Lost And Found 15: Dance ‘Til Dawn
Here we go again. I hope all you lost and founders are doing well and recovering from the dark events of the last chapter with Rolling Thunder. That’s why this week it was decided to lighten things up a little. This chapter we will take a totally different approach and discuss ‘the TV movie’ with a great forgotten high school Saturday afternoon classic. Ladies and gentlemen here is…Dance ‘Til Dawn.
Film: Dance ‘Til Dawn
Cast: Chris Young, Alyssa Milano, Christina Applegate, Kelsey Grammer and Matthew Perry
Director: Paul Schneider
Writers: Andrew Guerdat and Steve Kreinberg
The eighties almost seems like one long nostalgic, party filled dream especially when you consider the amount of high-school comedies that were being made at the time. Films started to show that the younger generation were changing rapidly, had different prospects and more a more fun driven outlook on life…it was time to party like there was no tomorrow basically. Not everything was portrayed as a party though. Many of these films dealt with peer-pressure, identity crisis, the distant relationships between parents and their teenage children and class issues dividing teenagers like never before. Teenagers were flocking to see how they were being represented in the films, the most popular genre being comedy which was led by the late John Hughes with classics such as The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As expected so many of these types of films were being churned out at such a rapid pace, most of them faded without a trace overshadowed by the bigger blockbusters with a star studded cast. One of the obscure ones to resurface, due to popular cable re-runs in the US, was Dance ‘Til Dawn.
The day of the senior prom at Herbert Hoover High School has arrived. While most students are making sure that it is a night that they will never forget and will be talked about for years to come, others are struggling to go along with the fun. The prom is being put together by Patrice Johnson (Christina Applegate) and her brainless boyfriend Roger (Matthew Perry…yes that’s right Chandler Bing from Friends people). Meanwhile, popular girl Shelley Sheridan (Alyssa Milano) ends up with Dan (Chris Young), the school geek, after dumping her boyfriend Kevin (Brian Bloom) who ends up taking the unpopular Angela (Tracey Gold) to the prom even though Kevin has an ulterior motive. As the parents become concerned about what mischief their kids are causing and the students of Hoover High embark on an adventurous prom night while hiding secrets that would ruin their cool reputation, all will be revealed and resolved by the end of the night no matter what it takes. You can watch the whole film here
Dance ‘Til Dawn is surprisingly fun and ticks all the boxes of a classic eighties high-school teen movie. All the familiar codes and conventions of a teen film can thankfully be found here including the nerd, the popular/pretty girl, the snobby girl, the dumb jock, and the overprotective parents among many others. Although it has the slightly amateur feel of a TV movie at the start, that soon wears off and one starts to think that if it got a theatrical release it would have been mentioned among the other great eighties teen movies. The Dance ‘Til Dawn cast is mainly a lesser known, Television version of the Brat Pack, and one of the fun elements of the film is recognising some familiar faces that were big at the time or went on to have successful careers and are even spotted in shows and films today. Just look at some of the names mentioned in the above description. Everybody from Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), to Vanessa from the Cosby Show (Tempestt Bledsoe), Pheobe from Charmed (Alyssa Milano) and even the dumbfounded secretary Grace from Ferris Buller’s Day Off (Edie McClurg) can all be spotted here. Even Alan Thicke, Robin Thicke's dad, pops up as Chris Young's smooth but oblivious father.
The audience get to follow countless characters at times it feels as if the film is too ambitious and will not be able to keep up with itself. However, due to the solid direction of Schneider and experienced writing skills of Guerdat and Kreinberg everybody is a fully developed character no matter how limited their screen time is. Dance ‘Til Dawn almost plays out like some sort of cheesy, low-key high-school teen version of Robert Altman’s ensemble masterpiece Short Cuts. Well not really but you get the point. Whether the viewer is spending time with a fresh faced Chandler Bing and his obnoxious girlfriend Patrice Johnson, (who most of you know as Kelly Bundy from Married with Children or Veronica Corningstone from Anchorman), or follow Grammer and McClurg hilariously stalking their own daughter Angela Krull on her date the pacing never slows down or feels dull. Each character is giving enough attention for you to leave them and then come back at a time where they do not overstay their welcome.
Apart from the nostalgic script and great chemistry between the cast there are some typical laughs to be had at the expense of the film being a product of the eighties, mainly the music. With Dance ‘Til Dawn being a TV movie, it was probably too expensive for the makers to pay for the rights of certain popular songs at the time. In order to avoid an extremely high budget most of the music is made up of covers of well known songs, some of which are played by the prom’s DJs, a guy and a girl called Acrobat. The film actually dedicates some awkward screen time to them dancing at the prom and it delivers some of the best unintentional laughs of the film as the duo just seem to not really know what’s going on but are just there to drink, have fun and dance.
So in conclusion Dance ‘Til Dawn deserves to go in the found category due to a good mixture of so bad its good elements and so fun that its fun aspects. It’s ultimately an extended episode of Saved by the Bell and California Dreams or most American high-school sitcoms from the time. Check out this totally awesome overlooked treat, it’s so rad!