Grade: CG.I. Blues (1960)

Director: Norman Taurog

Stars: Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse

Release Company: Paramount

MPAA Rating: NR

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Elvis Presley: G.I. Blues


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Although King Creole and Love Me Tender are two examples of Elvis Presley films that stand above the usual, most Elvis movies are little more than extended versions of music videos—lightweight and simplistic stories that loosely serve as excuses for the King to croon his wares. G.I. Blues is such a vehicle.

With the full cooperation of the U.S. military, the film marks Elvis' return from his two-year Army stint, where he was stationed in West Germany and met Priscilla. Similarly, G.I. Blues is set in Frankfort, where singing G.I. Tulsa McLean (Presley) dreams of starting up his own nightclub after his soldiering days are over. Unfortunately, he and his army/band buddies only have half the dough needed for the start-up stakes after duping their gullible sergeant out of $300, so they leap at a chance to double their money with a bet that their platoon "Don Juan" (Sgt. Dynamite) can charm a stereotypical frigid German dancer (Juliet Prowse as Lili) into a private tete á tete. Predictably, Sgt. Dynamite is shipped out, and a substitute G.I. must be found to woo Lili. Wonder who that could be?

Juliet Prowse has a couple of memorable interpretative dance numbers, but no one rents G.I. Blues to ogle her or for the story. It's all about Elvis and his music. Unfortunately, the pop tunes, ballads, and lullaby (a babysitting scenario justifies that ditty) are formulaic and largely forgettable. Elvis completists/fanatics will want to watch the film and own the soundtrack for historical value, and no one but Elvis would ever sing things like "G.I. Blues" or "Didja Ever." They are fun spoofs of the military life, but pale compared to Elvis' best.

The best number is cleverly inserted during the middle of a slow ballad, when a bored G.I. plugs a nickel into the jukebox to play something with more energy, and it turns out to be a 1960 version of Elvis on "Blue Suede Shoes" that plays over the ensuing fist fight. Elvis takes part, knocks a few heads to show he's no wuss, but preserves his developing clean-cut All American boy image by paying for the damages. The paper-thin plot also revolves around Elvis' moral dilemma about wooing a woman that he actually falls for primarily for mercenary motives. Unless you're still in junior high, his choice comes as no surprise.

It's also expected that G.I. Blues represents little in the way of acting prowess. As good as Prowse is at dancing, her character could be played by a cardboard cutout, as unbelievably as she represents the girl that's hard to get. Her fake German accent would be better lip-synched, and couldn't be any more inferior than the job that Elvis does in his musical numbers. With a paint-by-numbers script, she can hardly be faulted for supplying little more than a backdrop to the rock 'n roll icon, however.

Elvis does an adequate job carrying the movie, playing his natural self in a project that was produced solely to capitalize on his return to civilian life. After all, he's the only reason anyone will want to watch this mundane mush in the first place. His fans will rate the film much higher, and military professionals will nostalgically recall the pre-Vietnam days, when service could be spent in non-combatant European service, but the lightweight film remains mediocre at best.

 


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