After a string of million selling records and several highly publicized television appearances, rock and roll star Elvis Presley was signed for his first film appearance, a supporting role in the Fox Civil War-era melodrama Love Me Tender. For the next fifteen years, a steady string of Elvis films was cranked out for his eager public who with their support vaulted him seven times into the Quigley list of the top ten box-office stars (peaking at #4 in 1957 thanks in part to Love Me Tender which ranked as the tenth most popular movie of 1957). While he wasn’t the top-billed star of the film, his was the name that brought in the customers, and in retrospect, one can see that the Fox producers gave his public exactly what they wanted: a singing, swinging Elvis despite the antebellum time period of the film’s story and a character who was equal parts loving and jealous.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 07/30/2013
Reno brothers Vance (Richard Egan), Brett (William Campbell), and Ray (James Drury) are part of a Confederate squad that captures a Union payroll of $12,000 a few days after Lee has surrendered to Grant to end the Civil War. Not knowing that the war was already over, the soldiers believe the money is theirs as spoils of war. Returning home with their windfall, Vance is crushed to learn that his longtime sweetheart Cathy (Debra Paget), hearing that Vance had died in the war, has married his younger brother Clint (Elvis Presley). Though their attraction is still very strong, Vance decides the honorable thing to do is to leave the homestead and try his luck in California, but a railroad insurance agent (Robert Middleton) comes looking for the stolen money and isn’t going to let the boys rest until the money is returned.
The Production Rating: 3/5
While the script by Robert Buckner has promise (the theft of the Union army money coming one day after the end of the war is a novel touch), it culminates in a mass of clichés that are eye-rollingly banal. But director Robert Webb directs the early sequence featuring the theft of the money quite dramatically and stages multiple action scenes throughout the movie with a more than decent amount of suspense and surprise. He also uses his wide Cinemascope canvas wonderfully spreading his characters across the expanse of the screen on several occasions and allowing the wide open spaces of this Texas farm to look quite impressive.
Elvis’ movie debut is clearly a supporting role, and his first attempts at acting are stilted and somewhat unsettling (he’s especially poor near the end when his jealousy builds to such fervor that one fears he may chew up the natural landscapes), but there’s no denying his charisma before the camera. Though his debut performance wasn’t originally meant to feature any singing, the producers wisely realized what their strongest draw was and thus Elvis performs four numbers in the movie: the title song which he does with suitable restraint (and reprises it at the end of the movie), and “Poor Boy,” “Let Me,” and “We’re Gonna Move” in which he anachronistically gyrates his hips and does his leg pops in his then-contemporary singing style (and shamefully, the director allows the county girls to screech and squeal at his every gyration). The undemanding screenplay gives Richard Egan a gregarious, big-hearted big brother character to play, and he’s by far the most appealing performer in the movie undoubtedly earning his top billing. Mildred Dunnock does well with her loving mother, but Debra Paget looking painfully glum for most of the movie barely registers as the love interest both brothers are mad about. Neville Brand gets to bellow his lungs out and twist Clint around his little finger playing up the jealousy angle.
The transfer is presented in the film’s original Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is offered in 1080p using the AVC codec. A giant leap ahead of the released DVD version which had some dust specks and scratches, this transfer is pristine from beginning to end and features superb sharpness and a grayscale that’s magnificently rendered with strong black levels and pure whites. Contrast has been dialed in perfectly for a reference quality black and white transfer. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The disc offers English soundtracks in both DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and 5.1. Both are strong, secure encodes with the only difference between them the slight spread of the music and sound effects into the front channels with the surround track. The 5.1 encode does nothing with the rear channels, and bass isn't notably more prominent in this version. Dialogue has been wonderfully recorded and is outstandingly presented with no age-related artifacts like hiss, crackles, pops, and flutter to mar the listening experience. Sound effects and music never overpower the dialogue.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: Elvis’ close friend documentary producer Jerry Schilling provides the commentary. Though useless as a research tool on the making of the film, Schilling speaks from the heart about Elvis’ life and his contribution to show business though there are many long silent gaps and several stories about the King are repeated.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
Elvis Hits Hollywood (12:43, SD): a brief summary of Elvis’ deal to make a movie with interviews featuring friends of Elvis and historians of the period.
The Colonel and the King (11:03, SD): a too-brief but quite fascinating mini biography of Colonel Tom Parker who became Elvis’ manager and the primary forger of his career.
Love Me Tender: The Birth and Boom of the Elvis Hit (8:06, SD): gives the background story of the writing of the song (based on the old Civil War classic tune “Aura Lee”) and the other tunes Elvis made famous.
Love Me Tender: The Soundtrack (7:32, SD): a group of music historians analyze the four tunes used in the film.
Theatrical Trailers (SD): the original theatrical trailer (2:21) and the Spanish trailer (2:04) are presented.
Fans of Elvis Presley will be delighted with the attention Love Me Tender has received on Blu-ray. Rather than recycle an older transfer, it seems as if genuine work has gone into making this a terrific high definition release. The generous bonus features, many ported over from previous releases of the movie, are also present here.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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