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Michael Curtiz
Elvis Presley, Walter Matthau, Carolyn Jones
Writing Credits:
Herbert Baker, Michael Vincente Gazzo

A rebellious young man takes a job as a nightclub singer to make ends meet, attracting the attention of a local crime boss.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Spanish Dolby 1.0
German Dolby 1.0
Italian Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 4/21/2020

• “Filmmaker Focus” Featurette


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King Creole (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1958)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 27, 2020)

When Elvis Presley became a major pop star in 1956, his management quickly moved him into films. These flicks sold lots of tickets, and to the surprise of many, Presley demonstrated decent talent as an actor.

Due to the draft, Presley entered the Army in March 1958, an event that ostensibly put his career on hold for two years. However, that aforementioned management stored enough songs that Presley continued to release singles while in the military.

This situation didn’t suit Presley’s burgeoning film career, though, so fans had to wait more than two whole years between movies. With 1958’s King Creole, we find the fourth – and final – of his 1950s flicks.

High school student Danny Fisher (Presley) finds too much on his plate to graduate. Because his widowed father’s (Dean Jagger) grief makes it tough for him to keep a job, Danny and his sister (Jan Shepard) must take on various forms of work to survive.

Danny’s talent as a singer comes to the fore before long, and he finds himself at work as a nightclub crooner. Many personal and professional conflicts ensue, especially as Danny can’t make a romantic choice between girl-next-door Nellie (Dolores Hart) and Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), the mistress of local gangster Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau).

Of Presley’s first four movies, Creole comes with the best pedigree due to the other talent involved. In addition to veteran actors like Matthau, Jones and Jagger, Michael Curtiz took the reins as director.

Among other films, Curtiz helmed Casablanca, a fact that makes him seem overqualified to work on a jukebox drama like Creole. At least no one can claim that Paramount failed to give Presley the tools to star in a credible movie before he departed for Army life.

At his best, I think Presley earned “praise” for not being awful. I don’t get the sense many thought Elvis could really act, or at least not on a level that would afford him a career without his pop stardom involved.

As seen in Creole, Presley holds his own. While I can’t claim he presents great skills as the troubled teen, he manages enough surly charm to succeed.

Given that Presley’s movie career functioned as an attempt to send him into the mainstream, Creole makes Danny awfully sleazy. Perhaps some felt he could take over the mantle from James Dean and become the sensitive, angst-ridden sort, but it still comes as a surprise to see our ostensibly sympathetic lead abet criminals and lie to women to bed them.

Creole comes with a decent story about a young man torn between the proverbial light and dark, but it can’t find enough consistency to prosper. Danny seems less like a character pulled in different ways and more a kid who just wanders around wherever the script tells him to go.

Part of the problem stems from Creole’s heavy embrace of melodrama. It burdens the characters with borderline laughable dialogue and presents a slew of tough to swallow plot threads.

A little simplicity would’ve gone a long way. A more streamlined, coherent narrative could’ve turned into a more appealing film.

Musically, Presley shows his amble charisma when we see him on the nightclub stage. We don’t find any Elvis classics – and a few of the numbers seem like pretty obvious rewrites of earlier hits – but these moments add spark to the proceedings.

Much needed spark, in fact, as too much of King Creole comes across like fairly flaccid 50s melodrama. While not an objectively bad movie, it seems clear no one would remember it without the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll as the lead.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D

King Creole appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though generally appealing, the transfer felt inconsistent.

Sharpness became the main concern, as more than a few soft shots materialized. That said, I got the impression most of these issues stemmed from the source.

Creole used a lot of deep focus, probably to facilitate a rushed production. The filmmakers needed to wrap the shoot before Presley entered the military, so I suspect they didn’t have a lot of time for precise composition.

In any case, most of Creole offered appropriate to very good definition. Though the soft shots distracted, they didn’t become a dominant concern.

I witnessed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. With a fine layer of grain, noise reduction didn’t appear to create issues, and print flaws failed to appear.

Blacks could be a little too dark at times, but they usually felt appropriately dense, whereas shadows showed pretty good clarity most of the time. While not a great presentation, this seemed to be a positive transfer for an old, presumably inexpensive production.

As for the movie’s remixed Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, it largely remained true to the film’s monaural origins. Unsurprisingly, music displayed the best use of the spectrum, as the score and songs boasted nice stereo spread across the front channels.

Otherwise, one shouldn’t expect much here. Some atmospheric elements – such as streets or on the water – manager a little use of the side speakers, but not much activity arose.

Surround material remained nearly non-existent. Every once in a while, a horn or some other minor environmental component popped up in the rear, but for all intents and purposes, this track focused on the forward domain.

Audio quality felt surprisingly strong given the movie’s age. Speech appeared more natural and full than expected, as the lines seemed concise and warm.

Effects lacked much to do, but they came across as accurate and without distortion. Music showed nice range and oomph, with good clarity and low-end. As a remix of a 62-year-old soundtrack, I felt pretty pleased.

One extra appears here: a six-minute, 10-second featurette called Filmmaker Focus. Film critic/historian Leonard Maltin discusses director Michael Curtiz and his work on Creole as well as Presley’s performance, photography, music, and some general thoughts about the film.

With only six minutes involved, we don’t get much room for insights. Maltin provides some decent notes but keeps things fairly superficial

Elvis Presley’s final film of the 50s, King Creole lacks much to stand out beyond his natural charisma. Melodramatic and without much dramatic coherence, the movie seems mediocre. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio but it lacks much in terms of bonus materials. This seems like a flick best left for big Elvis fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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