Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elvis Presley, Donna Douglas, Harry Morgan, Sue Ane Langdon, Nancy Kovack, Audrey Christie, Robert Strauss, Anthony Eisley, Joyce Jameson
Written by: Alex Gottlieb, based on a story by Nat Perrin
Directed by: Frederick De Cordova
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 08/23/2017

Frankie and Johnny (1966)

1 Star (out of 4)

Roulette Heel

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometimes Elvis Presley's movies are campy fun, but sometimes, as with Frankie and Johnny, they are lazy and dire, barely even able to muster anything ridiculous, let alone anything good. This one is dull from the start, dull all the way through, and dull at the end. There aren't even any decent songs here, no classics, nor anything that's completely laughable (like "Do the Clam"). Elvis did score a top 40 hit from this movie with the title song, but it's nothing I'd want to hear again.

He plays Johnny, a riverboat performer with a gambling problem. His partner is Frankie, played by Donna Douglas, who was better known as Elly May Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies; she was probably the movie's only hope for camp, but she spends the entire film stewing over her boyfriend's bad habits, yet unable to quit him. Harry Morgan co-stars as a songwriter/piano player who enables Elvis's gambling. They visit a gypsy, who tells our hero that he must find a redhead to give him good luck at the tables. In walks Nellie Bly (Nancy Kovack), and thus begins a kind of love hexagon, with several partners all after each other. (They all end up wearing the same costume at a ball... hardy, har, har.) I couldn't figure out why Nellie Bly is named after the famous journalist and has absolutely nothing to do with her.

As for his part, Elvis is kind of a jerk in this one. His worst (and probably best) moment in the film is singing a blues number, accompanied on harmonica by a young African-American kid, who is also playing a shoeshine boy. It's not hard to imagine that Elvis took a role as a broke, money-grubbing riverboat gambler because he was broke and grubbing for money. In any case, none of this is Kino-Lorber's problem; they have released a nicely restored Blu-ray edition with bold colors and clear sound. It comes with two trailers, for this movie and for Elvis's much more fun Clambake.

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