Elvis Presley Finally Arrives in 4K With Paramount's Excellent 'Blue Hawaii' (Review)

While Elvis Presley's films of the 1960s may not be examples of high cinematic art, they are perfect for the high-quality home video formats we have today. The Technicolor photography pops and Elvis' iconic songs sound crystal clear thanks to the available sound systems. That's why it's surprising that it took so long for any of these films to reach the 4K UltraHD format. Blue Hawaii, easily Elvis' most famous movie from the decade, is the perfect choice to get the treatment. 

Blue Hawaii, like many of Elvis' films from this period, does not have a deep plot. Presley stars as Chadwick "Chad" Gates, who is returning home from his Army service. While his parents (Angela Lansbury and Ronald Winters) want him to stay in the family business, Chad just wants to hang out on the Hawaii beaches with his girlfriend, Malie Duval (Joan Blackman). He eventually realizes that he can't be lazy for the rest of his life, so he decides to become a tour guide. 

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(Photo: Paramount Home Video)

While this plot is as simple as it gets, an understanding of where Elvis was at this period of his career, both professionally and personally, as well as 1960s pop culture, can bring a greater appreciation of the final product. Producer Hall B. Wallis (whose incredible career included everything from Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood to many of Elvis' other '60s hits) understood exactly how to craft a film to please audiences. While we may think of today's blockbusters as over-engineered to become "four-quadrant" hits, Blue Hawaii is an example of that kind of thinking years before today's soulless $200 million products. Wallis, director Norman Taurog, and writers Hal Kanter and Allan Weiss developed a film that would appeal to everyone in a theater. Many who saw this film could understand what it was like to come home from Army service, while parents could see themselves in Chad's parents who were frustrated by their son's search for meaning. Elvis fans got their fill of The King singing a slew of classics, including the immortal "Can't Help Falling In Love."

Since Blue Hawaii is only Elvis' second musical-comedy since he came back from the Army, Elvis is still clearly enjoying himself in front of the screen. His charisma comes forth in every scene. Even when he doesn't have any dialogue in a shot, it's hard to look away from him. He may have had no professional acting training, but he naturally knew how to work in front of the camera. His supporting cast is also an excellent collection of 1960s character actors. His leading lady, Joan Blackman, gives a charming performance as well. Jenny Maxwell is also the standout among the young girls Elvis takes on a tour of Hawaii.

This is not only Blue Hawaii's first 4K Ultra HD release. It is also the film's first Blu-ray release! For some unknown reason, Paramount never released Elvis' most popular 1960s film in the format before. This is likely why Paramount included a Blu-ray disc with this set, unlike some of its other recent 4K releases. (For example, Fatal Attraction's recent 4K release doesn't include a Blu-ray.) Unfortunately, the only extras are a new commentary track from historian James L. Neibaur, a photo slideshow, and the trailer. Neibaur's excellent track makes up for the lack of a documentary or any interviews with the surviving cast. Still, it would be nice to see more about the songs and the film's influence. This release also only includes a 5.1 sound mix, with no option to switch to a restored original mono track. (It would also have been really cool if another, lesser Paramount Elvis movie was included as a bonus, but that might be too much to ask.)

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Blue Hawaii is a wonderful example of what made Elvis so appealing and how he remained a superstar even after his days at Sun Records. Paramount's new release of the film, under the Paramount Presents line, will hopefully lead to more '50s and '60s widescreen Technicolor classics on 4K in the future. The release also comes at a great time, as Baz Luhrmann's Elvis has reinvigorated interest in Presley. If you want to see why Elvis remains a fascinating figure to this day, Blue Hawaii is a good place to start.