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Featured Blu-ray Review: Love Me Tender

August 23rd, 2013

Love Me Tender - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Elvis Presley made about 30 films in his career, most of which he was embarrassed about. Love Me Tender was the first film he was in, although he was definitely a supporting character and not the star. When it was first released, the critics were split on the film, but it was an instant hit with fans of the king. The film is now close to 60 years old, so the question is, has it aged well? Or is this film only good for a nostalgia trip for Elvis fans?

The Movie

The film begins at the end of the Civil war, with a group of Confederate soldiers robbing a train that is carrying wages for the Union soldiers, first by taking out the train depot and then disguising themselves as Union soldiers. The robbery takes place after the war ended, but so soon after that the Confederate soldiers don't know that. After they get the cash, $12,250 worth, they plan to use it to support the cause. Some of the men think they should take a share for themselves, but the leader, Vance Reno, says no. However, after they learn the Confederacy is no more, he changes his mind and divides the money up seven ways. This windfall couldn't come at a better time for Vance, as he's heading home to marry his sweetheart, Cathy.

When Vance and his two brothers, Brett and Ray, do make it home, they run into an old friend of the family, Jethro. It's from Jethro they learn that Vance was declared dead. Everyone in town thinks he's dead, even his Ma. At first Vance wants to race off to tell Cathy, but Jethro tells him Cathy has been staying at their place, ever since her parents were killed in a Union raid. It's not a completely happy family reunion. Since everyone thought Vance was dead, the youngest Reno brother, Clint, married Cathy.

This obviously creates a lot of tension between the brothers, but mostly from Clint towards Vance. Vance more or less gets over the situation; he just wants what's best for Cathy. However, Clint realizes Cathy never stopped loving Vance, and not truly loved him, and this causes a lot of jealousy.

The side plot with the stolen Union money pops up again, but this is a fine place to stop the plot summary.

Love Me Tender is, for the most part, thoroughly average. The story isn't bad, but it isn't great either. There's not a lot of screen chemistry between the three members of the love triangle. The train robbery doesn't seem organically integral to the plot. It feels more like a plot point added by a screenwriter to give the film a little more action in the end. It doesn't add any tension to the movie, it just pads out the running time. On the other hand, Elvis Presley is surprisingly good in the movie. His reputation as an actor wasn't as strong as his reputation as a singer. However, from this film we can tell this was because of bad choices in scripts, not a lack of raw talent. (And Elvis didn't get to chose the movies he would make, his manager did.)

The Extras

The extras are all from the 2006 DVD release, starting with an audio commentary with an Elvis historian, Jerry Schilling. There is also a quartet of featurettes, starting with Elvis Hits Hollywood. It runs for 13 minutes and it is exactly what the name makes it sound like. The Colonel & The King is 11 minutes long and focuses on Colonel Tom Parker, who was Elvis' manager. He was good at promotion, but controlling. Love Me Tender: The Birth & Boom of the Elvis Hit looks at the title track to this movie and how it came to be. Love Me Tender: The Soundtrack looks at all of the music in the movie, which was a surprise to Elvis, as he was hoping he would do no singing in the movie.

The technical presentation is mixed, but mostly good. The film looks great with excellent detail levels and great contrast. There's no sign of digital manipulation or compression issues, so I have no real complaints here. On the other hand, the 5.1 track is mostly mono. Granted, the film was originally shot in mono, so it is not surprising that there is little to no activity in the surround sound speakers, but it still loses points for being front and center.

The Blu-ray costs $15, which is good for this type of release.

The Verdict

If it weren't for Elvis Presley, Love Me Tender would be wholly unremarkable. It's an average Western with not a lot to set it apart, other than being the movie debut for The King. The film's Blu-ray debut looks great and has enough extras ported over from the DVD that it is worth picking up if you are a fan of Elvis. And if you've never seen Elvis act, at least give it a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley, Richard Egan, Debra Paget