Blue Hawaii is the first of three Elvis films shot in Hawaii and it makes its arrival on 4K Ultra HD by way of the Paramount Presents line.
A quick note about the Blue Hawaii restoration: they scanned the original 35mm negative in 4k/16BIT. Unfortunately, the opening sequence was grainy because it originally used duped film. As a result, they have rebuilt the sequence completely using the original film elements in the Paramount library. Because of this, the film has brand new text overlays for the opening sequence. If you’ve seen the film before and wondering why there might be differences, this is why!
When it comes to the film itself, this is the run-of-the-mill Elvis movie. All Elvis Presley movies seem to play by the same formula. Whether it works or not is up to you–it certainly did not work for me. The filmmakers to do take advantage of Presley’s recent exit from the U.S. Army by having his character, Chadwick “Chad” Gates, returning home from military service. The first thing he does? Make his girlfriend, Maile Duval (Joan Blackman), jealous by kissing the stewardess upon landing.
Chad’s mom, Sarah Lee Gate (Angela Lansbury) would prefer that Chad follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the Great Southern Hawaiian Fruit Company. Ever the rebel, he decides to join his girlfriend by working as a tour guide. One of the first clients that Chad has to deal with are teacher Abigail Prentice (Nancy Walters) and four teenagers. I’m not sure having the 17-year-old Ellie fall for Chad is the best idea here but the fact that she threatens to kill herself over his refusal is something that doesn’t play well. It’s already bad enough that Abigail’s main role here is to make Maile jealous of her. Anyway, Chad loses his job and then Maile also decides to quit. In any event, they independently guide Abigail and the teens around Hawaii.
In the end, Chad and Maile join forces in starting up their own tourist company, Gates of Hawaii. As they start up the business, they also help out Chad’s father’s business, too. Of course, wedding bells also ring at the end between the two.
Angela Lansbury was slightly more than 10 years older than Elvis. It probably isn’t the first time that an actor is ten years older than their on-screen child. Nor is it the last–see William Daniels and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Her casting makes it all the more awkward when one looks at the 18-year age difference between Lansbury and on-screen husband, Roland Gates. This isn’t to say anything bad about the actress as she does what she can with the material she’s been given.
The soundtrack also features “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” which was certified platinum. The film’s Grammy-nominated soundtrack album would go onto spend 20 weeks at #1 in the Billboard 200 charts. Unfortunately, the music is really the only good thing about the film aside from the beautiful visuals that the Hawaii scenery has to offer. Does it look nice in 4K UHD? Sure but a film needs to do more than just look nice! More often than not, the film struggled to keep my attention when I watched it on Saturday night. There are better Elvis Presley films out there that I would recommend well before Blue Hawaii.
Blue Hawaii is as much of a tourist ad for Hawaii as it is a way to get people to buy the soundtrack album.
- Commentary by historian James L. Neibaur
- Blue Hawaii Photo Scrapbook — contains high-res images from the Paramount archives, including behind-the-scenes shots
- Original Theatrical Trailer
DIRECTOR: Norman Taurog
SCREENWRITER: Hal Kanter
CAST: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury, Nancy Walters
Paramount Pictures released Blue Hawaii in theaters on November 22, 1961. Grade: 2/5
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