Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Will Hutchins, Bill Bixby, Gary Merrill, James Gregory, Suzie Kaye, Harold Peary, Marj Dusay, Jack Good, Olga Kaya, Angelique Pettyjohn, Sam Riddle, Amanda Harley, Sue England, Lee Krieger, Arlene Charles, Steve Cory
Written by: Arthur Browne Jr.
Directed by: Arthur H. Nadel
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 99
Date: 12/04/1969

Clambake (1967)

2 Stars (out of 4)

'Clam' Sessions

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's almost as if Elvis Presley were two guys. It's possible to enjoy his ferocious rock 'n' roll music of the 1950s on one level, and to enjoy the awfulness of the majority of his movies on another. His third movie of 1969, Clambake is indeed awful, but it's amusing and Presley's star power is hard to refute. It starts with Elvis, here as "Scott Hayward," driving through a blue screen, and then stopping at a gas station long enough to get caught up in one of those creaky old "switching places" sitcom plots.

See, he's a millionaire's son, but he feels stifled by his father's influence. He wants to do stuff on his own. So he swaps lives with Tom Wilson (Will Hutchins, of The Shooting), a chatty, abrasive guy who pretty much wants nothing more than cash and chicks. Elvis effortlessly poses as a water skiing instructor at a Florida resort and falls in love with Dianne (Shelley Fabares). Unfortunately, she's actually hunting for a rich husband and thinks that Elvis is poor.

It all leads up to a boat race, wherein Elvis gets to use the super-varnish he's invented to make the old, ramshackle boat he's working on waterproof. Bill Bixby, later of TV's The Incredible Hulk, co-stars as the arrogant boat racing champ, the guy Elvis has to beat. Our hero sings eight songs, including a cover of "You Don't Know Me," plus "Confidence" (to a playground full of kids, including, apparently, Corbin Bernsen), "Hey, Hey, Hey," and the title song. I thought that the song "Do the Clam" -- written by Dolores Fuller, from Ed Wood's oeuvre -- would be here, but it turns out that one is from Girl Happy (1965). An easy mistake, I guess.

Kino Lorber released this on a widescreen Blu-ray in 2017, looking as good as this movie has ever looked. It includes trailers for this and the company's other Elvis movie, Frankie and Johnny, plus a very funny (if poorly recorded) commentary track by the folks from Atlanta, Georgia's only video rental store, Videodrome.

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