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HTF HD-DVD Review: Jailhouse Rock

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by PatWahlquist, Oct 3, 2007.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
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    Jailhouse Rock (HD-DVD)

    Studio: Warner Home Video
    Rated: Not Rated
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    HD Encoding: 1080p
    HD Video Codec: VC-1
    Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital: English 5.1, English 1.0; French 1.0 and Spanish 1.0
    Subtitles: English; Spanish; French
    Time: 96 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 SS HD-DVD
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date: 1957
    HD-DVD Release Date: September 18, 2007

    Note: some of the information of the film itself was sourced from Peter Guralnick’s exceptional second book on the life of Elvis Presley, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. Elvis fans, and music fans in general are encouraged to seek out this book and the companion book, tracing the first half of Elvis’ life, Last Train to Memphis.

    Note 2: Portions of this review were also part of the Blu-Ray review of this title, also available on Home Theater Forum.

    Vince Everett (Elvis Presley) is a young, rough and tumble punk who uses his mitts to solve most arguments. When he gets into a barroom brawl defending the honor of a pretty lady, he winds up killing the aggressor with a punch. He is sentenced to the pen for manslaughter. Once there, he is quickly schooled in the ways of male communal caged living by his cellie, Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy), who explains how many smokes it costs to make a living in prison. Vince takes a liking to Hunk’s guitar, and the two spark up a business deal after Vince wow’s the audience in a televised show. Once Hunk’s released from prison, the two will tour and sing together. Since Vince’s sentence is far lighter, he makes it out first, and we find him trying to adjust to life again. He wanders into a bar where he notices Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler), and after a volatile performance by Vince, the two strike up a scheme to get him a record deal.

    Vince cuts a record but it is stolen by another label and released with a new singer. Vince and Peggy decide they will simply open there own label, and in doing so, Vince’s star is launched as his career becomes very successful and lucrative. Hunk comes back into the picture fresh out of prison, and more deals are made with Vince. Hollywood soon comes calling and Vince begins living the life of a star, but will the faith entrusted to him by those who made him successful make Vince keep his word, or bring him down like so many before him?

    This third picture in Elvis’ long movie career shows us a new music star with drive and talent trying to keep up with a world who wants more and more from him. While he tries to please them all and keep his word, he cannot always resist the lure of fame, fortune, babes and money. Taken either way, as Vince or Elvis, this story is basically a parable of Elvis’ life up until that point: a meteoric rise in music draws the attention of Hollywood and even more women. Elvis lethargically plays the role trying to channel James Dean, but when it’s time to sing and dance, he’s all Elvis. We almost see two different personas on screen, that of a singer trying to act, and a singer doing what he’s supposed to do. Unfortunately, Elvis lacks the acting chops of Dean, so this performance is really a blip in his on screen career. It is odd, now having seen this picture for the first time, just how little prison, and “Jailhouse Rock” in particular, really fit into the plot. It’s more a way for the fans of the time to see they’re idol perform, “…punch a guy, sing some songs, and get the girl in the end” as Elvis was quoted as saying later in his career about his movies. He (and his management) knew what the public wanted from him, and he was happy to oblige.

    Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Toshiba XA2 player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. The projector is doing the scaling to 1080p due to some technical issues with the Toshiba player.

    The picture is in VC-1, encoded at 1080p and it is framed at 2.40:1. After having watched the outstanding Viva Las Vegas disc prior to this, I had my hopes up for another winner from Warner. While the transfer on Jailhouse Rock comes nowhere near that of Viva Las Vegas, it is passable nonetheless. The black and white image is smooth with an accurate grey scale. Sharpness is soft throughout with only a couple exceptions, leaving the level of detail affected as well. Black levels are good, but still tend to be dark grey rather than black. Film grain is noticeable, but I did not see any instances of macroblocking. This picture really doesn’t seem to gain anything from being in the HD environment. I noticed no differences between this disc and its Blu-Ray counterpart.

    Note: The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by a 5.1 analog connection.

    I watched the movie with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. This upgrade to a lossless, 5.1 track really provides nothing new except a little better fidelity. All of the action in the picture is spread out in the front three channels, with the rears engaging only during a couple of the songs to provide a little more ambience. Bass effects are very minimal throughout, and I noticed the amplifier for my subs kept clicking off during the feature. Clarity is excellent in the soundtrack, with no hint of hiss or dirt. Since this new soundtrack is so clean, ADR is very noticeable, as is the segments featuring pre-recorded music. The main thing I would say about the Dolby TrueHD track is that it gives the soundtrack more presence as compared to the original mono. I noticed no differences between this disc and its Blu-Ray counterpart.

    Bonus Material:
    With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. For this release, the extras are in MPEG-2, 480p unless otherwise noted.

    Commentary by Steve Pond, author of Elvis in Hollywood: as I said in the VLV review: Pond’s commentary does a great job of dealing with history as much as the picture itself. I don’t think it is fair anymore to simply talk about the work alone when it comes to Elvis, so this commentary is very satisfying. Pond rehashes some of what is in the featurette below, but then he expands on many key points.

    New Featurette: The Scene That Stole Jailhouse Rock (15:29): Similar to the featurette on VLV containing interviews with Peter Guralnick and other rock historians, this segment also features an interview with Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller who wrote many of the songs for the movie. They provide some good insight as to how they were almost kidnapped to get the songs out of them, but once they did, those tunes became rock legends. I do wish this segment was longer, but there are plenty of sources elsewhere, both in video and in print, that can fill in the holes.

    Theatrical Trailer

    The extras are the same on both the HD-DVD and the Blu-Ray.

    Seeing Elvis perform at this stage of his career is still exciting as we are seeing him refine his musical talents while still learning how to act. The disc itself is well done, but nothing too special. Audio and video quality doesn’t really seem to gain much in the HD world, and the extras could have been a bit more extensive. I’m glad to see Warner is at least catering to the market for classic films on the new HD formats.
  2. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
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