Release Date(s)1958 (April 21, 2020)
Studio(s)Hal Wallis Productions/Paramount Pictures (Paramount Presents #2)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D-
Elvis Presley’s popularity during the 1950s and onwards was such that even someone who couldn’t act initially was given starring roles in a number of films centered around him—over thirty in fact. Before his military service, he starred in his fourth picture, King Creole. A musical drama akin to many of the low grade B movies that would follow in its wake, the king of rock and roll sang a number of hit songs—including the title track, Trouble, and Hard-Headed Woman—throughout the streets, musical establishments, and seedy alleyways of New Orleans.
After the death of his mother, Danny Fisher (Presley) works to support his sister and his father (Dean Jagger) outside of high school. Attempting to graduate but failing, he swears to never go back and that he will hustle his way through life. An unpleasant encounter with a customer at the nightclub where he works leads him to Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), who continually encourages him to go against the club’s ruthless owner, Maxie (Walter Matthau). When he joins a gang headed by Shark (Vic Morrow) to lift jewelry from a retail shop where he meets the pretty young Nellie (Dolores Hart), he is also offered a singing act by rival nightclub owner Charlie (Paul Stewart) at the King Creole. He eventually accepts, but Maxie is none too pleased about Danny’s disloyalty.
Based on the novel A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins, the role of Danny Fisher was originally meant for James Dean, but upon his death, the project was briefly shelved. Hal B. Wallis, who produced several Elvis-starring vehicles, brought famed director Michael Curtiz on to the project, and he and Elvis got along splendidly. In fact, Danny Fisher was said to be Elvis’ favorite role amongst the many that he played. He’s often not given much credit as an actor, but in the right hands he could deliver the goods, and in the case of King Creole, he did. Skillfully singing his way from scene to scene but still managing to give his character real gravitas, the clichéd troubled delinquent story is elevated by not just his presence, but by his performance.
King Creole debuts on Blu-ray from Paramount Presents, touted be from a new "4K film transfer." The source appears to be later generation materials, maybe even a fine grain positive. At first glance, the presentation is quite good. Depth in the image is prevalent and everything appears clean and stable with good contrast. Mild grain is present, but it appears uneven, perhaps even scrubbed. It doesn’t permeate the presentation, but some moments appear more natural than others. Delineation is not all that great either. Blacks are sometimes too deep and white levels are sometimes too bright, which could be chalked up to the materials used for the original scan. It’s certainly not a bad presentation, especially in motion, but it could have been a tad better.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and English, German, Spanish, French, and Italian mono Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles include English, English SDH, German, Spanish, French, and Italian. Dialogue exchanges are clear and sound effects are decent, but the star of the show are the musical numbers. They come through vibrantly, filling out the surrounding channels effortlessly. There’s also no leftover hiss, crackle, dropouts, or distortion to speak of.
The only extra is the 6-minute featurette Filmmaker Focus: King Creole. It’s hosted by Leonard Maltin, speaking about the film briefly, but reverentially. Not carried over from the original DVD release is the film’s theatrical trailer, though the slipcase packaging does feature a fold-out of the original key art. Sadly, it doesn’t make up for the lack of bonus materials on the disc. Even the film’s marketing materials would have been a welcome addition—perhaps even a commentary by a film historian or a noted Elvis Presley expert. In any case, it’s nice to have King Creole on the format at last, but the Paramount Presents line really needs to step up their game.
– Tim Salmons