Love Me Tender Blu-ray Review
It struck me as almost ironic that I watched LOVE ME TENDER, Elvis Presley’s first feature film, on the 36th Anniversary of his death. I’m lucky enough (and old enough) to have actually seen Presley in concert (February 14, 1977). What amazed me as a sixteen year old was the way he controlled the audience. He did it in a way I wouldn’t see again until Freddie Mercury took over the crowd at Live Aid and have never seen since. I know he made some pretty laughable films in his career but I can tell you that LOVE ME TENDER isn’t one of them.
April 10, 1865. A group of Confederate soldiers rob a train of its government payroll and head back to their post. Finding it deserted they hit the dusty road where they come across several soldiers on foot. Soon they discover that General Lee has surrendered and the war is over. Since there is no longer a Confederacy to turn the money over to, the group divides it up and head back to their homes. The leader of the group, Vance Reno (Egan) and his two brothers Brett (William Campbell) and Ray (James Drury) make their way back to their homestead and come across a neighbor who stares at them as if he’s seen a ghost. Technically he has, as he informs Vance that he had been reported as dead.
Vance laughs, because he knows he’s not dead and that soon he will be reunited with Cathy (Paget) the woman he loves. Arriving home he is greeted by Cathy as well as his youngest brother, Clint (Presley). Cathy’s husband.
A predictable western story inter-spliced with a few musical numbers, LOVE ME TENDER is best remembered as Elvis Presley’s film debut. And the kid isn’t bad. Presley made a total of 31 films in thirteen years (two of which he was stationed in Germany in the U.S. Army) and grew as an actor. Though, when you’re averaging 3 films a year how much time can you spend working on the craft. The remaining actors, including vets Egan, Paget and Oscar-nominee Mildred Dunnock are well cast. Presley holds his own against them. If there is any problem with the film it is a couple of the musical numbers, which not only come out of nowhere but seem out of place. This is classic Elvis…cradling his guitar and gyrating his hips in a way that should have made the townsfolk label him a demon and burn him at the stake. Something tells me these scenes came to be thanks to the intervention of Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, who is listed in the opening credits as a “Technical Adviser,” which begs the question: of what? I doubt they learned about the Civil War in the Netherlands (where Parker was from). But I digress here. In a way LOVE ME TENDER is a piece of history, introducing one of the most popular entertainers of all time to an audience that may have never had a chance to see him otherwise. And that is always a good thing.
LOVE ME TENDER BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the black and white transfer is sharp and crisp.
Audio: The film is presented in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. Both work well, giving the dialogue and musical numbers a clean and clear sound.
Audio Commentary by Jerry Schilling: A long time friend of Elvis Presley’s, Schilling met the King as a young man when he was recruited to play in a Sunday game of touch football. Presley liked the boy and kept inviting him back to play each week. Years later he ran into Elvis who asked him to become one of his bodyguards, known as the “Memphis Mafia.” Schilling is a great choice for a commentary as he shares many personal notes and observations.
Elvis Hits Hollywood (12:43): A look at how Elvis’ movie career came to be by several Elvis scholars and music critics.
The Colonel and The King (11:03): A look at Colonel Tom Parker, who had the sweetest management deal of all time – 50%. An interesting fact confirms the long rumor that the “Colonel” was actually an undocumented alien, a rumor perpetuated by the fact that, with the exception of two shows in Canada, Elvis never performed in concert outside the United States due to the fact that Parker could not get a passport.
Love Me Tender: The Birth and Boom of the Elvis Hit (8:06): This short looks at the creation of the title song, which was actually based on an old folk song titled “Aura Lee.” The original title of the film was to be “The Reno Brothers” but Colonel Tom persuaded the film company to change it to take advantage of the song, which was number one on the chart the week the film was released.
Love Me Tender: The Soundtrack (7:32): Another look at the wiley ways of the Colonel. When Elvis was hired for the film there were NO musical numbers planned but Parker had a trick or two up his sleeve. Great comments from DJ George Klein and the great Scotty Moore, who was the guitarist in Elvis’ band and is credited for “discovering” him. Moore shares a story where he and the rest of the band (bassist Bill Black and drummer D.J. Fontana) auditioned to be the band in the film and were told they didn’t sound “country enough.” Yikes!
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:21)
Spanish Trailer (2:04)