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DVD Review: Kissin’ Cousins

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Written by General Jabbo

Elvis Presley expands his acting horizons, playing two roles in the low-budget comedy Kissin’ Cousins. Presley stars as Army second lieutenant Josh Morgan and his “hillbilly” cousin, Jodie Tatum, sporting blonde hair for the latter. When Army captain Salbo (Jack Albertson) complains to General Donford that he wants a Pentagon tour of duty, as he hasn’t seen his wife in ages, Donford tells him if he can complete Operation Smoky in three days, he’ll grant him his wish, but if he doesn’t, he’ll be shipped off to Greenland with Morgan. Operation Smoky involved convincing the Tatums to let the government build a missile base on top of their mountain and Morgan gets the job of convincing his family to allow it.

Morgan’s arrival does not go well as he gets into a fight with Jodie and Pappy Tatum (Arthur O’Connell) fires his shotgun when the Army soldiers arrive. We are also introduced to the “Kittyhawks,” wild mountain women in search of men with only one thing on their minds. Morgan has dinner with the Tatums and their daughter Azalea (Yvonne Craig) flirts with him. Morgan tries to explain the concept of ICBM missiles to Pappy who just doesn’t get it, saying “how can everybody see it but me?”

A local newspaper reporter gets a tip about the Army’s attempts at building a base and goes to investigate, getting a photo of Morgan in his jeep with the headline, “Anyone for missiles?” much to the captain’s dismay. In the meantime, General Donford shows up with his men to try and get the deal done, only to be forced to drink moonshine, eat possum tails and fall prey to the “Kittyhawks.” Morgan has fallen for Azalea by this point, while Jodie (who looks and sings remarkably like Morgan) has fallen for Army stenographer Midge (Cynthia Pepper).

Part of the Elvis 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, Kissin’ Cousins features some themes that would be much less likely today, such as cousins falling for each other (distant or not) and a very stereotypical portrayal of southerners as rednecks or hillbillies. That said, the movie has a fun, innocent feel to it (Azalea dolls herself up by painting her toenails, even though the bottoms of her feet are dirty for instance) and some fun songs, including the title track, “Echoes of Love” and “Once is Enough.” Not the best Presley film, but far from the worst and one of the more charming.

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