Elvis Blu-ray Collection (Blu-ray)
“There are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are.”
That quote from a deleted scene in PULP FICTION is one of my favorites and with that quote in mind, I’m definitely a “The Beatles” person. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Elvis, because even though he’s become somewhat of a punch line over the last decade or so, it’s impossible to listen to some of his best songs and not have them stuck in your head. But I know a lot of fans out there aren’t familiar at all with his films and even though the films aren’t great by any means, they are a part of American history. I look at Elvis’s films as music videos before there were music videos. A movie like JAILHOUSE ROCK is riddled with problems, but the purpose was to sell records and I can imagine it sold a ton of them.
Speaking of JAILHOUSE ROCK, the plot is pretty basic; a man gets into a bar fight and accidentally kills his opponent, so he gets sent to the slammer. While there, his cell mate teaches him to play the guitar and pretty soon, he’s on the outside making records and living the high life. The frustrating thing about this film is that it’s set up to be an epic coming of age tale about a musician struggling with his fame. However, it felt like they had to meet a certain runtime and so they cut out half the film and edited around the music numbers. So what’s left is a hodgepodge of a film that doesn’t really go anywhere. With that said, I dare you to watch this film and not listen to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ at least a dozen times the next day.
But the movie is famous for the big ‘Jailhouse Rock’ dance number and it doesn’t disappoint. Like I said, this would have made a great music video back in the day, it’s just a shame it came so far into the movie.
VIVA LAS VEGAS
The second film is in color, but it doesn’t do much better than the first. While JAILHOUSE ROCK tried to add a story around the music, VIVA LAS VEGAS didn’t even try. In the filmmaker’s defense, they had a lot more musical numbers and they also had the talented Ann-Margret doing her own musical numbers as well. In this one, Elvis is a racecar driver trying to win enough money in Vegas to buy a new engine for his racecar. Like Jailhouse, this one came to an abrupt end and didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. But again, like Jailhouse, it’s impossible to watch this film and not be singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ the next day.
But the most interesting thing about this film is that it’s the only Elvis film I can think of where he has a co-star that’s probably more talented than he is. I think the case could be made that this is actually Ann-Margret’s film, which might explain why Elvis never again had another comparable female co-star.
ELVIS ON TOUR
The last film in this set is just a concert film of sorts, featuring an older, heavier Elvis on his 15 city tour. It’s a little sad to watch this after watching the first two movies because Elvis has really let himself go at this point. My biggest complaint on the film is that we don’t get any of his biggest and best songs and instead get some of the more common covers. I would have liked to see a performance of my favorite Elvis song “Suspicious Minds”, but had to settle for “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (see the video below).
But the best part about this concert film is seeing how absolutely nutty his fans were and how iconic of a person he really was. Elvis would actually stop in the middle of his songs to lean down and kiss one of his adoring female fans. It’s amazing that one man attracted so much love and adoration and the funny thing is; he didn’t write even one of his own songs.
Video: The amazing video transfers of all three films really blew me away. These aren’t classic, Oscar winning films, so Warner Brothers should be commended for taking such care in restoring these fan favorites. Even the most die-hard videophiles will be amazed at how crystal clear these films look.
Audio: The sound was also incredible and Elvis has never sounded so clear.
Commentary with Steve Pond: Steve Pond is the author of ‘Elvis in Hollywood’, which, as you might have guessed, is an extensive look at Elvis’s movie career. He does a commentary to JAILHOUSE ROCK and VIVA LAS VEGAS and gives a very interesting look at the films, which actually made me think more highly of them than when I watched them. I liked this commentary best when he dove into some of the behind the scenes drama between Elvis and his co-stars, which he tended to touch on, but not dwell on.
The Scene That Stole Jailhouse Rock and Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas (20:00): These are two 20 minute featurettes that quickly go over the famous dance scene in Jailhouse and Elvis’s Vegas legacy in Viva. Both are average, but I enjoyed the Vegas featurette better since I always find the early years of Vegas to be fascinating.