The last film for which Elvis demanded and received $1,000,00, Clambake is a reworking of the classic story of The Prince and the Pauper. Elvis stars as Scott Heyward, a multi-millionaire research chemist and playboy. Having just avoided a marriage to a gold digger and bored by his life of privilege, Scott has a chance meeting with Tom Wilson (Will Hutchins), a water ski instructor on his way down to Miami to work at a big hotel. Sensing an opportunity to live a more “normal” life, Scott switches identities with Tom.
Scott welcomes his new identity. At the hotel, he gives a ski lesson to Dianne (Shelley Fabares) a poor girl who’s saved up all her money to come to Miami in hopes of landing a rich husband. She has her eye on James J. Jamison III (Bill Bixby), a pajama manufacturer and speed boat Racer. Meanwhile, Scott persuades boat builder Sam Burton (Gary Merrill, All About Eve) to let him rebuild an experimental, high-performance speed boat, and toughen up the hull. All this, in an effort to beat J.J. in the climactic annual Orange Bowl Race, and win Dianne’s heart.
As simplistic as the rest of Presley’s later filmography, Clambake is hardly his worst film, but it’s nowhere near his better ones, either. Surprisingly, Elvis doesn’t get as much screen time as his previous films had allowed. Quite a bit of time is used on scenes featuring Will Hutchins constant (if occasionally funny), mugging, and the budding romance between Shelley Fabares and Bill Bixby. When Elvis does appear, he occasionally looks disconnected from the material. Elvis’ burgeoning weight and drug problems were likely a significant factor. There’s one scene where Elvis is on location — singing to a bunch of kids on a playground, looking relatively normal. When the camera switches to what is obviously a playground mock-up in the studio, he looks grossly overweight. It’s rather said to see, particularly if you’re aware how dissatisfied Elvis was both personally and professionally at that point in his life.
Despite some definite low points, some of the production numbers are pretty swell, including the elaborate Clambake sequence, which looks like something out of the beach party movies of the era, and Hey, Hey, Hey which has Elvis kissing a bunch of gorgeous girls. Presley’s co-star (and a favorite of mine), Shelley Fabares is adorable, and Bill Bixby is his steady self. Hey, Clambake isn’t Shakespeare, but it never claimed it was.
Framed in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, I was initially concerned about this 1080p transfer when the main titles turned up with scratches, debris, and speckled. However, the image clearest up significantly after that, delivering a nice level of detail. Colors are appealing, bringing out the Florida look the production was trying to create. Costumes appear bright, but never overpowering, and skin tones appear natural. Delineation is satisfactory. Overall, the image looks above average for a film that is fifty years old.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix handles the sonics quite well, but there are a few slight drop outs during the first half of the film. Dialogue is clean, and clear throughout, with the score providing strong instrumentation. The musical numbers deliver the pop feel you would expect, and effects are convincing. Atmospherics are simplistic, but effective.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary: Gideon Kennedy, Matt Owensby, and John Robinson.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:45)
Movie title: Clambake (1967)
Director(s): Arthur H. Nadel
Actor(s): Elvis Presley , Shelley Fabares , Will Hutchins , Bill Bixby , Gary Merrill , James Gregory
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Music