“That ain’t tactics, honey — it’s just the beast in me!”
After accidentally killing a man in a barfight, a construction worker (Elvis Presley) is sent to jail, where his cellmate (Mickey Shaughnessy) — a former country-and-western star — teaches him to play the guitar and offers him a chance to perform. Upon his release, Vince (Presley) connects with a beautiful juke box representative (Judy Tyler) and soon becomes a rising star — but will thirst for fame and money corrupt his humble beginnings?
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that while Elvis Presley’s third film is “not on the high level of Flaming Star or King Creole“, it was “one of his biggest commercial successes” and “is still quite enjoyable”. He notes that “young Elvis is handsome and charismatic playing the troubled, misunderstood, quick-fisted character that best suited him in his movie career”; that “his singing is strong and smooth”; and “the Leiber-Stoller numbers… are first-rate”, with “the wildly choreographed ‘Jailhouse Rock’ production number” a true “classic”. He further adds that the film “benefits from the sweet presence of Judy Tyler, an actress who died young but is remembered fondly.” Peary’s assessment is fair but overly generous. The major themes of the storyline — show business is brutal, fame easily corrupts — aren’t unique or compelling, and it’s difficult to care too much about Presley’s “backwoods lad who trusts no one and carries a chip on his shoulder” (I don’t find him particularly charismatic). This flick will, of course, be of major interest to Presley fans — but all-purpose film fanatics can simply watch the title number on YouTube.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine musical numbers
No, though the “Jailhouse Rock” number is certainly worth watching on its own.