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Change of Habit (1969)
A change indeed but forgettable.
1969 was more than a change of habit but a change of direction for Elvis. Years of formula musicals drained all the interest & passion Elvis had early on. Charro is a decent western showing Elvis the actor but Change Of Habit is a religious drama, social commentary & a musical, the combination doesn't work. It's a good serious attempt but the songs get in the way & don't fit.
Elvis never really sinks his teeth & gets deep into his role & he just skims & glides on the surface. Not for a moment is he convincing as a doctor who has to break into a song because he's Elvis Presley.....what a coincidence. It's a movie that should've never been made. For his last 2 films Charro is more fun to watch.
Love Me Tender (1956)
Very good & promising debut for Elvis !
A well done post civil war western drama set in April 10, 1865 with the Reno Bros. Vance (Richard Egan), Brett (William Campbell) & Ray (James Drury) & Mike Gavin ( Neville Brand) etc. members of General Randall's cavalry brigade. They attack & defeat federal soldiers & by impersonating them they rob a payroll master as the train pulls in they receive the money & get away with $12,250.00 dollars they intend to turn over to General Randall but soon learn of a surrender & the disbanded cavalry brigade & that the war is over.
They decide to keep it as they justify it as spoils of war & not knowing the war is over as they were just carrying out orders by General Randall as they feel they have a right to it. After they divide up the money they go their separate ways back home. Vance (Egan) plans to get married to his sweetheart Cathy (Debra Paget) who's been waiting 4 years but is surprised to find she's already married to his brother who stayed home Clint (Elvis Presley). As the family believed that Vance, Ray & Brett were killed in the war.
This creates an awkward situation for the 3 as Vance decides to leave but is approached by Siringo & Major Kincaid played by Robert Middleton & Bruce Bennett as they intend to recover money that was stolen. The 3 brothers are arrested to be identified. Siringo makes a deal with Vance to return the stolen money in return for freedom but the deal is only good if all the money is recovered.
This creates problems with the other comrades as Gavin (Brand) & the others want to keep their share. After they attack the train to help the Reno Bros. escape Vance forces Gavin & the others at gunpoint to give up the money intending to return the money to Siringo ( Middleton). Mike Gavin starts filling Clint's head with idea's that Vance's only intention is to run off with all the money & Cathy whom they were in love before & during the war. This leads to a confrontation with Clint & Cathy as he is filled with rage & jealousy.
This leads to a showdown with Vance & Clint as Vance (Egan) tells Clint (Presley) he was only intending to return the money & has sent Ray to return the money to Siringo & would still clear out but Clint pressured by Gavin (Brand )& along with Gavin they both shoot Vance only wounding him. As Gavin & the others thinking Vance still has the money try to recover it Clint warns them to get away & as shots are fired Gavin kills Clint.
The role of Clint Reno was offered to Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter & Cameron Mitchell before Elvis got it. This is a good debut for Elvis in a solid western drama with a good story & plot & some twists & surprises. Elvis sings 4 songs which are good but unnecessary but at least the music doesn't overshadow & dominate the movie & get in the way of the story. It has an excellent cast & it's one of Elvis' best acting as he does a good job in a supporting role. Worth watching.
Follow Me Quietly (1949)
Not great but different & memorable
I've been on a film noir fix lately & finding these flicks on You Tube such as Private Hell 36, Crime Of Passion, The Killer Is Loose, Please Murder Me, Raw Deal, Black Angel etc. Most of these I enjoyed & I've watched them once but when I stumbled onto this one yesterday I watched it again today as it was a little more than what I expected. Follow Me Quietly is not really a film noir it's a crime drama & police procedural.
It's a bit experimental & unusual which makes it stand out from the others, the late 40's post war period was a time when filmmakers were trying out new gimmicks such as subjective first person camera like Lady In The Lake (1946) & Dark Passage (1947). The police create a dummy of the killer from what evidence & clues they have which is a little more than the usual routine bulletin description of a suspect.
Sometimes a person can be identified & recognized by the back of their head & ears & the size & shape of their body & physique. Since the police have never seen the killers face the dummy is faceless & startling. The scene where the killer replaces the dummy & sits in William Lundigan's office facing the window with it's back to him is clever but pointless & foolish. What if the detective was smart enough to notice it was really him ? Why would the killer take such a risk ? I think it was just a gimmick & for cinematic effect to satisfy the filmmakers & to give the audience a thrill. The silly trick worked & fooled me I thought it was the faceless dummy.
And when the killers face is revealed he's not what you expect, he's very insecure & nervous & seems incapable of doing anything right. How did he manage to kill 8 victims & get away with it ? The ending is similar to White Heat & this film isn't great but it's fun & interesting, different & memorable & worth watching. I've seen it twice & I may watch it again.
Kid Galahad (1937)
Entertaining all star boxing drama !
This is a very entertaining boxing drama with a superb cast, it has a little bit of everything, gangsters, music, romance, heart & soul & even a morality tale. And of course it has plenty of boxing scenes. It stars Edward G. Robinson as fight manager Nick Donati & Bette Davis as Fluff & Humphrey Bogart as the gangster manager Turkey Morgan & Wayne Morris in the title role as Ward Guisenberry alias Kid Galahad. The director was the great Michael Curtiz & the great cast turn this into a very entertaining movie. There's nothing original here but it doesn't matter because the story is excellent & it's very well done & the pacing is just right & the direction is very strong after all the director was Michael Curtiz. All the main actors & even the supporting players are very good & top notch. Robinson & Bogart are always great together & it's always fun to watch them shoot it out like they previously did in "Bullets Or Ballots" 1936 & later in "Key Largo" in 1948. This was such a great success story that Warner Bros. remade it in 1941 as "The Wagons Roll At Night" with Humphrey Bogart in the Robinson role who runs a traveling circus with Kid Galahad as a lion tamer instead of a boxer & it's almost as good. The story surfaced again in 1962 as a rather cheesy lighthearted musical with Elvis in the title role. Unless you're an Elvis fan avoid this one it's not as good as the original & the 1941 remake. Watch this original & the '41 remake if you're a Robinson & Bogart fan & if you like quality movies. You can't go wrong with the old Warner classics.
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
All too typical & formulated stink bomb !
This is a typical formulated Elvis musical, there is nothing special about it that makes it stand out from the rest of the trash. Ridiculous plot & flimsy story & one stupid situation after another. And enough songs to fill an album & some of the songs are better than the movie itself & that's not a good sign. The best part of the movie is the racing scene at the end with several car crashes but that's expected in a car race. But it comes too late, in the meantime there's too many distracting & intrusively silly & annoying scenes that weighs the film down & gets in the way of the plot & story (if there ever was one).
Aside from a few decent movies Elvis made when he was given solid material to work with like Jailhouse Rock, King Creole, Flaming Star, Wild In The Country & Charro most of his movies were garbage. They are tediously boring & are embarrassing & hard to sit through & a waste of time & a disgrace to Elvis' career. Only Elvis fans will enjoy this poop simply because Elvis is in it.
Loving You (1957)
Fun early Elvis persona but not his best as an actor.
This is a semi-autobiographical & documentary like account of the early Elvis phenomenon & what all the excitement was about when Elvis exploded onto the scene in 1956. It's all here with the controversial hip shaking gyrations. This movie is a showcase of the early Elvis persona on stage rather than his acting. He's not given much to work with since he's essentially playing himself so he doesn't need to do much acting. Aside from the fight scene he mainly shines as a singing entertainer.
Out of the 4 pre-army movies this is my least favorite because his acting is not very good & is overshadowed by the music & the other actors. Lizabeth Scott is the one that really carries the film, her character is very strong & commanding & the driving force that moves the story forward. It's not that Elvis can't act there's just no room to act when he's playing himself.
Elvis's acting was much better in his first movie "Love Me Tender" because he was a supporting player to Richard Egan & Debra Paget & he was stepping into a role. Elvis really started to shine as an actor in his next movie "Jailhouse Rock" & of course "King Creole". This early on Elvis' acting career still looked promising.
Flaming Star (1960)
Elvis' greatest acting role in a great western !
This is an extremely well done, well directed & well acted excellent western about racial hatred & prejudice. The explosive conflict between the white settlers & the native American Indians the Kiowa's. Elvis in a very straight dramatic role plays Pacer Burton the half white half red caught in the middle & torn between his loyalty & allegiance to the 2 races. The story is very serious & compelling & filled with tension & action & graphic violence throughout except for the opening which is lighthearted with the birthday party scene for Pacer's brother Clint (Steve Forrest) as Elvis breaks into the only song he sings in the entire movie.
This movie was originally meant for Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra to star in as the brothers played by Elvis & Steve Forrest. It has an excellent cast with John McIntire & Dolores Del Rio as the white father & Indian mother. This is NOT a typical Elvis movie & Elvis really rises to the occasion & really delivers the goods as he shows what a great actor he was when he was given the right vehicle to showcase his dramatic acting ability. Movies like "Flaming Star & "Wild In The Country" gave Elvis the type of roles he wanted.
But unfortunately Elvis' acting side was never really promoted & exploited enough to overshadow his "image" as a singing entertainer. We have The Col Tom Parker to thank for that, he knew how to manage Elvis as a singer but not as an actor. Most of his films were just platforms to sell his image & to get his music across.
It's a toss up between "King Creole" & "Flaming Star" but I think Flaming Star is easily Elvis's best movie because he's not playing a singer & bursting into a song every 10 minutes. In "King Creole", "Jailhouse Rock" & "Loving You" & "Roustabout" he portrays singers & the films are used to sell his music as well as displaying his acting talents. But in "Flaming Star" the music completely takes a back seat to his acting to the point where you forget he's a singer. It's a great rare moment watching Elvis step into a deep acting role & not just being "Elvis". Another film that almost matches this is the later western "Charro" another serious movie with no songs at all except for the opening credits. Elvis really should've done more westerns & other dramas & should've kept his singing & acting careers separate. Imagine Elvis in "Thunder Road" with Robert Mitchum. How cool would that've been ? Elvis wanted the role of Joker Jackson in "The Defiant Ones", imagine Elvis as a convict chained to Sidney Poiter ? That would've been explosive ! Elvis could've done so much more as an actor. Watch this movie !!
Mutiny in the Big House (1939)
A good solid prison picture.
An original story by Martin Mooney based on a true story & a tribute to prison chaplain Father Patrick O'Neil who risked his life to save innocent men in the Canon City Colorado prison riot in October 3rd 1929. In which 7 guards & 5 prison inmates were killed. And was awarded the Carnegie Medal for his extraordinary heroic act. As the heading reads after the opening credits & also states it's a fictionalized story for the movie.
The prison chaplain is Father Joe Collins convincingly portrayed by Charles Bickford. Dennis Moore plays Johnny Gates sent to prison for 14 years for forging a bad check for 10 bucks because of hard times. Father Joe thinks Johnny got a raw deal & is a decent man & doesn't deserve the harsh sentence he received & tries to encourage him not to be corrupted by bad cell mates. He gets put into a cell with the prison big shot Red Manson played by Barton MacLane who specialized in playing bad guys & gangsters & is planning a prison break. Usually in supporting roles but occasionally in leading roles such as "Prison Break" (1938) & "Captain Scarface" (1953). Here he's top billed with Charles Bickford.
This low budget film is quite well done & it's quality is evident & it has a good solid cast giving very effective performances. Prison movies of the 30's showed how grim & harsh & depressing prison life can be like the inmate on death row in his last hour before walking his last mile to be hanged. And there was usually singing inmates like Singing Jim (Richard Austin) who hauntingly sings nonstop. The message is very clear being in prison is hell. Charley Foy is also one of the inmates in charge of the prison show which the warden pulls the plug on for suspecting a break will take place. He gives a great tap dance act with his clicking heels & snapping fingers. The film also shows what happens to old timers like Convict "Dad" Schultz (George Cleveland) that are institutionalized & after being released & returning to the outside world with no direction & nothing to look forward to & cannot adjust to society & become insane & committed to a mental hospital only to want to be sent back to the big house because prison has sadly become his "home".
After the prison show is canceled the audience has no clue as to how the crash out will be staged & where. We are kept in the dark not knowing when & where & how only we know it'll happen. Which was typical in 1930's prison flicks. Leaving the viewer in suspense so when it does go down BANG ! You're in for a ride leading to an explosive climax. Worth watching if you like prison movies. A nice discovery & a hidden treasure !
A disappointing classic horror masterpiece.
I know "Dracula" is the classic iconic horror film that "started it all" & paved the way for all the other great horror classics at Universal. Such as "Frankenstein", "The Mummy" & "The Invisible Man" etc. But the truth is "Dracula" is a disappointing classic. It starts out excellent & strikingly atmospheric & visually creative for the first 30 minutes or so. Renfield's (Dwight Frye) visit to Count Dracula's Castle is amazingly dreamlike, surreal & chilling & scary & at first he's rational & sane as he encounters the vampire. Bela Lugosi is absolutely mesmerizing & chilling as Dracula.
But as soon as the story shifts from Dracula's Castle in Transylvania to London, England the film deteriorates & falls apart & never really recovers from the excellent Transylvanian scenes. It becomes too theatrical & resembles a stage play with too much talking & not enough action. And too much of the film focuses on Renfield now under Dracula's hypnotic control & is reduced to a raving mad lunatic slave. Dwight Frye overacts too much & it gets old fast. The young couple John Harker & Mina (David Manners & Helen Chandler) are very wooden & boring.
Professor Van Helsing (Everett Van Sloan) was a more interesting character who confronts & exposes Dracula. But even he is given too much screen time & there's only fleeting moments of Bela Lugosi. Tod Browning's direction lacks consistency & is uninspiring after the first 30 minutes & shows lack of interest & seems unsure where to go with it or maybe he just didn't care. As soon as the story moves to London the film just didn't seem to have a clear direction & just plods & drags on aimlessly with no conviction. It might've been better if Dracula after being exposed by the Professor returned to his Castle in Transylvania.
And what was Dracula's reason & motive for sailing to London in the first place ? When he already has a Castle in Transylvania it doesn't make any sense at all. Oh that's right he purchased Carfax Abbey in London but why ?? & where would Dracula get the money ?? As soon as Dracula moves to London the film becomes a dull & boring stage play & it struggles a bit to sustain your interest & is hard to sit through. But the first 30 minutes are fantastic !! After that it's downhill & a disappointment but still worth seeing as Bela Lugosi was & is the definitive Dracula. It's just too bad Tod Browning fell asleep when Dracula moved to London.
Kid Galahad (1962)
OK remake but might've been better as a non-musical
Elvis Presley is an ex- GI penniless & broke looking for work as a mechanic but stumbles onto boxing instead as a way to earn some fast cash. Gig Young is a boxing manager up to his ears in debt with gangsters breathing down his neck & constantly putting the squeeze on him to pay up. Charles Bronson in a very different type of role is his trainer. There's some great dramatic acting from Elvis & Gig Young & Charles Bronson in pain with broken hands & some very realistic fight scenes in the ring.
There's only a few songs which are OK but distracts from the dramatic story which is quite serious. The songs are out of place & don't belong in a boxing tale. After all this is a remake of the 1937 classic Warner Bros. movie with Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis & Humphrey Bogart who was also in the 1941 remake retitled "The Wagons Roll At Night". Elvis steps into Wayne Morris's shoes in the title role. Elvis is believable & perfect for the role of the boxer but it might've been better if Elvis played it straight with no singing musical scenes like the original version.
Kid Galahad is a serious boxing drama not a musical. But it's still exceptional for an Elvis movie & it's one of his better 60's vehicles & not as formulated like most of the trashy & cheesy musicals he was pumping out like "GI Blues" & "Blue Hawaii" & others not worth mentioning. Another one of his better films is "Follow That Dream" from the same year. Kid Galahad has a storyline & some gritty realism & packs a punch...so to speak. There's some quality in this one & it's worth watching but the original 1937 version is better.