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  G.I. Blues Caught In The Draft
Year: 1960
Director: Norman Taurog
Stars: Elvis Presley, Juliet Prowse, Robert Ivers, James Douglas, Letícia Román, Sigrid Maier, Arch Johnson, Mickey Knox, John Hudson, Kenneth Becker, Jeremy Slate, Beach Dickerson, Trent Dolan, Carl Crow, Fred Essler, Ron Starr, Erika Peters, Britt Ekland
Genre: Musical, Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tulsa McLean (Elvis Presley) may have been drafted into the United States Army, but he's making the best of it, stationed in West Germany in the Armored Division where today he is on tank manoeuvres. He and his fellow troops are looking forward to their night off, and Tulsa is the man to go to for setting them up with nubile ladies drawn locally but there's a snag when after they have been performing target practice with him at the sights of the barrel, the vehicle breaks a tread. The crew get out to survey the damage, when their sergeant (Arch Johnson) arrives and tells them they're staying here till it's fixed.

G.I. Blues was the first film the King of Rock 'n' Roll made after leaving the U.S. Army, a blatant cash-in on one of the big celebrity news stories of the era and a ploy which worked like a dream, with Elvis's fans flocking to see it, often many times, not to mention ensuring the soundtrack album flew off the shelves, all of which proved he was still a performer to be reckoned with. Or was he? For many fans, this film represented all that had gone bad about the Elvis legend as it seemingly neutered him into a career of light but mediocre movies and records which were less rockin' and more anodyne, a mass market phenomenon which saw to it the glory days of the musical form were well behind us.

But remember The Beatles were still to come when this was released, so it wasn't a dead loss even if Presley was to turn relentlessly family friendly - to celebrate getting out of the Army he had even appeared on a television special hosted by famed despiser of his music, Frank Sinatra, so it's little wonder there were those accusing him of selling out. Tell that to the average Elvis fan in 1960 and it would fall on deaf ears, as though he had been subsumed by a blander pop culture than the diehards would have liked, the fanbase continued to be mainly those who wanted to see those silly movies and hear him sing those safe songs: when you see him crooning Wooden Heart in a puppet show, it was a sign of things to come.

The plot here, such as it was, revolved around the by now ancient "You went out with me on a bet?! How dare you!" cliché where Tulsa (who hails from Oklahoma, you see) romances icy nightclub dancer Lili, played by long-legged Juliet Prowse, but only because his friends have a bet he wouldn't spend the night with her. Except, to no-one's surprise, he ends up falling for her and the feeling is mutual, so how long can he carry on the relationship without having his guilt overwhelm him, while saving face with his buddies? That it takes a babysitting appointment to sort it all out was indicative of the milder persona Presley was adopting here, and in truth he began the movie rather self-satisfied in personality which if it had not been for the fact he was adored by millions might have put the average viewer off.

Tulsa fixes that before the denouement, and becomes a more likeable, even humble better man, but what of the real reason to watch G.I. Blues, which wasn't Prowse's dancing but Presley's singing? The soundtrack, in contrast to the efforts he was starring in come the end of the decade, wasn't half bad, a nice mix of jolly numbers, more energetic rockers and fair ballads: the title track and Wooden Heart were the most recognisable, though there was a cheat in that you hear Blue Suede Shoes on a jukebox as he doesn't actually perform it. The conceit was Tulsa and his pals were trying to make a name for themselves as a band, thus offering the excuse for songs as Elvis gets up in an "oh, all right then" manner to mime to tracks from the tie-in album, and you weren't shortchanged as far as that went, they assuredly packed in the tunes. For all the misgivings the trendsetters and tastemakers had about Elvis's movies from then on, there were a handful which could be perfectly enjoyable; admittedly this was one of the lower tier entries.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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