Clambake (DVD)

“It’s a hip version of The Prince and the Pauper.” (gag)

By 1967, Elvis Presley’s film career was definitely on the limp. He’d been appearing in feature films for 11 years, but all of his best efforts were behind him and the scripts (and most of the songs) were by then definitely second rate. Close to the bottom of the barrel was Clambake.

MGM has now brought this clambake to DVD in an edition completely commensurate with the film’s quality.

Scott Heyward, son of a rich oilman, is disillusioned with life, as people only seem interested in him because of his money. He trades places with penniless water skiing instructor Tom Wilson in hopes of making it on his own and perhaps finding a girl who will care for him as a person rather than for what he has. Working at a beachfront hotel in Miami, he soon becomes interested in one of the hotel’s guests, Dianne Carter, but she admits that her real goal is to marry a man with plenty of money. Such a man is rich playboy James Jamison, who also becomes interested in Dianne. Resigned to losing Dianne, Scott throws himself into trying to repair a speedboat in order to win first prize at that year’s regatta. His chief opposition is past winner Jamison. Beating Jamison in the race would vindicate Scott’s faith in his own abilities and perhaps change Dianne’s mind about whom she really cares for.

Wow, this is a bad film/disc! Let’s see. Is there anything good?

1. Elvis has one fine song — “You Don’t Know Me.” It’s tastefully presented and nicely sung.

2. Gary Merrill, who plays speedboat owner Sam Burton, adds some class to the proceedings. Yet, it’s sad to see him having to suffer through this film, particularly a ridiculous musical number involving the repair of the speedboat.

3. MGM spares your intrepid reviewer by mercifully restricting the supplements on the DVD to only the original theatrical trailer.

Wow, this is a bad film/disc. Let’s see. Where to start?

1. This is a musical with seven songs. Six are pathetic and one of them (“Confidence”) is a blatant rip-off of “High Hopes.” Most of the songs are laughably and amateurishly staged.

2. There is a plot, but it’s completely predictable and of a complexity that should require about 60 (not 99) minutes of screen time at most, even allowing for a few musical numbers.

3. The acting is poor. Elvis (as Scott Heyward) goes through the motions, but can’t hide how bored he is by it all. Bill Bixby (James Jamison) and Will Hutchins (Tom Wilson) are embarrassing to watch. Hutchins’s buffoonish clowning when he assumes Scott’s real identity is painful. There are dozens of girls in various scanty costumes who can’t dance their way out of a paper bag and can’t deliver single lines of dialogue with any skill whatsoever.

4. Back projection is rampant in this film, particularly for the close-ups involving any vehicles. It’s painfully obvious for a film from 1967 and there is not even the slightest pretense of trying to make it realistic. One simple example: somehow there’s no wake to the boat or skis when Elvis and Dianne are seen water skiing in close-up.

5. MGM’s image transfer of this film is mediocre at best. It’s 2.35:1 widescreen at least, but lacks anamorphic enhancement. It’s also consistently too dark looking, and often murky in the nighttime scenes.

6. The sound is clear enough, but even for a mono track, lacks any sense of vigour whatsoever.

Here’s another fine opportunity to save money. Clambake is a bad film with a mediocre DVD transfer at best.

THE VERDICT

The defendant is guilty, guilty, guilty. This court is adjourned.

30
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