Shorty (Dick Miller) is a little guy with a big attitude. One night in New York, he's at a nightclub watching the Platters perform when he becomes irritated by the loudmouthed, inebriated antics of one of the patrons (Bruno VeSota) and lets him know in no uncertain terms. The drunk calls over the head waiter and demands that Shorty is thrown out, and after a scuffle with one of the bouncers, he's forcibly ejected. Looking for somewhere else to get a drink, Shorty ends up at the dingy Cloud Nine bar, which caters to a lower class of patron. What he doesn't know is that he will soon be standing up to gangsters...
Written by Charles B. Griffith, this B-movie represents producer/director Roger Corman at his most basic, with its flimsy story to hang a bit of rock 'n' roll music around to appeal to the kids. At the opening, the nightclub we see looks pretty classy, with the Platters professionally crooning their way through a couple of numbers, but this has nothing to do with the rest of the film, and they briskly disappear from the action after taking a bow and saying they'll be back later. The real story begins when we get to the Cloud Nine, and another, more rocking band, The Blockbusters, are playing to an audience of two people, a reporter and the bartender, Al.
When I say the real story begins, I mean the real stories, because everyone who walks into that bar has their tale to tell. The next people to walk in are promoter Sir Bop (Mel Welles), a portly, hip-talking would-be manager and his client, Julie (Abby Dalton), who he plans to make a singing sensation. She joins the Blockbusters onstage for a demonstration, but her nerves get the better of her and her singing is flat. It perhaps indicates how anxious Corman was to pad out this already brief film (it's just over an hour long) that Julie performs badly not once, but twice, both times to the embarrassment of the patrons.
Only Shorty has the guts to say what everyone is thinking, which doesn't improve Julie's confidence any. The other drinkers in the bar get their own little dramas to act out too - this film would make a decent play, seeing as how it sticks to one location; there's the tough guy and his long suffering girlfriend who get into an argument with the cranky Shorty (a funny moment sees her flicking cigarette ash into the tough guy's beer), and the local head of a protection racket who makes sure that Al (wiping the inside of glasses in time-honoured bartender tradition) has no trouble - a fat lot of good he turns out to be.
In addition, there's a boxer, his manager and the boxer's fretful wife who doesn't want him to go back into the ring, therefore no lack of guys who can supposedly take care of themselves, so it's surprising when two gun-wielding hold-up men (Russell Johnson and Jonathan Haze) make their presence felt, only for the bar patrons to cower in fear after they shoot a witness to their crime. All except Shorty, who alone stands up to them, even after they force Julie to sing (she does so well at gunpoint) to make the place sound as if nothing suspicious is going on after a policeman noses around. It's great to see Miller play the hero for a change, and he sorts everyone out like the mysterious stranger who rode into town in a Western - or maybe he was tired of being pushed around. Rock All Night shows Corman and his band of players at their most superficial while still managing to entertain.