In some ways Loving You is the first 'Elvis Presley Movie', yes Love Me Tender came first but that was very much a western role with the soundtrack taking second place, it was even originally going to be called The Reno Brothers.
Released in 1957 Loving You was Elvis's first colour movie. Unfortunately it doesn't quite reach the accolade of the greatest of all his movies. Jailhouse Rock and King Creole had a grittyness, slightly better scripting and Elvis had vastly improved as a actor by that stage. Loving You however does fit nicely behind them as one of the only true great Elvis movies. Of all his 50's movies actually it is Loving you which is the most overtly entertaining.
The film is extremely colourful, it is very 1950s, not unlike Rebel Without A Cause actually and is wonderfully shot. Excusing the odd bad line (''what is he doing to those women''), the gawky teenagers and ego inflating nature of the story line, generally the script rises to the occasion. There could be nothing more poignant and easier for Elvis to do then this semi-autobiographical story of a poor country driver called Deke Rivers who is elevated to the big time with Lizabeth Scott in the Col Parker role. Elvis' real band was used in the film, Bill Black even gets a few lines. At the final concert Elvis' parents: Gladys and Vernon are in the audience (there in aisle seats) that is actually why following Glady's death Elvis could never watch the movie again. It is however little touches like this which makes it even closer to Elvis' own rise to the big time; Loving You was actually one of Elvis's most fun shoots.
Elvis gives a passable if slightly eager performance, a bit more confident then Love Me Tender where he was rather stilted. The pretty Dolores Hart gives a great performance considering it was her screen debut. She plays a fellow singer and love interest; she would also appear in Elvis's 4th feature King Creole.
What really elevates this film is the on screen chemistry between Wendell Cory and Lizabeth Scot, both duking it out over management. Lizabeth Scott pulls of some very crafty Col. Tom Parker tricks to elevate Elvis to the big time which ring remarkably close to the truth.
What else elevates this film are the musical sequences. Elvis manages to successfully transfer his on-stage persona to film; they all work as great separate music videos in there own right. He moves fantastically. Mean Women Blues at a cafe is probably the best, with his hair flowing and his hands clapping he wades through the scene looking really cool before getting into a fight. This is Elvis in the 50s: a tough Rock N' Roller. Lonesome Cowboy also features some brilliant dramatic lightning.
The Loving You soundtrack is in the wonderful situation of being his best ever soundtrack Long Player: Got A Lot O' Livin' To Do, Party and Teddy Bear rank among the very best and most loved of Elvis's Rock N' Rollers. Even a lesser known song like the tough rock n' roller Mean Women Blues is brilliant; only Hot Dog slightly falls short of the mark. Elvis was unhappy with his previous soundtrack (Love Me Tender done at the Fox Lot with none of his band) so made a effort to treat the Loving You soundtrack with the previous care and attention it deserves, it was decided to not record at Paramount Studios. The soundtrack is a important piece of the Elvis 50's cannon and deserves to be reviewed as just a truly great album and not just a soundtrack.
The songs in the actual film are specially intended alternative versions of the songs released, they include many changes. The on-screen version of Loving You is longer for example, a point noted on the back sleeve. Some of these versions where released in The Essential Elvis series.
The transfer of the film is quite good; bringing all the vibrant colours out, the DVD however contains no extras. I love the barefaced cheek of hopelessly produced DVDs when they label Scene Access as a 'Special Feature', Scene access should be mandatory not a special feature. The DVD does however have a song index that allows you to view the brilliant music sequences separately.
This film is often overlooked due to Jailhouse Rock and King Creole however this is Elvis's first Rock N' Roll movie, a must have for all fans of the King in his primetime 50s heyday, glorious entertainment packed with brilliant tunes. Due to the lack of extras it is maybe not worth shelling out for if you already own it on video unless you can get it at budget price.