Elvis Movies Still Sing; Four Musicals Shake Out On DVD

By John Beifuss (Tennessean.com)Jan 22, 2003
Elvis Movies Still Sing; Four Musicals Shake Out On DVD
In the 1960s, Elvis movies were as dependable as Christmas, and much more frequent. In fact, 27 Presley features were released to theaters from 1960 to 1969. Many of these were fluffy musical diversions produced for Paramount by Hal Wallis, who wrapped his packages in pretty paper but didn't spend a lot of time shopping for good scripts. These films adhered so slavishly to formula that ''the Elvis movie'' became its own genre, aimed strictly at fans. In recognition of the fact that Jan. 8 marked what would have been Elvis' 68th birthday, Paramount Home Entertainment has just released four Elvis musicals on DVD for the first time. Here's a look at them, and at some of the special qualities that define the Elvis Movie: Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) Elvis is: Ross Carpenter, playboy tuna fisherman and nightclub singer who dreams of owning his own sailboat. Or, as one girl defines him: ''You're Sir Galahad, Don Juan and Casanova rolled into one!'' Exotic locale: The coves, marinas and smoky bars of Hawaii. Babes hunting Elvis: Stella Stevens as Robin Gantner, sultry resident torch singer at The Pirate's Den; and Laurel Goodwin as Laurel Dodge, cute, wholesome rich girl. Romantic rival: Mr. Johnson (Jeremy Slate), a boozy skirt-chaser. Guest star: Benson Fong — ''No. 3 Son'' in the old Charlie Chan mysteries — as Kin Yung, Chinese fisherman of Paradise Cove. Showoff moment: Hard-punching Elvis saves Laurel from a fate worse than death when she's trapped on a sailboat with grabby Mr. Johnson. Embarrassing ethnic mo-ment: Kin Yung chafes at being asked by his wife to do the dishes: ''Honorable ancestors do not approve of men in kitchen!'' Responds wife: ''Use honorable detergent.'' Elvis pickup line: ''Either you marry me or live with me in sin.'' Hit song: Return to Sender. Fun in Acapulco (1963) Elvis is: ''Crazy gringo'' Mike Windgren, a former trapeze artist with a fear of heights who works as a lifeguard, charter boat skipper and hotel lounge singer. Exotic locale: The swanky nightclubs, resort hotels, swimming pools and beaches of Acapulco, plus side trips through the picturesque poor parts of town. Babes hunting Elvis: Ursula Andress — first seen emerging from the water in a bikini, as in Dr. No — as hotel social director Marguerita Dauphin, a refugee East European duchess fleeing communism; and Elsa Cardenas as Dolores Gomez, the famous ''lady bullfighter.'' Romantic rival: Alejandro Rey as Moreno, Mexico's diving champion (or ''saltwater Tarzan,'' according to Elvis). Guest star: Oscar-winning best actor Paul Lukas (for Watch on the Rhine, 1943) as Ursula's father. Showoff moment: Elvis (or his stunt double) conquers his phobia by impulsively diving off La Perla, a rocky 136-foot cliff. Embarrassing ethnic mo-ment: Elvis expresses amazement over this wonderful new Mexican drink known as the ''margarita.'' Elvis pickup line: To the bullfighter: ''Senorita, do you dance for un peso?'' Hit song: The incredible Bossa Nova Baby. Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) Elvis is: Playboy Rick Richards, fired airline pilot and irresponsible charter helicopter operator. Exotic locale: ''Hawaii, U.S.A./ the land of enchanted dreams.'' Babes hunting Elvis: Britain's Suzanna Leigh as Judy Hudson, prop plane pilot and Girl Friday secretary; and Marianna Hill as island girl Lani Kaimana, who sings the suggestive Scratch My Back. Romantic rival: None, but Elvis's business partner (James Shigeta) interferes with the King's sex life by making Judy wear a wedding ring so Elvis won't hit on the new secretary. Guest star: Comic actor Grady Sutton, veteran of such W.C. Fields classics as The Bank Dick and Man on the Flying Trapeze, as a nervous alligator-shoe salesman. Showoff moment: Elvis pushes slab of raw meat into face of belligerent drunk at Colonel's Plantation Steakhouse while quipping: ''Here's your steak — rare!'' Embarrassing ethnic mo-ment: ''My ancestors had the right idea,'' Lani's father says. ''If a young man didn't want to marry your daughter, you dipped him in coconut butter and threw him into a volcano.'' Elvis pickup line: To Suzanna Leigh: ''We met before . . . on a surfboard, in Waikiki. You were wiped out.'' Hit song: None, not even A Dog's Life, in which Elvis reveals he'd like to be reincarnated as a canine. Easy Come, Easy Go (1967) Elvis is: Lt. Ted Jackson, Navy frogman turned underwater treasure hunter. Exotic locale: The docks, Navy yards and ''beat'' hangouts of the San Pedro, Calif., area. Babes hunting Elvis: Dodie Marshall as Jo Symington, barefoot, free-thinking go-go dancer and arts advocate; and Pat Priest (Marilyn on The Munsters) as Dina Bishop, rich, yacht-piloting thrill-seeker. Romantic rival: Gil Carey (Skip Ward), blond surfer type. Cute kids: The crazy ''kids'' — poets, painters and protesters, who hang out at the local artists' colony, which is decorated in ''early far-out.'' Guest star: Elsa Lanchester, The Bride of Frankenstein herself, as Madame Neherina, kooky yoga instructor. Showoff moment: Elvis disarms an underwater mine. Embarrassing ethnic mo-ment: None, but how about an embarrassing beatnik moment, as Jo takes Elvis to his first art ''Happening,'' at which a couple smooching atop a Volkswagen are drenched in spaghetti dumped from an overhead tub. Smirks art critic Elvis: ''Looks more like a smashup in an Italian restaurant.'' Elvis pickup line: ''OK, so I'm an unprincipled, get-rich-quick creep. Aside from that, I'm not all bad.'' Hit song: None, although You Gotta Stop has a pretty kicky beat.
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