by Bruce Sylvester
Introduced in 1941, soundies were musical performances filmed for the short-lived phenomenon of video jukeboxes. “Half-Past Jump Time!” ebulliently presents 39 jump and jive swing-era soundies, including big names (Duke Ellington, Count Basie), less-remembered stars of their day (Helen Humes, Meade Lux Lewis) and worthy but largely forgotten acts.
Most are black. Louis Jordan’s hilarious “Old Man Mose” spoofs a fundamentalist church service. Cab Calloway’s “Calloway Boogie” proves there was rock in the ’40s. Dorothy Dandridge’s songs, in particular, exude a sweet innocence, and numerous tracks’ dancers are impressive.
“Jump Time’s” black-and-white footage is quite clear. Despite occasional fuzziness, the audio is much better than you might reasonably expect. For a bonus, a 17-minute Gene Krupa musical playlet concludes the nicely annotated two-hour DVD.