Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Vintage Trailer(s) of the Week


My Dad is a bit of an Elvis obsessive. He's got all those massive box sets with demo versions of obscure late 60s album tracks and live versions where Elvis corpses and changes the lyrics to amuse himself. When I was a kid, before cds existed, a fair portion of his massive record collection was made up of Elvis LPs. I grew up listening to Elvis. Its only later in life that you realise that not everyone of your generation has seen more or less every single movie Elvis ever made, and that having done so is not necessarily an advantage.

I loved Elvis movies when I was a kid. The formula was great - put Elvis in a semi-exotic location (Hawaii, Germany, Las Vegas), have him surrounded by bikini-clad girls, and be specifically torn between a few of them, sing a few songs ("Top Secret!" parodies those scenes just perfectly) and have at least one fist-fight. Give it a happy ending (another song) and shoot it all in glorious technicolour. It means that many of the movies are interchangeable, but that you always know what to expect. I loved what to expect as a kid.

But some of his movies are different. The early ones, when he still took movies seriously, show that he could have been a talented actor. He was incredibly charismatic and good-looking, and while most of his later stuff merely demands that he be relaxed and charming, in a handful of early films he was stretched. "King Creole" (1958) is my favourite of his films, a dark, savage crime melodrama, directed by Michael Curtiz and featuring a terrific Walter Matthau as the bad guy. Its also got an ace soundtrack:

He made a couple of tough, relatively gritty Westerns early on, too, but after his stint in the army, he just pumped out movies, one or two a year, their mediocre soundtracks sufficing as his record releases, his star dimming slightly. By the late 60s, when he was rejuvenated by the Comeback Special on TV, he obviously wanted to change the way movie audiences saw him, leading to "Charro!", a bizarre spaghetti Western in 1969, featuring Elvis with Eastwood stubble and quiet truculence:

The hilariously awful "Kissin Cousins" is more representative of his work from the early 60s:

In 1979 John Carpenter made a tv movie biopic, called "Elvis" starring Kurt Russell (who had co-starred with Presley as a child in "It Happened at the Worlds Fair" (1963)) in the title role. It may well be Russell's best ever performance, and is a great Elvis impression which goes beyond the usual "Thankyouverymuch" cliches and suggests a real pain and hollowness at the characters heart. Carpenter is obviously a big Elvis fan, but his movie is scrupulously balanced:

However, its not as funny as Jack White doing karate from "Walk Hard: (2007):

And, if you've made it this far, a reminder that as a rock Star, the man was fantastic; just listen to that voice and witness the style with which that black leather is worn:

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Blogger jamesinbrasil said...

I am a big fan of the song Bossanova Baby from one of those cheese movies - which one was it?

2:48 pm  
Blogger David N said...

Fun In Acupulco. I think he plays a cliff-diver in that one. Obviously.

11:22 pm  
Blogger jamesinbrasil said...

That's the one. I believe it also includes the classic 'There's no room to rhumba in a sport's car."

12:52 am  
Blogger Ross said...

I don't think I've ever seen an Elvis picture from start to finish, but Charro looks a likely candidate. The trailer is awful though, all over the place and gives you no idea what's going on. He seems a bit too pretty for the stubble but I suppose that's a call best made after seeing the film.

8:31 pm  

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