This year on January 8, Elvis Presley would have celebrated his 75th birthday. The occasion was commemorated with a huge party in Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie went before a throng of fans during record-breaking cold weather to cut a lovely cake baked especially for the King. Vans traveled furiously up and down Elvis Presley Boulevard delivering hundreds of fervent Elvis followers to their Mecca: Graceland. There were cameras and news crews, along with minor celebrities attending the event that had known or even worked with Elvis himself. The whole occasion was a rather big deal for Elvis fans. One would think that with all of this hullabaloo going down, 20th Century Fox and MGM would have acquired some footage of the birthday scene for their recent DVD release: Elvis – The 75th Birthday Collection 7 DVD set.
The DVD could include some commentaries by the many Elvis associates still with us who had accompanied him to his many film shoots. Perhaps there could have been a deal made with Elvis Presley Enterprises to create a slide show on this DVD set featuring the many costumes still in the Presley collection that were featured in his movies. Unfortunately for this ill-named “75th Birthday Collection,” none of these features appear on any of the discs. In fact, there are no features at all, not even the most meager offering on the cheapest DVDs, trailers.
Elvis starred in a ton of movies during his tenure at MGM, Paramount and 20th Century Fox. Thirty-one, in fact. None of these are Gone With The Wind-quality epics, but they all contain a charm, a certain zany, kitschy quality that has to be seen to be believed. If a casual Elvis fan decided to catch up on Elvis’ many films in bulk, this might be the set for them. A set to buy purely for the ease of knocking out several Elvis movies with one purchase. For the serious Elvis fan, not only will you have seen each of these movies before, but you will be sorely disappointed by the lack of care shown by Fox and MGM for not adding a single bonus feature. Follow that Dream doesn’t even have a laser image on its DVD; it’s just plain silver! Plain-wrap Elvis, to be sure.
Included on this DVD set is Flaming Star (1960), a rather good movie where Elvis plays a half-white half-Kiowa cowboy who gets roped into trouble between the Native Americans and the town’s white men. Also included is Elvis’ first film Love Me Tender (1956), a well-acted melodrama where Elvis, playing “Clint Reno,” marries his brother’s wife after he is reported as a Civil War casualty. Of course the brother returns, and trouble ensues for poor Clint. My mother remembers that she and her girlfriend Judy went to the movies in Reseda, California and sat through Love Me Tender twice, annoying the theater manager. During their second go-round, when the girls knew that Clint was about to walk into trouble, Judy would cry and scream at the screen: “No, Clint, no!” Hysterical.
Also on the DVD set are Wild in the Country (1961), Follow That Dream (1961), Frankie and Johnny (1966) and Kid Galahad (1962). Finally, the best of the bunch is the excellent and classic must-see Elvis movie Clambake (1967) where a wealthy Elvis makes believe that he is a poor water-ski instructor to win the feisty Shelly Fabares. All of these films feature widescreen presentation, and can be subtitled or overdubbed into French, Spanish or English. Most of the movies on this 75th Birthday Collection are solid Elvis films, but certainly not the best of the best. Certainly, the King deserved better than this on his birthday. Better luck on your 80th, Elvis!