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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Wild in the Country (1961)

"What's a man for if he can't aim high, ma'am?"
- Glenn (Elvis Presley)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: August 12, 2002

Stars: Elvis Presley, Hope Lange, Tuesday Weld, Millie Perkins
Other Stars: Rafer Johnson, John Ireland, William Mims, Alan Napier
Director: Philip Dunne

Manufacturer: Digital Video Compression Center
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:54m:10s
Release Date: August 13, 2002
UPC: 024543048183
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-C+B- D

DVD Review

If you watch a couple of Elvis Presley pictures—heck, even if you watch just one—the formula becomes pretty clear: let Elvis be Elvis, and get out of the King's way. Some of the movies are better than others, and though I'm partial to the ones in which he gets to sing, a lot, Wild in the Country does a fairly good job of constructing a serviceable story around him. Elvis fans know the drill, and the movie delivers the goods: it lets him be sensitive but not too sensitive, just tough enough, and so damn good looking.

Elvis plays Glenn, who's had more than a couple of run-ins with the law—his mother has died and his father can't handle him, so he's paroled into the custody of his uncle, Rolfe (William Mims), who puts Glenn to work slapping labels on the ratgut he peddles as medicinal. Everybody thinks that Glenn is trouble, but we know he's a good sort because he can quote the Bible, and because, more important, he's Elvis.

As they should be, all the women are after Elvis in this one. There's the standard good girl/bad girl split here—Millie Perkins plays Betty Lee, the virtuous brunette who is Glenn's sweetheart, and Tuesday Weld is Noreen, the tart of a blonde flinging herself at him, who also happens to be family. She's Rolfe's daughter, and Rolfe is really pushing the kissing cousins thing—his scheme is to get Noreen married off to Glenn, in a hopelessly late effort to stanch the rumors. She's got a baby, fathered by a mysterious and missing husband—everybody talks about it with a nod and a wink, too polite to call them on the cover story, too gossipy not to roll their eyes.

But there's a third entrant in the Elvis romantic derby—as part of his parole agreement, he starts seeing a court-appointed psychiatrist, the lovely and widowed Irene (Hope Lange). My goodness, yes, it's Elvis in therapy. Irene gets Glenn to fess up about his dreams, and she discovers his hidden gift: he can write like an angel, and she's sure that she's got a young Hemingway on her hands.

A variety of convoluted complications ensue, breathlessly told and scored with melodramatic music. The story is little more than a soap opera, really, but this potboiler bears some obvious resemblances to Good Will Hunting—misunderstood youth from the wrong side of the tracks with a unique gift that he's tried to keep hidden, teased out by a sympathetic therapist. Throw in a dash of The Prince of Tides, and you've got a bit of cinematic transference for the ages.

The screenplay is by the great Clifford Odets, and even if his once brightly burning flame was little more than embers at this point, there are flashes of dialogue that are unmistakably his, that share an obvious kinship with his work on stage (Awake and Sing!, for instance), or the best he gave to Hollywood, in Sweet Smell of Success. All het up with rage, Elvis tells Irene that "it's like I'm always walking around with a full cup of anger, trying not to spill it." And it's unmistakably Odets when Glenn gets in touch with his sensitive side: "You don't need books to understand you should never lock up a heart, ma'am."

It's easy to imagine that the role was tailored for Presley, and it suits him well—his range as an actor was never tremendous, but he does have a genuineness. And as in some of his other movies, he's at his most truthful when the character he plays is close to home. The death of Elvis' own mother was one of the principal traumas of Presley's life, and you can almost see him touching that nerve when, in character as Glenn, he talks about his no-good father driving his mother to an early grave.

The story ambles along, but it works serviceably well, and things are tied up neatly enough in the obligatory courtroom climax. Of particular note to 1960s television fans: there's a nice little cameo by Alan Napier, Alfred the butler from the Batman series, as a college professor giving Glenn his big break.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Colors are nicely saturated, and the palette is consistent throughout. There are some problems, though—a good number of scratches, nicks and even vertical lines waft across the screen, and the resolution is sometimes poor. Some of the actors are clad in hound's-tooth sports coats, and they shine like mirrors reflecting the sun.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishyes
Dolby Digital
4.0
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There are some strange echoes on the English-language track, during interior scenes especially, but otherwise the audio is pretty clean, give or take a few problems with dynamics. And for those who prefer to give a listen to the Spanish mono track: never fear, for everything is dubbed but for Elvis' songs.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Love Me Tender, Flaming Star
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A good amount of chapter stops and three Elvis trailers are it for extras.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

This is a straightforward melodrama with Elvis doing his thing, and if you're a fan of the King, that should be enough.

 


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