Elvis Movies – Best Vs. Worst

Elvis Presley appeared in thirty-three motion pictures during his lifetime – the first in 1956, the last in 1972.  Over the years, the quality of these has unfairly maligned.  Which are the best and which are the worst?

1956-1958 include four films including “Love Me Tender” and “Loving You.   The best were the last two being “Jailhouse Rock” and “King Creole”.

JAILHOUSE ROCK – Elvis plays a punk ex-con rocker who uses others for fame and glory.

KING CREOLE – A role inherited from James Dean.

After Elvis returned from the Army, Col. Tom Parker (Elvis’ manager) experimented with his image in various roles.  Ironically, the best of these (“Flaming Star” and “Wild in the Country’) made the least and the worst (“G.I. Blues” and “Blue Hawaii”) made the most.  Gone was the devil may care rebel replaced by the inoffensive, plastic, good guy schmuck.  During the early 1960’s, his success was pretty much hit or miss.

The best of the early 60’s output:  “Viva Las Vegas”, “Follow that Dream”, “Flaming Star” and “Wild in the Country”.

“Viva Las Vegas’ costarred sexpot Ann-Margret in their only film.  Sexual chemistry flew onscreen and off.

“Follow that Dream” – Elvis best comedy and probably his best acting performance.  Underrated.

“Flaming Star” – Western about a half-breed Indian.  Directed by Don Seigel.  A role originally intended for Marlon Brando.

“Wild in the Country” – Spicy melodrama has Elvis as a fledging writer romancing three women.  (Played by Hope Lange, Tuesday Weld and Millie Perkins.)

1964.  Col. Parker began lowering the budgets of the Elvis cash-cow productions, starting with “Kissin’ Cousins”.

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“Kissin’ Cousins” made a lot of money and had a hit song, but cost Elvis his credibility.

This begat the formula Elvis pictures, usually three a year, where the King sang a lot, acted a little, beat-up the bad guys and kissed the girls.  From 1964 to 1968, the quality declined.  Some of the worst include “Easy Come, Easy Go” , “Harum Scarum”, “Paradise, Hawaiian Style”, “Spinout”, “Speedway”, “Double Trouble” and “Clambake”.

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Elvis worst song: “Yoga is as Yoga Does” from “Easy Come, Easy Go”

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One bright spot:  “Live a Little, Love a Little” (1968) which generated the hit song “A Little Less Conversation”.

1969.  An attempt at a comeback.  By this time, even the Colonel knew it was time for a change and made a request for better scripts.

“Charro” was meant to resemble the Clint Eastwood-Sergio Leone man-with-no-name Spaghetti westerns.  Somehow, it just didn’t work.  A copy of a copy.  No luck here.

“The Trouble with Girls (and how to get into it”) – A 1920’s period piece that goes nowhere.  Elvis looks good, sings better, yet there’s nothing solid.  Try again.

“Change of Habit” – Elvis plays a ghetto doctor who works with three undercover nuns.  Miscast Mary Tyler Moore can’t act dramatically, not yet anyway.  Seems like a TV movie.  Some good songs thrown in, including the posthumous hit “Rubberneckin'” (#2 album.)

THE DOCUMENTARIES  – “Elvis:  That’s the Way It Is” (1970) and “Elvis On Tour”(1972)

“Elvis:  That’s the Way It Is” catches “EL” in his second year at the Las Vegas International Hotel during rehearsal and the actual shows.  The 1970 cut has interviews of fans.  The 2001 cut removes these interviews for more songs.  Excellent soundtrack.  Highlights:  “Suspicious Minds”, “I Just Can’t Help Believin'”, “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” and many others.

“Elvis on Tour” (1972) would go on to win Best Documentary from the Foreign Press Association (known as the “Golden Globes”.)

“Elvis on Tour” is shown in split-screen images, some of which were edited by Martin Scorsese.  Contains part of a rare press conference.  The King, now separated from wife Priscilla, seems less happy, more self-involved and may be under the influence of “medications”.  Still, Elvis brings it.

Highlights include “An American Trilogy”, “Polk Salad Annie” and “Bridge Over Trouble Waters”.

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“Elvis on Tour” winner of the 1972 Golden Globe for Best Documentary.

“Elvis on Tour” is shown in split-screen images, some of which were edited by Martin Scorsese.  Contains part of a rare press conference.  The King, now separated from wife Priscilla, seems less happy, more self-involved and may be under the influence of “medications”.  Still, Elvis brings it.

Highlights include “An American Trilogy”, “Polk Salad Annie” and “Bridge Over Trouble Waters”.


Following Elvis’ death, there would be two films based on his life”  “Elvis” (1979) directed by John Carpenter and “This is Elvis” (1981) a documentary showing rare clips and recreations of his life.

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For the year 2022. a new theatrical film will be released titled “Elvis” directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Austin Butler as the King.

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Text © 2022 – EricReports

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