Friday, August 27, 2010

Vortex Gone Wild

An Elvis movie where he portrays a writer? The idea has peanut butter and banana goodness spread all over it. The execution? Well, let's start with the title: Wild in the Country. Though Elvis's character, Glenn Tyler, is a bumpkin, the setting is not entirely what I consider country. Incidentally, he is no Glenn. Glenn is the guy with the furry 'stache and extreme foot odor that dated my college roommate. And, ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Presley is no Glenn.

The 1961 movie, adapted from J.R. Salamanca's novel The Lost Country and Elvis's seventh Hollywood production, is not what I expected. Truly, it was his last effort to prove his acting chops before he circled Colonel Parker's drain of self-respect. As such, it was hard to watch because there are moments, apart from my unyielding admiration for all things Elvis, that he was good. Really good. Moments when my throat seized up and I never questioned that he was that delinquent who'd watched his mother die and never had a break in life. Was it cliche? Sure, but Elvis at his best is Elvis as an outcast bad boy. Isn't that what it was always about?

A musical, this is not. In an attempt to launch Elvis as a dramatic actor, the songs often superimposed and unrelated in his other films don't show up here. They are few and extreme: two bouncy and camp-tastic, one soulful and sweet. At it's heart, it is a story about a troubled young man, who with the help of a court-assigned therapist, discovers he has literary talent and something more to offer the world than anger and bitterness. It's rumored Elvis had to return to Hollywood to shoot an alternate ending because the original ending was all up into the tragedy portion of this Romeo-and-Juliet-meets-Cougar Town-hybrid melodrama.

The dialogue is where it falls apart for me. Are we supposed to accept him as a wild-child when the number of "ma'am"s out of his beautiful lips would put Eddie Haskel to shame? And the portion of his story the professor gushed over? *Cough*Bullwer-Lytton*cough. Better to have left it to our imaginations.

For me, the "love scene" between Glenn and his therapist is worth the price of Peyton Place admission. Though clearly within the restrictions of Hollywood morality of the day, it accomplishes far more heat and sensuality in its simplicity than any movie released today. Romance writers take heed: the hairpin still gets him, every time. It's worth a peek, if only to laugh at the Vulcan death grip he gives her when he tells her he's in love with her.

Elvis is the 11th most talked-about thread at The Vortex! If this post left you craving more, here's enough women's panties, auctioned hair and hunka hunka burning symbolism to O.D. you on The King, Vortex-style.

As a Friday treat, I give you what-the-hellery I found while trying to locate the awesomeness that is Elvis's red shirt in Wild in the Country. At least the copyright police won't be all over me for this one. Dave, honey, I'll be scouring the internet to sample this one. No, really.

Have a super weekend, everyone!


Charles Gramlich said...

I did not know he played a writer. The 'only' Elvis movie I've seen all the way through was his western. Can't quite remember the title now.

Pamela Cayne said...

Sometimes I worry about you, L.A. (But if you ever find Dave "Elvis" Ehlert singing Elvis singing Country, I'm so there!)

laughingwolf said...

as i recall he actually did some country tunes... no titles in mind, though :(