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Love Me Tender

1956's Love Me Tender has the distinction for being the only movie that presented Elvis Presley with an "and introducing Elvis Presley" marking in its lineup. What a difference an introduction makes. As Presley's first picture, this one had all the girls fainting in the aisles, especially when the King broke out into the oft-played but never-tired ballad "Love Me Tender." Elvis — a huge fan of James Dean and a movie-lover in general — was excited to make this film, and it shows. His charisma and youthful beauty notwithstanding, Presley reveals a vulnerability and ease in front of the camera that's still mesmerizing (one can't imagine seeing him for the first time in a theater back in '56). Though Elvis could be stiff in this film, as well as subsequent pictures after, such was mainly the fault of lackluster writing and direction. As evident in his debut, the man had something that could have been nurtured into a substantial movie career. A slight movie on its own, Love Me Tender features Elvis as Clint Reno, a young Texan farmer who's reeling from the horrors of the Civil War. His older brother Vance (Richard Egan) dies in battle, and a resourceful, lovestruck Elvis hooks up with Vance's mourning girlfriend, Cathy (Debra Paget), soon marrying her. But serious complications ensue when Vance is found to not be killed in combat, as the very-much-alive older brother returns to the ranch, setting off a bitter, sad, and not very exciting rivalry. Elvis is hungry and soulful in Love Me Tender, but the other actors are less charismatic. However, the chemistry between Paget and Presley is nice. (Who didn't he have chemistry with?) Robert D. Webb's direction and Robert Buckner's writing is somewhat flat and uninspired. Action sequences are also rather boring (particularly compared to Elvis' 1960 vehicle Flaming Star), making us wish Elvis would just sing more (since there's nothing wrong with an all-singing, all-dancing Elvis picture). Still, Elvis is fascinating to watch, and with his sensuous-yet-innocent looks, he most certainly was a cinematographer's dream. Fox's DVD release of Love Me Tender presents a pristine black-and-white widescreen transfer (2.35:1), while audio comes both Dolby Stereo (2.0) and Dolby Mono (2.0). Trailers, keep-case.
—Kim Morgan

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