Blue Hawaii appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not bad, this felt like an inconsistent presentation.
As happens with some Paramount releases, grain became a concern, as it seemed oddly inconsistent. Daylight scenes offered strangely heavy grain but low-light interiors – which naturally “go grainy” – were mostly devoid of that element.
Did the grain in Hawaii represent the source? Perhaps, but it seemed off, as the levels didn’t follow patterns I expected and could seem iffy.
Sharpness also varied. Parts of the movie showed nice delineation but others became oddly soft. Most of the film appeared pretty well-defined, but these inconsistencies occurred.
No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent.
Like other aspects of the image, colors were up and down. Given the tropical setting, I expected bright, dynamic hues, and I sometimes got them.
However, the tones could also seem oddly flat at times. The colors looked good more often than they came across as a little dull, but they didn’t boast the consistent impact I anticipated.
Blacks were fairly deep and dark, while shadows displayed appropriate clarity. The movie remains watchable and perhaps the source left this as the best it could look, but I felt disappointed by the erratic visuals.
The movie’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack didn’t seem bad but it also didn’t do much for me. Remixed from the original monaural – which appears on the disc via lossy Dolby Digital – the soundscape seemed inconsistent.
Rather than create a sense of space and involvement, the audio tended to offer “broad mono”. This meant elements largely focused on the front center, without a lot beyond that. Occasional elements popped up elsewhere – like cars that moved from one side of the spectrum to another - but the whole shebang felt awfully limited.
The score and songs usually showed a lack of real stereo presence. The music tended to spread across the front without a lot of separation.
Audio quality seemed decent for its age, at least. Speech could sound somewhat reedy, but the lines felt intelligible and without obvious flaws.
Effects fell into the same realm, as they showed decent accuracy and didn’t suffer from too much distortion. The songs and score offered acceptable reproduction, though not especially vivid. This turned into a mediocre soundtrack.
Note that Hawaii makes its Blu-ray debut here, but with a hitch: the BD version comes as part of a package with a 4K UHD disc as well. Because the BD cannot be purchased on its own, normally I wouldn’t review it in this way, but since this marks the movie’s first time on the format, I figured it deserved its own discussion.
After all, I suspect Paramount believes that plenty of BD-only customers will buy this release just to get the Blu-ray version. I will review the 4K separately as well.
The disc’s only major extra comes from an audio commentary with film historian James L. Neibaur. He provides a running, screen-specific look at aspects of Elvis Presley’s movie career, cast and crew, score and songs, Hawaiian sets, story/characters, production notes and the film’s reception.
On the negative side, Neibaur goes MIA too often, so expect occasional gaps. Otherwise he fills the flick with a nice view of the various topics and gives us an informative chat.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we end with a Photo Scrapbook. It includes 77 elements that mix production shots and publicity stills. It becomes a pretty good compilation.
When people think poorly on how Elvis Presley developed in the 1960s, fluffy nonsense like Blue Hawaii exists as Exhibit A. Packed with tame romance, tepid songs and lousy comedy, the movie turns into a complete stinker. The Blu-ray brings inconsistent picture and audio along with a smattering of bonus features. Leave this one to Elvis diehards.