' Cinema Romantico: My Christmas List: Top 5 Elvis Presley Movie Moments

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Christmas List: Top 5 Elvis Presley Movie Moments

I adore Elvis movies. Have you ever seen one? I've seen a lot of them, whether by renting them or by tuning in once a year (usually around Elvis's birthday) when AMC runs Elvis movie marathons. Many of them are comedic masterpieces though, of course, most of the time they weren't supposed to be comedies. Is that harsh? Kinda', probably. Elvis was forced into a lot of the movies he made by Colonel Tom Parker and some of the time, particularly in the later movies, the King's disinterested expressions and mannerisms on camera gave away the fact he knew the movies were of poor quality. His earliest movies are commonly considered to be better and, say, "Jailhouse Rock" is quite good when compared to, say, "Paradise: Hawaiian Style" but, let's be completely honest, none of them, not even the supposed better ones, are cinematic landmarks. Yet, that's exactly why I so often am able to find joy in watching them. In fact, I once wrote a screenplay in which a man convinced Elvis is still alive strikes out on a search to find him and, sure enough, winds up in the midst of his very own Elvis movie (singing and everything)! I never quite got that one right but it was fun to try.

In any event, of all the Elvis movies I've seen these are the five moments that always bring a smile to my face.

1. In "Viva Las Vegas" Elvis is race car driver/singer Lucky Jackson (no, I didn't make that up). Lucky meets and instantly becomes smitten with beguiling Rusty Martin (Ann Margaret) and romances her. His initial (and finest) romance attempt occurs when he spies her poolside giving swimming lessons, grabs a friend's guitar that is ever so conveniently sitting in the open on a chair and dashes off to serenade her, though instead the two end up in a duet - "The Lady Loves Me". (Best Lines - Him: "Tonight she'll be holding me in her arms." Her: "I'd rather be holding hydrogen bombs.") As they saunter around the outdoor pool singing he follows her up onto a diving board where she "cleverly" forces him to back up all the way to the edge of the diving board (No, Elvis! Don't you see what's coming?!), still singing and strumming guitar, mind you, and pushes him off and into the water.

Ah, they just don't make 'em like this anymore. (Watch it here.)

2. In "King Creole" Elvis plays janitor/singer Danny Fisher. But the most memorable moment here does not belong to the King. In fact, it belongs to Walter Mattheau - yes, that Walter Mattheau, the one who won an Oscar. In this Mattheau plays gang boss Maxie Fields, Elvis's nemesis. And in one particularly dreadful moment of pure evil he tells off Elvis by declaring (and I'm not making a word of this up): "Maybe I'll fill your room with stinkbombs every night." (Note: This is often considered the "best" Elvis movie and while it's certainly better than most of his films, particularly the later ones, I think this passage shows it's still really not all that great.)

3. In "Fun in Acapulco" Elvis plays lifeguard/singer Mike Windgren. Once he was a trapeze artist in the circus, you see, but a terrible accident has left him with a paralyzing fear of heights. As expected, it comes to pass that Mike was execute a cliff dive into the ocean. He stands atop the cliff, his hair perfectly coiffed, the entire hotel watching from afar, and jumps. He survives, of course, and emerges from the water after a 136 foot dive......his hair still perfectly coiffed.

4. In "Roustabout" Elvis plays roustabout/singer Charlie Rogers. After a brush with the law he hits the road only to wind up working in a circus while simultaneously falling in love with a young carnival worker. But at one point Charlie happens upon a few troublemakers at a local bar looking to pick a fight. Charlie readies himself in a fighting stance to take down them on and thunders, "Come on!" The troublemaker, though, takes note of Elvis's stance and frightfully declares, "No way! That's karate!" and flees the scene.

5. In "Double Trouble" Elvis plays singer (just a singer - this was a later role and by now they weren't even trying to gussy up his parts) Guy Lambert who goes on tour in Europe and finds himself being pursued by two women and a pair of bumbling (is there any other kind?) jewel thieves, all for reasons too pointless to explain.

There comes a moment when Elvis is dangling from a window ledge by his fingertips, a river far below. But Elvis can't hold on, lets go and crashes into the....ground? Wait, yes! That's the ground! I can't - wait! Now he's crashing into the water!

Confused? Let me explain. In one of the poorest examples of editing I've ever witnessed, the film actually fails to cut in time to mask the stunt. You most literally see Elvis fall from the window safely to the ground disguised as water below and then a split-second later the movie cuts to the "special effect" and you see him fall into the water. How in the world this escaped the people who screened the film prior to its release (if, in fact, they did screen it before its release) or, you know, the editor, I don't know. But it did. Rent it some time, if you don't believe me, and you will be thankful most editors aren't drunk when doing their jobs.

1 comment:

The Fab Miss B said...

Despite my deep and abiding love for The King- I've never seen any of his films. Now I have a good place to start. Merci! P.S- I just finished his biography- Last Train to Memphis- and loved it. It was really detailed and seemed to get at the real man behind the ELVIS image.