The year is 1967 and who are The Cool Ones?
They’re the kids, of course! They’re the wild and crazy kids who go to Palm Beach and who listen to rock music and who wear open vests and short skirts and who are all doing the latest dance! You may see that this movie was made in 1967 and you might assume that this is going to be a film about hippies, like Psych-Out. But no, these kids aren’t hippies. Instead, they’re the 1967 equivalent of the clean-cut teens who used to appear in beach party movies and 1950s rock and roll films.
The kids are all dancing the Tantrum! What’s the Tantrum? It’s a dance that was created by accident. Hallie Rogers (Debbie Watson) was a dancer on an American Bandstand-style show but, when she realized that the show’s producers lied to her about eventually allowing her to sing on the show, she threw a fit. She grabbed the microphone of special musical guest Glen Campbell and attempted to turn his performance into a duet. When security showed up to drag her off the set, she struggled with them. Those watching the show assumed that Hallie had just created a new dance called The Tantrum.
After getting fired from the show, Hallie goes to a club, where she witnesses a performance by a former teen idol named Cliff Donner (Gil Peterson). After Hallie fights off an obnoxious wannabe beatnik who refuses to accept that she doesn’t want to dance with him (Go, Hallie!), Cliff immediately recognizes her as the creator of the Tantrum. Hallie wants to be a star. Cliff once was a star. Maybe they can work together!
Fortunately, the owner of club, Herbert Krum (Robert Coote), just happens to be the older brother of Tony Krum (Roddy McDowall), a notoriously egocentric rock promoter. How egocentric is Tony? Well, he’s played by Roddy McDowall and, even by the standards of a typical Roddy McDowall character, Tony is eccentric. Tony demands that Herbert prove that they’re actually brothers. He cries when he discovers that his psychiatrist is pregnant. He’s given too sudden moods swing and sudden bursts of inspiration, the majority of which involve Tony holding up his finger and shouting, “Ah ha!” Tony has a plan. He can make Cliff and Hallie into superstars by convincing the world that they’re in love with each other! He can even get them their own TV show!
However …. what if Cliff and Hallie actually are in love? Unfortunately, Cliff has some paranoia issues of his own and he’s convinced that Hallie is only pretending to love him so that she can become a star. Will Cliff and Hallie finally end up together and free from the manipulative hand of Tony Krum?
As you may be able to guess just from reading the plot description, The Cool Ones is an extremely silly film. The plot makes little sense and Tony Krum is such an over-the-top character that it becomes impossible to take anything involving him seriously. That said, The Cool Ones is also an incredibly fun movie and it’s obvious that Roddy McDowall had so much fun playing Tony that it’s impossible not to enjoy watching him dig into the role. The Cool Ones is a big, flamboyant, and colorful film, the type of movie that represents less what the 60s were and more what we wish they were. Admittedly, Gil Peterson is a bit of stiff in the role of the self-righteous Cliff but Roddy McDowall and Debbie Watson bring so much energy to the film that it doesn’t matter that Cliff doesn’t seem like he would be a cool one is real life. The music is airy and fun, the dance scenes are entertaining and energetic, and the whole film is just like a pop art time capsule. The Cool Ones is a cool way to spend 90 minutes.