascinating one.

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