Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Girls! Girls! Girls!

Girls! Girls! Girls!, 1962, produced by Hall Wallis, directed by Norman Taurog, written by Allan Weiss, starring Elvis Presley, 1:85:1

In Girls! Girls! Girls! Elvis plays Ross. Ross, unfortunately, has fallen on hard times. After his Dad died he had to sell his father's beloved boats to Mama and Papa Stavros (Lili Valenty and Frank Puglia) in order to cover "the costs". Now Ross works for Papa and Mama taking out tourists visiting Hawaii on the boats that used to be his fathers for some deep sea fishing. He lives on another boat that used to be his but is now owned by Papa and Mama, his beloved West Wind, the boat he built with his Dad.

Things are about to change for Ross, however, and not for the good. Mama is ill and her doctor has advised her and Papa to move to the dry "healing" air of Arizona. They sell the boats to the ego maniacal Wesley Johnson (Jeremy Slate) who is interested in the boats only as something he can make a profit off of. Ross tries to buy the West Wind from Johnson but Johnson wants $10,000 dollars for it, $4000 more than he paid for it, and $10,000 dollars more than Ross has. Ross manages to get a job with Johnson captaining one of the boats of his tuna fishing fleet but, as Ross finds out, Johnson is not trustworthy.

Ross loves his boats, boats, boats but he also, being a red blooded American boy, loves his girls, girls, girls and those girls, girls, girls love him as well. There are two of them he is especially interested in. Robin (Stella Stevens) a singer at the local nightclub the Pirate's Den and Laurel (Laurel Goodwin) who he meets at the Pirate's Den one night. Both girls are trouble, trouble, trouble. Robin is jealous of Laurel and Laurel is jealous of Robin. It doesn't help when Ross, needing extra money, cuts in on Robin's singing time at the Den or when Laurel Dodge, yes one of the Detroit Dodge's, buys Ross's boat, boat, boat for him.

To make a short and cliched Hollywood story shorter Ross raises his true colours for Laurel when he rescues a Laurel who is trapped sea on the West Wind with the lech Johnson. After Ross orders Laurel to sell the West Wind back to Johnson the happy ending we have all been waiting for arrives in port and Ross and with his I will never take a hand-out manhood once again intact, offers marriage to Laurel and she says yes.

Girls! Girls! Girls! is your standard operating Elvis starring vehicle. Amidst the almost extraneous tale of a boy, his boats, boats, boats, and his girls, girls, girls is a lot of Elvis singing songs, songs, songs, which, one assumes, is the reason why most people came into the cinema to see the film in the first place. And while the old rockabilly Elvis was largely tamed by Hollywood at this point so he could reach a broader and more family friendly audience, Elvis in Pat Booneland, there are a few moments in Girls! Girls! Girls! where the hip shaking Elvis of yore makes a brief if somewhat tamed appearance as when he sings, sings, sings "Return to Sender", a number two hit for Elvis in the US and a number one hit for "the King" in the UK. Little did anyone know at the time that a group from Liverpool was about to knock Elvis off of his now tamed rock and roll throne and bring a rawness back to rock and roll, and a Marx Brothers anarchy and French nouvelle vague energy to the rock movie, the Beatles, a rawness and energy that made "rock" movies like Girls! Girls! Girls! seem like the film equivalent of television's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and David and Ricky.

I give Girls! Girls! Girls! one and a half to two stars on the general Maltin metre. If I was judging it solely in comparison to other Elvis vehicles like the dreadful Change of Habit I'd have to say that Girls! Girls! Girls! is one of the "masterpieces" among Elvis Presley flicks. Thankfully, however, I don't have to say that.

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