Elvis Presley is undoubtedly one of the most famous American icons of the 20th Century; he played a huge role in popularizing rock and roll music for the masses and remains the top selling artist of all time. Like several recording artists before him, Elvis broke into movies with Love Me Tender (1956), which proved to be very successful and launched his acting career; a few years later, King Creole would continue a formula that would become synonymous with Elvis movies while giving him a very substantial role. Paramount has released the movie on home video several times over the years, but the Paramount Presents Blu-ray release marks its debut on the format.
The Production: 4/5
Troubled young man Danny Fisher (Elvis Presley) has trouble graduating from school due to the fact that he and his sister are taking on jobs to help support their unemployed father (Dean Jagger). After failing to graduate for the second year in a row, he drops out and becomes associated with a local street gang, but his life changes when he discovers a talent for singing; that also draws the attention of two rival Bourbon Street nightclub owners: the legitimate Charlie LeGrand (Paul Stewart) and the local crime boss Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau). Caught between them and the two women in his life (Carolyn Jones & Dolores Hart), Danny finds his world closing in on him, leading to a final confrontation that could put an end to him for good…
Based off of a Harold Robbins novel entitled A Stone for Danny Fisher, King Creole is one of the best screen vehicles for the King of Rock and Roll. First of all, Elvis happened to be working with legendary director Michael Curtiz, who managed to tap into his potential as an actor; it was also the director’s choice to film the story in black and white to give it a realistic as well as a noir flavor to it. Another plus is the well written screenplay by Herbert Baker and Michael V. Gazzo, which – with the notable exception of transferring the action of the plot from Chicago to New Orleans – keeps the story’s core intact while also playing to Elvis’ strengths as a singer. If there’s only one bone of contention with the movie, it’s the fact that the pacing does tend to lag a bit at times, especially in scenes between several musical numbers peppered throughout the film; however, that can be forgiven since the quality of the music is very strong (“Hard Headed Woman” would become of Elvis’ 54 certified gold singles while the film’s soundtrack album would rank #2 on the US Billboard charts). With a solid script, a great soundtrack and one of Elvis’ best on screen performances, King Creole is a handsomely produced movie that will satisfy Elvis fans as well as the casual viewer unfamiliar with the King’s acting career.
While Elvis was furnished with one of his best roles (and one that he considered his favorite out of all the movies he did), he was also backed by a very solid supporting cast. Walter Matthau, still early into his film career, is a solid heavy as the crime boss who tries to pull Danny deeper into a life of crime; his fistfight with Elvis is one of the film’s notable dramatic moments. Dean Jagger gives a solid performance as Danny’s father who gets caught up in his son’s world; the scene where he discovers Danny’s secret about a crime is a major highlight, conveying the mood better in its execution through the expression on his face than several lines of dialogue. Carolyn Jones – a few years away from TV immortality as Morticia Addams on The Addams Family – makes for a good bad girl who helps Danny in a crucial moment; Dolores Hart – who had appearing in the second Elvis movie Loving You (1957) – fulfills the good girl role in the five-and-dime snack clerk who becomes the chief romantic interest for Danny. Other notable appearances here include Vic Morrow, future director Brian G. Hutton and Jack Grinnage as the gang Danny’s joins after dropping out of school, Paul Stewart as the honest owner of the King Creole nightclub, Gavin Gordon as the abrupt and overbearing manager of the drug store that Danny’s father works at, Raymond Bailey as the school principal, and uncredited appearances from Val Avery (as an associate of Maxie) and Candy Candido as the doorman of the King Creole.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original theatrically exhibited 1:85:1 aspect ratio, taken from a new 4K master created for this release. Film grain is either very fine or nonexistent, but fine details along with the gray scale and shadows are faithfully rendered. Problems like tears, dirt or scratches are also minimal to nonexistent as well here, meaning that the movie has likely gotten its best visual presentation on home video.
There are two main audio options for this release: a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track and a restored mono Dolby Digital track. Both have strong dialogue and sound mixes, with the songs and incidental Walter Scharf score also getting a faithful representation – the latter getting the biggest boost on the Dolby TrueHD track. There’s minor instances of issues like distortion, hissing or crackling present here, making this another point where the movie has its best presentation on home video, this time in the audio department.
Special Features: 1.5/5
Filmmaker Focus: King Creole (6:10) – Film critic Leonard Maltin shares a few details and some appreciation for the movie in this new and brief featurette.
Notably missing from previous DVD releases is the original theatrical trailer.
Successful with both critics and audiences when it was released, King Creole offered up both a high point for Elvis as an actor and a great soundtrack which featured one of his many rock and roll hits compiled throughout his career as a legendary performer. Paramount has given the movie its best video presentation to date, with a great HD transfer along with a brief appreciation and spotlight focus by Leonard Maltin as part of its ongoing “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray line (this release is spine #2). Highly recommended and worthy of the upgrade from DVD.
Amazon.com: Paramount Presents: Elvis in King Creole [Blu-ray]: Elvis Presley, Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Dolores Hart, Dean Jagger, Liliane Montevecchi, Vic Morrow, Paul Stewart, Jan Shepard, Jack Grinnage, Michael Curtiz: Movies & TV
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