I Saw A Film!
Elvis is an oil baron rich kid who wants to know if he can hack being an everyman. Of course just swapping places with a water-skiing instructor at a water ski and boat racing resort isn’t exactly slumming it. And he more or less hits it out of the park with his cool and inventiveness which includes boat-racing nerves of steel (because, of course you’d have such nerves as a regular person in a rich playboy’s world). And of course, most of the humor of the story revolves around the gold-digging by a few of the ladies.
Bill Bixby, a Presley movie regular, plays another rich fellow who attracts lady attention and acts as a foil for Presley to spar with. A good portion of the story revolves around Presley attempting to revive a boat that fell apart in a previous race, with a new rosin that Presley was working on in some previous life. Of course, through his genius and hard work the rosin is successful and we’re not too upset that most of the film doesn’t seem to be about a clambake of any sort. There is a song, don’t you know, and most of the songs are horrible, lazy, big band crooners that have as little to do with the Rock and Roll that launched Elvis’s career (and this is 10 years in!) as Dean Martin’s crooning did. So I can’t imagine there was an audience for this thing, Elvis fans had to be wondering why he’d been defanged, and if you’re not an Elvis fan you wouldn’t be watching.
Sure there’s a lot of cute ladies in cute outfits shaking their stuff to an insipid clambake number that basically just says “clambake” over and over again while the camera pans the stage set made to look like a little fantasy beach bum shanty town. And, of course, any kids watching this would probably have been invigorated about the implied fun and obvious beauty. But this pleasant aspect of the film (in other beach blanket stories would be about saving some aspect of the youthful life) is a bit of a sideshow. The cornball grudge boat race and sit-com identity swap are the center of the movie, and while they work as a film, like a basic program being read step by step, the reality is the film is just a bore. You never really expect the Elvis to be in any kind of difficulty–after all he’s secretly rich! You can’t play the game of heroism as an everyman when the truth is you can never really escape your connections and substantial safety net. Comparing a film like this to The Graduate (something I do a lot of) you’re immediately struck by the squareness and the weakness of the deception, especially since daddy is on his way to blow it out of the sky.
This runs free on prime and even Elvis lambasted it as his worst.