Hmm, Elvis’ first foray into film... how do we handle this review, serious or silly? Let’s try serious first.
It’s considered commonplace today for musicians to make the transition from song to screen, with studios eager to capitalise on the extra drawing power a popular chart favourite can bring to what has become an extremely expensive endeavour fraught with risks and able to bring down an industry giant if saddled with a string of flops.
Nope, too boring, let’s try silly...
Vance Reno (Richard Egan) is a soldier off fighting in the Civil War. He’s broke, tired, dirty and horny for his girl back home, Cathy (Debra Paget), who he hasn’t seen in four years. He just wants the war to end so he can clean himself up, go home and marry her, have tons of sex, grow corn and make lots of babies.
Suddenly, the war ends.
Vance gets cleaned up and heads on home to his family, ready to have sex, grow corn and have babies. When he gets there he discovers the younger brother he left behind four years ago to take care of his family has turned into Elvis Presley.
He can deal with that.
Then he discovers that Elvis has married his sweetheart Cathy.
He can’t deal with that.
“It’s all a mixup!” cries Elvis. “We were told you died in battle, along with some guys called Private Ryan, Tom Hanks and that guy no-one ever remembers from Heat! I was horny, Cathy was horny, well... you can guess the rest... uh huh! Elvis has LEFT THE STADIUM!”
“But she wuz mah gurl, Elvus! How could y’all?” Vance pleads.
“The corn, Vance! It was the corn! Every damn day, eating corn. Corn for breakfast! Corn for lunch! Corn for tea! Corn soup! Corn coffee! Corn soap! Corn asspaper! I just couldn’t take it no more! Uh huh!” Elvis explains not too convincingly.
“..er..okay, Elvus, I un’erstand. You one sick boy, but you mah brother, and I can fuhgive y’all.”
But Vance couldn’t really. He couldn’t live with the fact that his girl, his sweetheart, the one he wanted to marry, the girl he dreamt about every single moment during the war, the girl he used to think about when he put his hand inside his pants at night and …well, you get the picture..
And Cathy, sweet, beautiful, two timing hussy no good tramp Cathy, she knew the truth as well. She still had feelings for Clint, but that was all over now and she loved Elvis. And besides, Elvis was pulling down 3 million per year in royalties alone, and all Clint had was $2,000 and some stained britches he gone stole from the enemy.
Tensions build, Bizarre Love Triangle plays on the radio (I’m guessing that they would have had a ‘Classic Hits of the ‘80s’ radio station in 1865) and everyone gives each other longing glances in the night. Then the authorities come to reclaim the stolen loot, and the dirty britches too, and family loyalties will be tested, blood will be spilled, hearts will be broken, horses will be ridden.. and I know that my heart will go ooonnnnnnnnnnnnn!
Emotional, powerful stuff that. Good stuff by Elvis for his first go at the acting gig. He really acts the shit out of everything he can get his hands on. I think he’ll go far. Sure, maybe sometimes he’s a little forced, and maybe a bit shouty and whiney, but he’d blow Aston Kutcher out of the water any day. All the real acting is done by Richard Egan (Vance) and Debra Paget (Cathy) who are the driving acting forces in the film. They act here, they act there, they act all over the place. Changing horse shoes, sweeping the hay, boiling the swill, or whatever they do on farms, it’s great believable stuff. But naturally no one remembers them today. Nope, this is Elvis’ movie.
And that’s just the way we want it. Uh huh, baby.
As you know, back before 1996, the whole world was black and white. This made things difficult, like stopping at red lights, knowing which was the sky and which was grass for airplane pilots and telling whether someone was tanned or just covered in chocolate sauce. So, it’ll come as no surprise that this film was filmed in black and white, making it a black and white film, and it is in the popular Cinemascope process (it helps to say this in a deep booming voice so it sounds like “CiiiiiiiiineMAAAAAAAA-SCOPE!”), and the good news it looks really, really, really um... good. Yep, really good, but for one little problem, which I can’t figure out if it's a transfer thing or a problem with the source. A few times through the film I thought the faces looked a little squished up vertically, making them seem a little wider than usual. It happens briefly, and might catch your eye for a moment, but then it rights itself again. Otherwise, the picture is pretty pleasant, a little lacking in detail and definition, but with a good balance struck across the tonal range.