Heartbreak Hotel (1988)

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Released 8-Jun-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 96:50 (Case: 104)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chris Columbus

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring David Keith
Tuesday Weld
Charlie Schlatter
Angela Goethals
Jacque Lynn Colton
Chris Mulkey
Karen Landry
Tudor Sherrard
Paul J. Harkins
Noel Derecki
Dana Barron
T. Graham Brown
Dennis Letts
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Georges Delerue

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Ever started watching a film and about 30 seconds past the opening credits realise that it isn't the film you thought you were watching?

    Well I have - this one. For some reason I thought this was the 1992 film starring Nicholas Cage and the 30-odd flying Elvises. So just why did I get this lame 1988 comedy confused with 1992's Honeymoon in Vegas? Well, it's a bit of a long story, but it has to do with the soundtrack. They both have something to do with Elvis and feature Elvis songs, and I thought Billy Joel had recorded a version of Heartbreak Hotel for a film at some stage so I figured it was the title track. But it wasn't - he recorded All Shook Up and Heartbreak Hotel for Honeymoon in Vegas and not Heartbreak Hotel. Confused? Good - so am I.

    So 30 seconds in and I'm wondering just what this film is about and wondering how I could be so stupid. Anyway, ever the diligent reviewer I stuck with it and now present my synopsis of just what this film is all about.

    It is supposedly 1972 (though that is never mentioned and the production design looks more like 1988 than 1972) and Johnny Wolfe (Charlie Schlatter) is a kid with some problems. Johnny loves rock 'n' roll, but when he and his band try out for the school talent quest, the conservative judges hate the music and cut them from the set list. But for Johnny this is a minor problem when he finds out his mother Marie (Tuesday Weld) has been involved in a car accident with her drunk no-hoper boyfriend. Johnny decides he must do something good for his mum since her life has taken a downward spiral since their dad left. Now as it turns out, Marie is a huge Elvis Presley fan. Remember it is 1972, so Elvis is at the height of his Vegas cabaret style of show and performing concerts around the country. Desperate to cheer his mum up, Johnny and his band buddies hatch an ingenious plan to kidnap Elvis and make him spend the day with his mum at her ramshackle old motel. They travel to Cleveland and amazingly manage to lure the King out of his hotel and bundle him into their car for the drive home.

    Once back at the motel, the King (played with a little too much seriousness by David Keith) is understandably mighty peeved about being kidnapped. But a pleading Johnny begs him to stay and give something back to his true fans that they so richly deserve. The King finally relents and spends the weekend at the motel. Of course the locals soon find out that a celebrity is in their midst and all hell breaks loose. But not before Elvis woos Marie, cures Johnny's sister of a sleeping problem, and helps Johnny and his band mates to make some real rock 'n' roll.

    This film is an early effort from director Chris Columbus, and obviously comes from a period in his career when he did not enjoy the sort of Harry Potter-sized budget that he enjoys today. The sets, the costumes, the makeup, and the script are truly laughable. The actor playing Elvis does a fair effort but looks nothing like him and the rest of the cast are really quite unbelievable. The only saving grace are the dozen or so Elvis songs used throughout. They really perk up the soundtrack and will have you tapping along in several scenes.

    One for the Elvis diehards only most likely. Me, I'm off to rent Honeymoon In Vegas to see what I was missing.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This is a fairly uninspiring transfer, with an incorrect aspect ratio and a general soft appearance being the main issues.

    The first major problem is the aspect ratio. The original aspect ratio certainly appears to be 1.85:1, but here we get a modified 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

    It's a little difficult to determine if this is an open-matte transfer or a pan and scan one. Several scenes look distinctly like the camera is panning across to fit everyone in the shot, but others look properly composed at 1.33:1 with just a little extra information at the top. I can't therefore offer a definitive answer unless someone can provide further information. Overall this is only an average transfer in terms of sharpness and detail. There is some edge enhancement, which doesn't dominate, but it is obvious. There are several scenes where shadow detail is a little problematic. Grain is evident throughout and is quite noticeable. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are adequate without being super vibrant. Skin tones tend to be a little red on occasion and highlight just how bad the makeup is.

    I saw no compression artefacts and with this not really being the sharpest image you have ever seen there is no aliasing present. There are a few film artefacts present, but most are of the smallish black-and-white-spot variety and can be easily overlooked.

    There are a few subtitles available. I sampled the English and English for the Hearing Impaired variety and found them mostly accurate.

    This is a single layered disc only. This isn't surprising since the only thing on the disc is the ninety minute film. As a result, there is no layer change to navigate.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three audio soundtracks on this disc. All are Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks and are available in English, Spanish, and French.

    This is a fairly unremarkable soundtrack with few highlights apart from the rock n roll songs. The soundtrack is fairly flat, bland, and quite lifeless with little direction or stereo separation.

    The soundtrack for this film features, quite unsurprisingly, several song from the King himself, plus several other Elvis songs performed by actor David Keith and a few others. Songs heard include Hound Dog, Love Me, Burning Love, Good Rockin' Tonight, One Night, and of course Heartbreak Hotel (the Elvis Presley version and not the Billy Joel version that I was looking for).

    There no surround channel use and unless you have bass redirected to your amplifier there is also no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

    From the information I can find it would appear that the Region 1 disc is exactly the same as the Region 4, right down to the 1.33:1 open-matte aspect ratio.


    Heartbreak Hotel is certainly one of the silliest ideas for a film in many years. The cast is lightweight, including an actor in the role of Elvis who looks nothing like the King, and the production design, makeup, and costuming are second rate. The story has some cute moments and the music is enjoyable, but with lines like "I didn't do it for you kid, I did it for rock 'n' roll"...well, enough said.

    The video quality is average only, with the full frame aspect ratio the main problem.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is fairly flat and unremarkable.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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