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And the truth is that this is a good film. It's a very atypical film, as were all of Elvis' last few scripted movies in one way or another. Actually, it's a somewhat weird film, and probably the most unusual that Elvis did in terms of being 'out there' a way. It wasn't even released in the UK -- if so, it's a pity, because people who'd finally grown tired of the '60s musicals might have found redeeming value in this one.
Here we have Elvis playing an adult for one of the few times in his career, complete with more coarse language than he'd been given before, a lot more innuendo, and even a bed-sharing with his female co-star. It's an interesting piece and one that was largely missed by many as Elvis' '60s film formula began to lose its successful appeal around the time of "Easy Come, Easy Go," "Clambake," and "Speedway." Elvis himself was probably more interested by this point in projects more dear to him -- the legendary 1968 television special , announced a couple of months before shooting began on this movie, was shot three months after this film. He'd also recently returned to the studio with new vigor to produce some excellent non-soundtrack songs . Still, he does a great job in his role as a news and fashion photographer and manages to squeeze in a great knock-down, drag-out fight with a couple of men (played by bodyguards Red and Sonny West, two-thirds of the 'insiders' who contributed to a 1977 tell-all book that broke the dying king's heart...nice to see them belted around, actually). He even decks Dick Sargent, the 'second Darrin' from "Bewitched." It was probably a toss up whether Elvis enjoyed the fight scene or his wild driving more.
The movie's pacing leaves something to be desired, especially during the second half, and it could definitely have been much better -- kind of a recurring refrain for almost all of Elvis' post-1967 movies. It's not the most exciting story, but Elvis is great -- he looks supercool, he runs through a fair few emotions quite convincingly, and he's generally one groovy cat. Michele Carey is supremely sexy but her character is tremendously annoying. I don't know what kind of mental problems she's supposed to have -- she's portrayed as functionally, if not actually, a multiple-personality type -- but I suppose that some of her ephemeral nature and far-outness reflects the pop culture of the times. As Elvis said, "Nuts. Absolutely nuts." She even feeds Elvis a pill that keeps him asleep for days. Speaking of drug references, whoever designed the "Edge Of Reality" dream sequence must have been on some interesting substances at the time. Far out, man. Anyway, Ms Carey's bodacious Bernice (or whatever she wants to call herself) gets on my nerves, as it does on Elvis' Greg Nolan, and as I suspect it would on just about anybody. The problem is that it's to an extent that's detrimental to the film. Maybe they could have toned her back a bit -- she is good at the role, though, and also provides some comic relief (albeit sometimes exasperating). The chemistry between her and Elvis is spot-on, too.
It's fun to see familiar Los Angeles landmarks, even though I first came to that city almost 20 years after this film was shot. Elvis spent a lot of time in L A and there's just something fundamentally weird, for me, about seeing him driving around the city that a couple of decades or so later I'd be tooling around. Maybe coming to the US from another country helps emphasize that weirdness. By the way, Elvis' father is seen sitting at a table at the LA Music Center. Speaking of family, Albert, the Great Dane, is played by Elvis' dog, Brutus (Elvis had two Great Danes at the time -- the other was Snoopy). I must say that I find this amateur dog's acting very impressive.
Among the human supporting cast are Don Porter, as a Hugh Hefner type, and Rudy Vallee. Both are perfect in their roles and it's cool to see Elvis with Rudy Vallee, the singing idol of an earlier generation. Also of note is the girl who played the mermaid model, Susan Henning, who also showed up on the 1968 TV Special as an 'intimate' of Elvis' "Guitar Man" and who had a torrid real-life romance with him. I think that one or two of the other models in this film showed up on Elvis' TV special, too.
All of Elvis' last few movies, after "Speedway" (filmed during the summer of 1967) featured fewer songs than most of those that had come before. This film has only four songs: the happy "Wonderful World" (somewhat ironic for the time, just after the Tet Offensive and just before Martin Luther King's assassination), the dramatic (and overlooked) "Edge Of Reality," the funky "A Little Less Conversation," and the lounge-singerish "Almost In Love." The impetus for me revisiting this film was that a remixed version of "A Little Less Conversation" has just -- yesterday -- topped the US pop charts, 25 years after Elvis' death. As I write, Elvis has been #1 in the UK for a phenomenal three consecutive weeks (maybe four, by the time this is posted), has spent three weeks on top of the Irish charts, and spent at least a week or two (so far) at #1 in each of Japan, Hong Kong, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Mexico. He's currently Top-5, Top-10, Top-20, and Top-40 in a bunch of other countries around the world. With the success of this single, Elvis broke the tie that had him and the Beatles matched for British #1 hits -- now he has 18 to his credit to their 17. Pretty amazing, and particularly ironic that a fairly obscure '60s movie song was the one that did the trick.
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