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JAILHOUSE ROCK - The Coolest & Classiest Elvis Movie

Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:22 am

JAILHOUSE ROCK: It's amazing that in the half century or so since Elvis became The King, no one has been able to detrone him. No rocker has equalled him since. Elvis was and is more than a mere celebrity, more than an icon, more than an idol; he is to some quite literally a god. With this in mind, one must not judge Elvis' movies by normal standards - sure they were mostly bad, but who cares? Even in pictures as silly as Kissin' Cousins and Clambake, the unearthly charisma of Elvis shines through. In a film like Jailhouse Rock, which is not only not silly but actually pretty good, you can almost feel something approaching a divine presence.

Elvis plays Vince Everett, a hillibilly who is sent to prison after he kills a guy in a bar fight. He bunks with a gruff but loveable country singer, Hunk Houghton (Mickey Shaughnessy) who becomes his musical mentor. After being released from the bighouse and hooking up with a pretty record executive, Peggy Van Alden (Judy Tyler) Elvis becames an overnight sensation. Unfortunately, he also becomes a jerk. Not to worry, though, because during the film's harrowing climax. Hunk Houghton beats the crap out of him, thus teaching him a valuable lesson; don't be a jerk, especially while in close proximity to a burly ex-con.
Jailhouse Rock features some of the best musical number of any Elvis flick--including the title tune, Jailhouse Rock. Elvis apprently did the choreography for this number, you you can tell he's just having a ball here. All the musical numbers are incorporated seamlessly into the story; when Elvis sings it's because he's giving a performance on TV or at a party or in a club or something - it's not like in his later films, where he just sings randomly, like because he's really happy to be at a clambake, and wants the whole world to know. But more than this Elvis just looks so unbelievable awesome here, as if Ray Harryhausen were doing stop motion with Michaelangelo's David. Elvis may be a hillibilly, but his hill is Mount Olympus. [FiRST September 2005 - Asia's premier movie magazine]

Tue Oct 11, 2005 7:44 pm

I think Jailhouse Rock is the best movie of Elvis. It has a good song lineup and unique choreography in every uptempo songs especially in the Jailhouse Rock sequence.

Tue Oct 11, 2005 7:53 pm

CD King -

Well, that was from the time when you could walk out of the cinema feeling proud of being an Elvis fan !

Something that happened less & less during the 60's !

Oh, what could have been !

Wed Oct 12, 2005 1:00 am

Personally, I've never cared for the movie.

Sun Nov 27, 2005 3:58 am

I think it's one of the lesser films. C'mon - I'm sure we ALL have at least some controversial favourites and non favourites? Here's some comparisons from MY point of view:


Loving You - Bad film! terrible script, appalling co-stars and wooden acting

Harum Scarum - Enjoyably daft film! Great co-stars who have me smiling all the time and a real cool soundtrack!


FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS - Enjoyable, but not what I'd consider a classic.

RAISED ON ROCK - Absolute class! Why pan it?? It's a cool R&B album with some additional beautiful ballads!


ALOHA - Enjoyable, but pretty pedestrian.

CBS - FANTASTIC! Great music, great voice and nice format!

It's not that I don't like LOVING YOU, ELVIS IN MEMPHIS or ALOHA. Quite the opposite. I love em. But given the choice, I'd chose the other stuff over it.

I honestly don't see how "HARUM SCARUM" can be called an appalling album as it often is. It's simply not. Tracks like "Wisdom of The Ages" and "Mirage" are really nice and well performed by everyone involved, and who can fail to enjoy the great little beat classic "Hey little Girl"??

The actual movie itself is a spoof. It says so in the trailer. It's MEANT to be bad - that's the point. The dialogue is deliberately wooden, whereas in LOVING YOU, the attempt to be dramatic comes across as wooden - therefore making HARUM SCARUM more likeable to me personally.

The cast had fun with it, and it shows. You can hear the sound of wood under their feet as they walk on sand, you can see the knowing glint in Elvis' eye as he serenades Yani seconds after meeting her and finding out that despite never hearing of America, speaks in a US accent!! It's a classic Elvis caper. Anyone who oversees the fact is trying to place Elvis in the wrong category.

I have always prefered Elvis' 60s comedies to any of the melodramatic chip-on-the-shoulder films that he made in the 50s and early 60s. It's just my own personal preference. I enjoy all the 33 films if I'm honest.

But the small batch of Elvis movies that are at the bottom of my own scale of enjoyment include All 4 50s films (which I feel are ridiculously over acted by everyone and feature some laughable dialogue), "Kid Galahad", "Wild In The Country" and "Girls Girls Girls".

Top of my list would be the fabulously enjoyable "Speedway" (with my fave cast ever!), "Live A Little", "Girl Happy" (a great comedy), "Spinout", "Double Trouble" and "Tickle Me" which never fails to entertain me

Soundtrack wise, I think "Easy Come Easy Go" is one of the best, a great rockin' set and I also love "Trouble With Girls" (with "Signs Of The Zodiac" being among my faves despite Elvis' relatively small input) and "Kissin' Cousins" as well as the ones listed above.

I don't dislike the so called classic "King Creole". But its not a classic, I dont reckon.

I think the dialogue is over the top, Elvis' father a laughable actor, even Walter Matthau plays the Humphrey Bogart impersonator gangster in the most stereo-typical way possible.

The music is great, i agree on that. Elvis looks good and plays the part well. It's just over the top.

You may argue that his 60s films were very over the top. Well sure. But they were musical lightweight comedies - they never claimed to be dramatic. I just find the ones that DO claim to be dramatic are often lesser films, in my opinion.

"Jailhouse Rock" is hilarious. When Vince says "Emotion? What emotion?" and other similarly smarmy lines, I always giggle at the sheer stupidity of it all. But I still love 'em. Who says entertainment has to reflect reality?

I'd still rather have ten "Speedway's" as opposed to one "King Creole".

With regards to FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS, I think its a fine album. Not an absolute classic as such, but fine all the same. It's too hotch potch to be classic for me at least. I think that had "Wearing That Loved on Look" and "Only The Strong" etc been set aside tracks like "Rubberneckin'", "Stranger In My Home Town" and "Kentucky rain" etc, keeping a similar soul feel, it would have been more consistant. Whereas "It Keeps Right On A Hurtin" and "Gentle On My Mind" etc could have been kept aside for a country-ish album.

I think RAISED ON ROCK is a cool album. "For Ol Times Sake" is wonderful, the title track and "If you Don't Come Back" are real groovers, "Find Out Whats Happening" and "Just A Little Bit" are great rockers and the other ballads are really nice too.

Its not my favourite album. But I love it.

These thoughts are all my own folks and I make no apologies. It pays to have your own opinions and they should never be frowned upon by anyone else. I'm not trying to sound controversial here, I am merely trying to delve into other fans minds and see what odd choices others have, as I'm sure I'm not alone.

My choices are just examples. I'm not asking everyone what they think is the better between HARUM SCARUM and LOVING YOU - cos that's the point. I know most fans views will be the opposite to mine.

If I'm honest, I love all of Elvis' recordings. There really isn't any of 'em that I dislike. Even "Yoga Is As Yoga Does" and "Old MacDonald" have a certain charm that I still love. Hell - what kinda disco is it that doesn't feature some of this great fun stuff?

Of course we have our favourites. My personal favourite Elvis year is 1970. I love every studio song, love the concerts, the live albums, TTWII - everything. He looked good, he sang good.

As I said, the 50s are the least interesting to me - although I do love all the stuff from that period. I still enjoy the 60s movies and sountracks to a greater extent. Songs such as "A House that Has Everything", "You Can't Say No In Acapulco", "You Gotta Stop", "Easy Come" and "Double Trouble" still make me move! I think they're excellent.

What I AM asking you all is to share with us some of the fave and non fave moments that YOU feel are different from the norm. Have a go. it's good fun!

Sun Nov 27, 2005 8:16 am

I find it hard to choose between Jailhouse Rock and King Creole.
Wish I could have had colourized version of both!
Loving You is also good imo. Love Me Tender is ok, but a little aside of what the rock'n roll king was about in the '50's!

Jailhouse rock

Sun Nov 27, 2005 10:34 am

... Daft Little Ukelele Boy, do people of the Planet Knownazzin all talk out of their ears, like you?!

Sun Nov 27, 2005 11:37 am

No - it wasn't a joke. Those were my beliefs and trust me I'm not insane. Or running and crawling scared. Or strictly business. Or I'm not takin' after you. Or you were the worst - you made me feel it the worst. Or any other pimply 50s fluff! :P

Jailhouse rock

Sun Nov 27, 2005 11:50 am

... Pimply? Meaning?...

Jailhouse rock

Sun Nov 27, 2005 12:12 pm

... Back under a new name? It was a charming photo of you and RG in the recent NDT... End of conversation.

Sun Nov 27, 2005 12:16 pm

Are you mistaking me for someone else?

Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:56 am

Very well written review CD King. Great line about Elvis' mountain being Mount Olympus. I actually wish you wrote even more here.

I disagree that "JHR" was Elvis' classiest movie even if it is his best and it may very well be. More than any other of his '50s movies, "JHR" is kind of quickie knockoff. "King Creole", "Viva Las Vegas", "Kid Galahad", "Flaming Star", "Follow That Dream" and "Wild in the Country" are all classier type- more overtly "A-style" movies. As "Wild in the Country" displays though class doesn't always guarantee quality. Still, all these movies had more high powered casts, location shooting, better known directors and in the case of all but "Viva" literary pedigrees. There's kind of a misconception out there that every movie that Elvis made was some sort of exploitative cheapie. That really wasn't the case.

I think that "JHR" separates itself from the other Elvis movies because of a sharp screenplay, a decent "B" director, a part that suited a part of Elvis' personality, Elvis' full engagement and the fact that the producers/song publishers were smart enough to enlist Leiber and Stoller to write the songs (a lot cheaper than bringing in "real" studio composers like Irving Berlin or Sammy Cahn).

Guitar Man- I get your point. Taste is very subjective. One day, I listened to the audio commentary of the 1925 "Phantom of the Opera" and then later read a review of the same movie. The critic on the commentary track called Gaston Le Roux's original novel, a second rate pot boiler. The print reviewer thought it was "great". It was like they were talking about two different works. The same could be said about their impressions of other facets of the film.

Although I must say I disagree with many of your arguments. The unity of Elvis' vocal performance and the arrangements unites FEIM. While "Gentle on My Mind" has a country source, it is not a country song in Elvis' hands.

I also don't have a problem with the dialogue in some of the movies. Personally, I like colorful dialogue. The "emotion" comment to me doesn't though seem over the top at all.

The main problem I have with "King Creole" is that everyone but Elvis speaks with a northern accent. Still, WM is not a gangster in the Bogart tradition. It's very much his own interpretation that falls between the Cagney tradition of sadism and the Robinson tradition of greed.

I also disagree about something like "Spinout". While the music is good, Elvis is clearly not having a good time and that flat out spoils it for me.

Anyway, for my own opinions on underrated works, I feel that both "Kid Galahad" and "Follow That Dream" are vastly underrated outside of the Elvis world. I would argue that both are very good movies, not just passable Elvis flicks.

I also find "So Close Yet So Far" to be an important work. Brilliantly sung, it has a real definite desperate quality to it.