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King Creole – Paramount Presents (Blu-ray Review)

Paramount is launching into a pretty exciting new endeavor and keeping us home video collecting enthusiasts relieved that some studios are putting some effort behind catalog titles. With the newly minted Paramount Presents line, the brand is promising collectible packaging, new bonus features and new transfers of classic films from all eras of their storied studio’s career. The Elvis Presley starring film King Creole will be making its debut on the Blu-ray format with this new home video brand. Directed by the famed Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Robin Hood and many MANY more), this is exactly the type of film collector’s were potentially hoping to see more from on this line – catalog titles still hanging out in the vault collecting dust and still only being offered on outdated DVDs. Well, fear no more Elvis and Michael Curtiz fans, here comes King Creole! The Paramount Presents line launched on April 21st, and you can order King Creole now using the Amazon Associates link below.

Film

Denied his high school diploma because of a schoolyard fight, Danny Fisher (Elvis Presley) is unsure how he’s going to support himself and his unemployed father (Dean Jagger). He briefly flirts with a life of crime before a club owner (Paul Stewart) hears him singing and offers him a job. Things look promising until rival club owner and Danny’s former boss, Maxie (Walter Matthau), tries to lure him back with threats and the charms of his sometimes-girlfriend, Ronnie (Carolyn Jones).

King Creole tells the classic story of the bad boy with a heart of gold. Some guy with nothing much but a big talent to offer if he “makes it”, hold ties, allegiances and debts to bad people We’ve seen it plenty with things like deep character dramas On The Waterfront to feel good movies like Rocky. Whatever the trope or the genre, its how well you do it. What interesting spin you can find. Or, just doing it damn good. The cards are well in place for King Creole to become special with the iconic Elvis Presley in the lead and one of the greatest directors in Michael Curtiz to collaborate on the project.

Presley had done three films prior to King Creole, but he has remarked that this was his favorite role and one he’s most proud of. And for good reason. He had someone like Curtiz to challenge and harness him. Curtiz informed Presley to downplay everything in the film, from his dramatic moments to the stage. And it works like gangbusters. It feels honest and helps to serve the drama and keep the film from being a bit of fluff. Elvis really sells this well and shows a lot of potential, that he could lift off beyond being just a sales gimmick. And he even goes toe to toe with stalwarts like Walter Matthau and Carolyn Jones.

One might glance by King Creole and see its an Elvis film and just dismiss it as fluff. One thing I’d wish more people would look at is “Who made this?” Some of the things you turn your nose up to or have no idea you realize actually IS for you, could be found just merely seeing who wrote or directed a picture. King Creole leaps far beyond “Ugh, an Elvis movie” once the name Michael Curtiz comes into play. The man who made Casablanca, Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce and countless others weighs much more on the film than does its star. In fact, he crafts one of the best movies The King is in. There’s an elevation to things, a danger and completely plausibility to everything. I’ve never seen New Orleans like this. Its as haunting in the film as it is festive. That’s Curtiz. Even the musical numbers float naturally into the film and never make it cheesy, unreal or out of place. This is Michael Curtiz’s musical film and you’d never even realize it until its pointed out.

King Creole isn’t re-inventing the wheel, its just making its own edition from its own brand. If you enjoy the films of Michael Curtiz, you definitely should check it out. It may even interest you more in Elvis as an actor as you’d never thought you would be. He’s quite terrific in this and the songs are a nice compliment to an already engaging story.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: King Creole debuts on Blu-ray with a new 4K transfer in a 1.78:1 ratio (Originally listed as 1.85:1), likely used in preparation for anniversary screenings and such. DNR does appear to have been applied somewhat, but in a much more successful than the work on To Catch A Thief. You can make out grain and there are fine details about, but there are some sequences and the like that feature a smoothed over appearance. Overall, it does feature a pretty gorgeous black and white, shadowy and smokey look. Coats, dresses, upholstery and more feature good detail. Sharpness is pretty good, except in the moments where one scene fades into another, it comes off quite soft. Though this is common in many older films and not held to just this one. This is a pretty nice transfer overall.

Depth: The film features some terrific depth of field work, especially on the exterior of the city streets. Spacing and movements find themselves smooth an fluid.

Black Levels: Black levels look quite beautiful and have an impressively natural look to them, being nice and inky. Saturation is quite solid overall, being able to see the hair polish streaks and follicles in Elvis’ hair as well as textures and details in the darker corners. Its not perfect, there are some issues with a little crush on the shadows of faces in some of the medium and close up shots.

Color Reproduction:  N/A

Flesh Tones: Skin looks its nice white/gray and is consistent start to finish. Facial textures and details are pretty rock solid though in some shot they can look a bit smoothed over.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Restored English Mono Dolby Digital, German Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital, Italian Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, German, Spanish, French, Italian

Dynamics: Perhaps the stand out of this release of King Creole, is the new 5.1 mix for the film. It sounds really clean, more modern and seems to have lost a lot of analog distortions or signs of aging. Most notably, the musical numbers really take control and bring the film and your viewing area to a good, full and harmonious life.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: Sound effects wise, the subwoofer hits on the lighter end, but it really sounds pretty romantic with its bumps during the musical bits in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: Most of the films audio hangs out up front, but the rears do provide time to time ambiance and really help build the instrumentals in songs as well as some crowd noise.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and they’ve done their best in this mix to not have a jarring transition from spoken word to singing (Though still slightly noticeable).

Extras

King Creole, in first pressing, comes with a slip cover that folds open to reveal the original poster art for the film.

Please Note – On the Press Release for this Blu-ray, it mentioned a “Play The Songs Directly” bonus feature. You can find this by selecting “Scenes” on the main menu and the scenes with songs are labeled as such. This is not found on the Extras Menu.

Filmmaker Focus: King Creole (HD, 6:10) – Leonard Maltin gives us the lowdown on Michael Curtiz, Elvis, Hal Wallis and other players in the film and dives into a bit of a brief behind the scenes, technique and pop culture lesson for King Creole.

Summary

King Creole is a rock solid coming of age/road to stardom drama with a musical hook. The film features a great combo of masterful direction from Michael Curtiz and an impressive performance from Elvis. Paramount Presents gives the film a good looking transfer to go with really nicely polished up 5.1 track. Extras underwhelm, but the Maltin interview is honestly more than this film has ever had in the history of its home video releases. Again, like To Catch A Thief, the release feels a latch on to a revival screening that would play the Maltin interview prior to the film starting. I’ll never find out, though, as its screenings have likely been scrapped with the current pandemic situation in the world. Nonetheless, its taken the film 14 years to get to Blu-ray, so I imagine the is the best and maybe only opportunity to pick it up.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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