Jailhouse Rock (NTSC) (1957) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 96:31
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Richard Thorpe
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Elvis Presley
Judy Tyler
Mickey Shaughnessy
Dean Jones
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Jeff Alexander


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Smoking Yes, this is the 1950s, lots of in-film smoking.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Jailhouse Rock was a key film in Elvis Presley's career. With a great collection of songs and a brooding performance from the man himself, it helped catapult him even further into the stratosphere of stardom. Reviewing a seminal film such as this is rather difficult, as like most Presley vehicles the story in this one is only the frame for the presentation of the star and his songs.

    I am probably one of the few people around who doesn't feel passionate one way or the other about Elvis. I enjoy some of his songs, and I like some of his films. I only vaguely recall having seen this film in the 1960s, so came to this one with an open mind and some expectant hope, given its reputation.

    Well, to be brutally honest, it is an awful film. The script is very poor, at best B-grade soap-opera. In this his third film, Elvis had yet to develop the easygoing persona he displayed in some later vehicles. I have heard some film fans suggest that Keanu Reeves is a wooden actor, but by comparison Elvis Presley in this film makes Keanu look like Laurence Olivier. In one scene he is sentenced to spend some time in jail, and he stands around like he is stoned, unaware of any reaction the drama in the scene is meant to elicit. He also plays a totally unlikeable character, which does not help.

    So is it all bad? Well, no. There are those songs! They include excellent performances of Don't Leave Me Now, Treat Me Nice and of course the title track, which is superbly staged and performed at 64:55.

   The plot has Vince Everett, played by Elvis Presley, wandering into a bar to spend his latest pay cheque. While in the bar he accidentally kills a man in a fight over a floozy. As noted above, he ends up in jail. The natives are restless and his cell-mate croons a song to them to keep them quiet. Elvis figures that the singing caper looks easy, picks up a guitar at 12:42, and the rest, as they say, is history. From here the film tracks the ups and downs of his career and love life after he gets out of jail. For those who are really interested he appears at 9:16 without his shirt on. My wife was rather disappointed, noting that he looked a bit scrawny.

    Really keen Elvis fans can add one star to the rating I give to the film (and I would have deducted one if it did not have such good songs).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film has one of the worst video transfers I have seen for some time. It has particularly bad negative artefacts throughout, and lots of positive ones. There are persistent white vertical scratch marks for around two-thirds of the running time - see 1:45 for one example, and 50:04 where there are three of them at once. Reel change marks are obtrusive at 41:39 and 77:28. There appear to be frequent instances where major damage existed on the original print.

    This transfer is in NTSC and presented at 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. This is the correct aspect ratio as this was a Cinemascope release.

    The transfer is rather fuzzy with very soft focus, and details are often unclear.

    The disc is presented in the original Black and White, with a good tonal range.

    There is some telecine wobble in the opening credits, and as noted earlier endless artefacts.   

    I watched part of the film in French, and also sampled the English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle tracks. Interestingly, the French version had other actors dubbing the stars (the person dubbing Elvis Presley did not sound anything like him), but the songs were in English, making the dub sound even more laughable. The two English versions were not exact transcriptions, frequently cutting words out of longer sentences, but they were reasonably close to the spoken word.

    The disc is single-layered, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Thankfully for a film where the music is so important, the audio track on this disc is fairly good. I had some fears given the poor video, but the Dolby Digital 1.0 is clear, with good presence across the front of the soundstage during the songs.

    There are three audio tracks on this DVD; English, French and Spanish. I listened to the default Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack and parts of the French Dolby Digital 1.0.

    The dialogue was clear at all times and audio sync was good, except occasionally in the songs where Elvis didn't quite match the vocal track in the dub. There was only a little background noise and hiss, but not enough to detract from the listening experience.

    Jeff Alexander is credited with music arrangement for the film. There is no background music in most scenes, except backing coming from radios or other ambient sources. This is of course so that the focus is firmly on Elvis Presley and his songs. I enjoyed listening to Elvis performing at his prime, some great tracks included Don't Leave Me Now at 36:40, Treat Me Nice at 52:00 and Jailhouse Rock at 64:55. All of the songs are available through the scene selection menu, where they are listed in bold.

    There was no surround activity in the film, and the subwoofer could well have been disconnected for all the difference it would have made.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The only extra on this disc is a poorly presented theatrical trailer. Given the popularity of the star and of the film in its original release, we could reasonably have expected more.

Menu

    There is only a static menu. 28 scenes (including all of the songs) are selectable from the scene selection menu.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer is presented at approximately 1.66:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced. It is badly edited, and missing the top portion of the picture. It also exhibits the poor video of the feature presentation and the audio is worse. It runs for 2:49 and like many trailers of the period gives away most of the plot, so be warned.

    Apparently Elvis had given even poorer performances in his first two features, as the trailer to this film proudly announces that you will see "Elvis with amazing new acting powers!" (the old ones were obviously not good enough). If you watch the trailer before viewing the film you will be waiting in vain to see these amazing powers. If you watch it after viewing the main feature, you might wonder just what the publicist was drinking when he wrote that line.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this DVD appears to have the same features and soundtracks as the Region 4. Given the poor quality of the local release, picking a preferred version is a moot point.

Summary

    This film has a sub-par plot, but is rescued by the fine Elvis Presley songs.

    The video quality is just plain bad.

    The audio quality is reasonable for a 1.0 soundtrack.

    The extras are poor, though the trailer is good for a few laughs.

    This film really deserved a picture restoration and possibly a surround sound re-mix as an option (while also offering the 1.0 mix). It also could have featured a few more extras given its importance in the star's career. To my mind, it is an ideal candidate for the Hall of Shame.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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