Well, I got through Blue Hawaii, and while it wasn’t particularly good, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. In fact, I even breathed a sigh of relief.
Oh, how premature my exhale was.
Follow That Dream (1962) | 109 min.
WOW. These went downhill FAST. Sorry, every IMDB user who called it heartwarming, this movie was just flat-out terrible. The opening shot is Elvis sitting in a car sneering at an outhouse, and that pretty much sums up the mood for the rest of the film to come.
This one follows the story of Pop (Arthur O’Connell) Toby (Elvis Presley) and their adopted family of ragtag children, including orphaned teen babysitter Holly (Anne Helm) a couple of twins, and a baby. While driving down a highway in Florida, Pop decides to take the road that literally says “Highway Closed, Driving is Prohibited” because… something about how the government can’t tell him what to do. They then promptly run out of gas and decide to set up camp alongside the highway and wait for a patrol car to come along and bail them out. The patrol car eventually arrives, and inquires as to what the hell they think they’re doing. Out of spite over being verbally reprimanded, Pop decides to take up homesteading and just live right off the highway.
The rest of the movie follows Pop and the gang as they learn how to open a bank account, start a fishing rental business, deal with their murderous gambling gangster neighbors, and fight the government for their right to exist outside of the law, on the side of the highway, profiting from the fruits of government owned land.
I’m assuming that people who love this film are loving it through the nostalgia filter—y’know, the ‘good old times,’ back when women knew their place and the white man could own that which was ordained to him by God without no stinkin’ government hangin’ over his head. Well, I am not one of those people, and this movie is ridiculous. The plot is just senseless. I understand that it’s meant to be a comedy, but it never really feels like one. In fact, it feels like some sort of comedy front for a more pernicious theme—my theory is that this movie was made in order to pander to conservative producers and financiers. But I digress.
Follow That Dream mostly suffers from plain, all-out stupidity. The entire movie bumbles along without any real plot or character development, and hopes you’re dumb enough to fall for laughing at outhouses for two hours. There’s absolutely nothing clever about this film even though it presents its situations as though there is. You’re meant to think Toby and Holly are sincerely naive, and in small doses, this does work—the mistaken bank robbery mix up works for about the first five minutes, until the alarm goes off and it’s clear to everybody, but Toby, what’s happening. The joke just turns cumbersome when he flat out never gets it. Even when the police officer is telling him to drop his weapon, or the bank manager is flat out asking him “Are you robbing this bank?” Toby replies “No” without even a flicker of recognition of the situation he is currently in.
Del Close always encouraged his improvisers to play to the top of their intelligence, and in that sense, Follow That Dream is the perfect example of how not to do comedy. It’s one thing to build a joke around not knowing the difference between a drunk hunting party and a car full of hitmen with machine guns trying to kill you; it’s another to have the character be told in no uncertain circumstances what is actually happening, and for that character to still stand there willfully ignorant to his surroundings. The writers just simply dropped the ball and expected you to still laugh based on your previous memories of similar types of jokes that were more effective. Unless you get your kicks out of laughing at fools dealing with other fools in foolish situations phoned-in by lazy writers, there’s nothing for you here. I won’t even get into the desperately horny government social worker chick, who can’t even do her job correctly because she’s too gaga over Toby. When he rebuffs her overt passes, she turns into a vindictive witch who straight up tries to get him arrested as an unstable person. Ah, there you are sexist ‘60s, I knew you were in there somewhere.
Elvis looks bored out of his mind in this film. In fact, he’s lying down for, I want to say, a good 70% of the movie. I’m not kidding—every single song he does, he does while either lying down or sitting. There’s zero chemistry on screen, and again, Elvis stands out completely from everybody else in the film visually. However, I will give him props for his acting in this—he does play a great simple, backwater hick, and genuinely comes across as sincere. Too bad the material doesn’t give him any chance to shine—comically or otherwise.
Bonus points for the fact that he looks a lot blonder. He must have skipped the black hair dye this time. This sandy blonde was actually Elvis’ real hair color. I wish he had skipped the black dye for his westerns—he would have fit in so much better.
For the record, both the opening and closing shots of this film are of an outhouse.
Best song: The music in this movie is actually not bad at all, but unfortunately, there’s all of zero effort in the justification, production, or even the lip-syncing. Elvis is barely interested in singing any of them, and the titular song might just be the best example of that. Elvis is literally laying on his back the entire song, and at one point, rolls over on his stomach, and then rolls back over on his back again. Now, that’s some goddamn choreography for ya! Also, there’s zero reason for why he starts singing. It’s the laziest song insert I’ve seen yet. He’s in the middle of taking a psychological word association test, and then the radio just kinda turns on, and suddenly he’s singing. It’s a good thing you’re attractive, Elvis.
1 out of 5 Stars,
1/2 out of 5 Elvises
Kid Gallahad (1962) | 95 min.
I didn’t know what to expect after that last one, and thankfully, Kid Gallahad went the bland, boring route instead of the hot-mess route.
It starts with Walter Gulick (Presley) sitting on the back of a truck going past redwood trees on Route 1—oh, I’m sorry, arriving in “Cream Valley, New York.” Turns out Walter was born there, and decided to come back and see if he could make a buck as a local mechanic. Instead, he runs into a series of summer camps that I remember in my mind as being named stuff like Liebermann’s Log Cabins, Schlomo’s Stay-n-Go, and Hershel’s Holiday Camp. Last on that list, covered in shamrocks, is Grogan’s Gaelic Gardens Inn—a boxing camp owned by one Willy Grogan (Gig Young).
Walter takes a job as a sparring partner, and quickly proves his worth by taking around 800 hits to the head without falling, and then punching the lights out of his opponent in one go. Willy puts him under his best trainer Lew’s (Charles Bronson) watchful eye, and Walter quickly gains the attention of the entire town, Willy’s young sister Rose (Joan Blackman) and several unsavory mobsters.
Elvis looks glazed over yet again. He’s lacking his signature spark, plus he just has no chemistry with anybody on screen. It’s a waste because his character is written with some nice, charming touches—his hand-built cherry red Model T and white knight antics that earns him the nickname “Galahad” come to mind—but ultimately, the character doesn’t go anywhere. While his character is written with a sweet-natured demeanor, there’s just no real emotion to him—his highs and lows are non-existent. He doesn’t seem to care about the stakes at all—he just wants to make a quick buck so he can quit boxing and work in a garage full-time.
The rest of the acting is subpar as well. Gig Young overacts Willy as way too hot and cold, Charles Bronson looks like he’s making as minimal an effort as possible, and Joan Blackman—back again from Blue Hawaii and who I can’t say I particularly missed—didn’t stand out at all other than being attractive.
I did sort of like Lola Albright as Willy’s perma-fiancée Dolly. All of her lines were delivered with such a deadpan, emotionless demeanor that she ended up having the most emotion of them all—it seemed natural, considering that her character was trapped in a dead-end relationship with a man who refused to acknowledge her in public for three years. Minus points though for her big scene of finally up and leaving Willy being played with her in her underwear—while fairly tame by today’s standards, it’s still pretty obnoxious and unnecessary.
I want to blame this on the director Phil Karlson– Bland camerawork, lifeless performances… Elvis had the potential, you guys coulda had magic but instead you went for a bland, emotionless film. Also, what’s with all the stereotypes of the Jews and the Irish? Like, we get it, it’s meant to be New York—cool down.
Perhaps I’m just not the ideal viewer for this movie—I can’t say I have any interest in boxing, or would even know what to look for in the way of authenticity. Elvis sure does seem to take a bunch of hits to the head, and it’s probably his highpoint as far as acting goes in the film. Plus, there were a lot of weird Christian values shoved into this one alongside its weird racial stereotypes, including a ten minute scene on how to get married with a wisecrackin’ Irish priest.
It’s certainly got a more unique and interesting theme than most Elvis movies, but ultimately, it’s a pretty forgettable film. Points for Elvis being shirtless all the time though.
Best Song: Honestly, all the songs were forced. I’ll pick “I Got Lucky,” for its stereotypical irish references and some really forced dancing between Elvis and Joan Blackman. He looks so unfocused—either he’s imagining he’s far far away in Hawaii again, or he’s just looking at her chest the entire time. I can’t decide.
2 out of 5 Stars,
1 1/2 out of 5 Elvises