As Elvis Presley's popularity declined in the mid-1960s, so did the quality of his films. What began as a promising career eventually devolved into a seemingly endless series of embarrassing movies. The main problem was that, rather than find good projects suited to his client's talents, Col. Tom Parker routinely slashed the budgets to maximize his own profits. Also, since all the songs had to go through Elvis' publishing company, they were no longer written by solid hitmakers, but by hacks willing to give up their rights for the exposure.
To coincide with the 30th anniversary of Elvis' death, Warner Brothers has taken six Elvis movies, of varying degrees of quality, from this period and put them in a DVD box set called The Hollywood Collection, Vol. 1. Each DVD is presented, for the first time, in widescreen format with the theatrical trailer, and comes with five photo cards.
Nearly all Elvis movies feature cheesy dialogue, a handful of songs, and lots of beautiful girls, so, using those criteria, here is a chronological guide to the six movies in the set:
Kissin' Cousins (1964)
Plot: The Army wants to build a missile base on top of a Tennessee mountain, but the family that owns the land doesn't want to sell. It's up to Lt. Josh Morgan (Elvis) to convince his distant cousin, Jodie Tatum (also Elvis, in a blond wig) to make the deal.
Quality of songs: Weak, including some Hollywood takes on Appalachian bluegrass. The songs are as interesting as their titles - "Barefoot Ballad," "Smokey Mountain Boy," and "Catchin' On Fast" - suggest.
Quality of women: Pretty good. Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig, making her second appearance in an Elvis film, is cute as Josh's love interest, Azalea Tatum. Cynthia Pepper is a WAC who eventually falls for Jodie. There's also a nearby gang of hillbilly hotties, the Kittyhawks, led by, of all people, Maureen Reagan.
Sample dialogue: "The catfish eyes bring out the flavor in the possum tails."
Memphis Mafia cameo: Joe Esposito is Mike.
Overall: An example of the lazy, lighthearted comedic fare foisted on us by the Colonel, with lots of stereotypes about mountain folk. Elvis does his best to overcome the material, but it's not one of the better pre-Viva Las Vegas movies.
Girl Happy (1965)
Plot: Singer Rusty Wells (Elvis) and his band are hired by a Chicago gangster to look after his daughter (Shelley Fabares) in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break, but spend most of their time chasing co-eds.