Have you noticed how Elvis continues to loom so large in American pop-culture? One significant example of this is his presence in a dozen or so movies every year. Not necessarily as a character, but in more subtle ways, like his name being used in dialog, or his image in video clips or photos visible in a scene, or his songs playing in the background (or over the credits), or familiar Elvis trappings like jumpsuits and those famous sunglasses, or even his well-known moves and mannerisms.
Every August I enjoy going to Memphis Commercial Appeal’s website and reading John Beifuss’ annual report on movies that contain something, anything, about Elvis in them.
John Beifuss is a reporter and movie critic for the Commercial Appeal, and this nifty job has him watch every movie that comes to town. And, because that town is Memphis, Beifuss makes note of every Elvis connection he sees in them. As Elvis Week is going on each year, he posts his annual report on Elvis allusions in the movies during the past twelve months.
Beifus should have a wider audience for this unique chronicle. Since 2010, ElvisBlog has helped to spread the word by highlighting his annual discoveries and offering a link so readers can read his original comments. In 2014, he found sixteen movies with Elvis allusions, but half of them were low-budget local productions or documentaries. Let’s take a look at the ones you could actually find on the on-demand cable channels or Netflix and might want to watch.
The Art of the Steal:
This is the only one of the eight movies I have seen, and it’s pretty good. Kurt Russell plays a former get-away driver for a group of art thieves. He’s trying to stay straight as a motorcycle daredevil, until his age and injuries take their toll. As we remember with Evil Kneivel, he wears a jumpsuit for his performances.
It looks a good bit like an Elvis jumpsuit, and he does a series of Elvis-like moves to pump up the crowd before doing his big jump.
Turns out Godzilla isn’t the only terrifying creature in this movie. A giant winged-creature dubbed MUTO is unleashed from a massive cocoon-like structure that feeds on radiation. When the fierce insectoid attacks Las Vegas, Elvis’ song “Devil in Disguise” can be heard in the background.
I’m not sure that’s really an appropriate theme. That MUTO thing is definitely not in any disguise.
I like Reese Witherspoon, but must admit I never heard of this movie. Possibly, it was really crappy and had a very short run. Witherspoon’s character has an eight-year-old son in the movie, and they have several references to Elvis in their dialogue.
As she walks him to school, the boy sings “That’s All Right, Mama.” Later, he tells her, “I’m gonna buy you a Graceland, Mama, just like Elvis has got.” She replies, “How ’bout you buy me a Promised Land since he’s got the other one?”
After the son is murdered, the boy’s “Merry Christmas from Elvis” tree ornament is featured in two scenes. She sings “That’s All Right” and caresses the ornament to console herself. Later, when she moves on and cleans out the boy’s mementos including the ornament, we hear him singing the song again in the background.
Despite a successful screening at the 2014 Sundance Music Festival, this movie also seems to have had a limited run in theaters. It centers on medical student who specializes in the evolution of the human eye. The Elvis allusions does not appear in the movie, but in a post-credits sequence where retinal scans of famous people in history are compared to living people for matches. Elvis’ eye shows up here in a shot from “Jailhouse Rock.”
Muppets Most Wanted:
You have to be alert or you’ll miss this brief Elvis reference. When the Muppets start to organize a talent show, Fozzie Bear says, “I can do an Elvis impersonation.” You know, I’d actually like to see that.
Birth of the Living Dead:
AllMovie.com says this movie examines the volatile social climate that gave birth to George Romero’s highly-influential horror classic Night of the Living Dead, while paying tribute to the staunchly independent filmmaker and his unconventional methods. That’s not going to entice me to watch it, so I’ll miss the scene where a famous film critic says, “The electricity generated by a first encounter with [Night of the Living Dead] was like… seeing Elvis Presley for the first time.”
The Wolf of Wall Street:
When Leonardo DiCaprio dances with his new wife at their wedding in the Bahamas, guess what’s playing? An Elvis classic – “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Unfortunately, this has not been a classic year for reference to Elvis in the movies. Maybe there will be a better collection for John Beifuss to discover next year.
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