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Love Me Tender

Robert D. Webb

Love Me Tender
Boy (Richard Egan) meets girl (Debra Paget). Boy fights in the Confederate army. Boy loses Civil War and returns in defeat to find Girl married to his brother. Did I mention that Boy's brother is Elvis Presley? It's every man's nightmare, but this debut vehicle for the erstwhile King offers no real advantage to anyone beyond diehard fans. Robert D. Webb shoulders some of the blame; he keeps things crisp and clean but can't build suspense or strike upon an attractive composition to save his life. But that's chump change next to the fact that the whole thing has been compromised by the attempts to use Elvis as a commodity and not an actor. You can hear the sound of bets being hedged by giving Presley second billing to B-nobodies, testing his appeal without giving him any strong competition. And the songs he's asked to play are airlifted in without organic consideration (with Presley's trademark gyrations anachronistically intact). Next to this, the plot hasn't got a prayer — the Presley/Egan/Paget triangle is broadly and apathetically sketched, while some further intrigue with stolen Union money rolls off our backs with no notice. It's guaranteed to frustrate movie fans and Elvis buffs for completely opposite reasons, though completists no doubt already have their VHS copy enshrined in their basements. Extras run the gamut from reverence to cynicism — while a feature commentary by Elvis expert (and Elvis confederate) Jerry Schilling is predictably uncritical adoration, three featurettes on the making of the movie, the marketing of the song and Col. Tom Parker's exploitation of the man reveal the Elvis mystique to have been as much manufactured as earned. (Fox)
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