While I may not necessarily be an Elvis Presley fan, my wife is and I can certainly see the appeal. I’ve never actually seen one of his films all the way through; maybe it was meant to be that the first of his films I watched beginning to end was also his first.
Love Me Tender was the first time fans were able to see Elvis up on the big screen and it wasn’t their last. With a budget of only $1 million, 20th Century Fox made it back in three days, solidifying Elvis’s appeal to an even bigger fan base than before. While Richard Egan and Debra Paget were headlining, make no mistake, the use of “Introducing Elvis Presley” was the one reason they were going to see this new western back in 1956.
Elvis plays Clint Reno, younger brother of Vance Reno (Egan), who’s been pining over Cathy (Paget), all through the Civil War. After Vance and his gang of rebels steal over $12,000 worth of Confederate money in a train robbery, Vance returns home to sweep Cathy off her feet. Only to find out that everyone was told he had died in the war, pushing Cathy into Clint’s arms and the two are now married. Vance decides he can’t handle being on the family farm, seeing Clint and Cathy together, and wants to leave for California. But before he can, the law shows up wanting to take Vance and his gang into custody. Now Vance is on the run, with Clint, Cathy, and the law on his tail, one seeking the return of the money Vance stole, with Clint out to defend the woman he stole from Vance.
Director Robert D. Webb keeps the pace moving at a steady clip with Robert Buckner’s screenplay delivering more than just the standard western clichés. Egan and Paget play torn lovers with believable passion, while Elvis keeps right up with them. Right out of the gate it’s clear that Elvis has what it takes to be as big of a star on the silver screen as he already was on the rock stage. Taking center stage after his big debut in Love Me Tender — surprisingly only featuring four songs, even though it wasn’t supposed to feature any — Elvis went on to star in an additional 30 films in just 13 years. Considering Blu-ray has been around for a while now, it’s surprising only two other films are available on the format. Hopefully, the rest of them make their way onto Blu-ray with the same loving care afforded by Fox Home Video.
Love Me Tender arrives on Blu-ray in a razor sharp 1080p presentation, in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. All through the film I kept my eye out trying to find something wrong with the video quality and aside from a few soft shots, which go back to the original print, I came up empty. From swaying fields and trees, to every strand atop Cathy’s head, to Elvis’s pimply face, every detail you can imagine comes through in astounding clarity. Even in the few night scenes, crush is never an issue, with the rolling hills clearly defined in the background, never swallowed up by crush. There was a moment when I thought maybe there was some edge enhancement on a few of the cowboy hats in a daytime scene, but once they started moving their heads, it was clear that the sun was taking its toll on the outline of the hats. Not even banding or noise gets in the way, with a fine layer of grain only adding to the beauty.
As for the audio, there’s a fuller sounding 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track with a whimpy sounding 1.0 DTS-HD mono track. While the new 5.1 doesn’t do much in the way of adding unnecessary surrounds, the track sounds far richer. No hiss, crackle, or pop to be found here. There are subtitles included for just about any language you can think of. The special features aren’t overwhelming and will seem mighty plentiful for any Elvis fan, but do seem to be repetitious when watched one right after the other with a few regurgitated clips. “Elvis Hits Hollywood” is pretty self-explanatory, while “The Colonel & The King” features a behind the scenes look at the relationship between Elvis and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, adding some fun anecdotes that even my wife, a diehard fan, hadn’t heard before. “Love Me Tender: The Birth & Boom of the Elvis Hit” gives a backstory to how the single came to be and how it was used to change the title of the film. There is also the original theatrical trailer, a Spanish trailer, and an audio commentary from long-time Elvis friend, Jerry Schilling.
Obviously, any Elvis fan is going to blind buy Love Me Tender, and at least they’re going to get the best possible presentation they could hope for of Elvis’s Hollywood debut. For anyone else, fantastic video and excellent audio make this a must buy for anyone wanting to add some Elvis to their Blu-ray library.