Movie: King Creole
My Rating: 3 stars
Elvis is at it again. And, by “at it,” I mean pouting, misbehaving, and sexually assaulting guileless women. In this story, Elvis is a shiftless lay-about in New Orleans. He’s supposed to be a college kid, but he can’t seem to pass any of his classes. And, his bad attitude sure isn’t winning any sympathy points with his teachers. So, Elvis turns to loafing on the corner with all the other nogoodniks. It’s not that he’s a delinquent, but he’s not about to say no to a criminal gang who wants to use his guitar skills and sweet voice to create a diversion so that they can knock over the local drug store—especially when they’re giving him a hefty cut. This kid may know right from wrong, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder big enough for him to ignore the consequences. So when, two mob bosses notice his musical stylings and start fighting over which one gets to book him at his night club, Elvis is happy to go along for the ride. Especially since one of their little molls is so darn beguiling.
My generation has a very loose grasp on the concept of “Elvis Presley.” We aren’t old enough to have experienced his music and stardom firsthand. Heck, most of us haven’t even really watched much of his material on recording. But, our parents sure have a thing or two to say about him (or his early years, anyway). And, most of it is positive. “He was so cool, so handsome, so talented.” And so, I felt it was my duty to go into the archives to watch some of his old movies to judge for myself. And, he really seems like an awful guy. Sure this kid is handsome. He’s handsome in that sullen, moping, bad-boy way—sleepy eyes, killer hair, a pout so big that a bird could land on it. But, I’m having a hard time seeing what was so appealing about this cad.
I guess the 60s was a different time. Women were taught to put up with a lot of monkey business from men. Maybe it’s that bad-boy image that had my mom swooning, and her mother tisking about his suggestive hips and society’s slipping morals. Because, there’s not one woman in any of his films that Elvis treats like an actual human being. He knows he’ll get that little mob moll in serious trouble if her owner finds out the two of them are messing around, but as long as he gets what he wants, Elvis doesn’t care. Then there’s the little soda fountain waitress that he’s trying to seduce. He straight-up tries to get her alone in an isolated place so that he can pressure her into unwanted intimacy. It’s the whole game of, “We don’t have to do anything, honey, but everyone’s going to think we did. So we might as well have a little fun.” It’s pretty shocking to my modern sensibilities. This is the kind of comically brazen material you find in those cheesy “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace” videos. But, as is the case with those outrageous product warning stickers, they wouldn’t use those examples if it didn’t happen.
This still a moderately interesting movie, despite the troubling social messages it’s sending. Elvis Presley does have a lovely voice. Plus, it’s really fun to see him singing his venomous protest songs at the two mob bosses. His character does have a maddeningly bad attitude throughout the movie, but that’s one scene in which he’s completely justified. I’m all for acting spitefully toward people who are trying to impress others by publicly humiliate you. And, it’s always interesting to learn how previous generations developed their personalities and senses of right and wrong. This Elvis Presley movie isn’t quite as fun as Blue Hawaii, but it’s one of the better ones.