Plot: What’s it about?
Vince Everett (Elvis Presley) has a fiery personality, one which lands him in immense trouble. The construction worker has a short temper and when he gets riled up, his anger flows like wine. When a minor conflict arises, Vince’s hot headed nature causes things to escalate. So when a simple problem comes up with another bar patron, Vince’s temper explodes and he beats the man to death. Now he finds himself behind bars, but he does forge a friendship with his cellmate, Hunk (Mickey Shaughnessy). Hunk was a musician on the outside and he tries to help Vince vent his frustrations through music. The two even agree to be partners in Vince’s career once they’re free, though Hunk makes sure he winds up with the better end of the deal. But once he is out, he is taken for a ride by the promoters he encounters, so he decides to become a star on his own. But can Vince channel his emotions through music, or will he wind up back in jail?
This is an Elvis movie, so expect more than brisk fluff is a mistake. Jailhouse Rock is one of The King’s lesser cinematic works, so unless you’re a diehard Elvis fan, don’t expect much. The storyline is wafer thin, of course, but even this simple material proves too much for Elvis. He was able to turn in some good performances in later pictures, but here he drowns in a basic role and is laughable at times. But at least he is allowed to sing and dance, so in those scenes, he carries himself well. If you’re an Elvis devotee, you’ll be able to overlook his lack of thespian talent, since his charisma is solid here. But as a movie, Jailhouse Rock is mediocre to be kind and fails to offer much spark. Elvis is Elvis and some people will watch him do anything, but if you’re after a good movie, then don’t look into Jailhouse Rock. This HD-DVD looks good, perhaps too good as the production’s cheap values shine through, so if you must see this movie, this is the best avenue to do so.
Video: How does it look?
Jailhouse Rock is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. This new transfer looks good and is an improvement over previous releases, but isn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off. This movie was shot on a low budget, so production values weren’t great and that shows in the transfer. The print looks good, with minimal serious defects, but the movie has a very soft look, so detail isn’t remarkable. I found contrast to be smooth and well balanced, which is crucial, since the use of shadows and contrast is crucial to the film’s visual design. In the end, this is a step up from the standard disc, but this movie will never look excellent, thanks to the low end production values.
Audio: How does it sound?
The audio here sounds good too, thanks to a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 option. Of course, this material isn’t as immersive or active as more recent films, but this is still a solid presentation. The film has more life and depth, especially in the musical scenes, which sound quite good here. The surround use really kicks in during the music driven scenes, with clear vocals and smooth music, not to mention some impressive bass. The dialogue sounds clear too, while more reserved scenes don’t offer much presence, but they do sound fine. This disc also includes a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 option, the original mono soundtrack, French and Spanish language tracks, and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An audio commentary is up first, as Steve Pond provides his comments on the film. Pond authored a book on Elvis’ film career, so his track is well researched and informative. He shares a lot of background information on the production and its cast & crew, with a focus on Elvis, of course. This disc also includes a retrospective featurette, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.