Released in 1961, Blue Hawaii is an enduring favorite among Elvis fans. The plot is thin to non-existent, but it was the first time Elvis had shot a movie on location, making for beef up production values. The production also secured the services of Oscar winning cinematographer Charles Lang (A Farewell to Arms) to shoot all the beautiful Hawaiian locales. Presley sings fourteen songs, which include “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” resulting in his bestselling soundtrack album.
Elvis plays Chad Gates, an ex-G.I. returning to Hawaii after serving two years active duty in Europe. Wanting to do nothing but hangout on the beach and play music, Chad looks to avoid his wealthy parents, Fred and Sarah Lee Gates (Roland Winters, Angela Lansbury). Fred, an executive at a prosperous pineapple plant, wants Chad to join him there in a cushy job. Southerner Sarah Lee wants her son to live at home. Chad, eager to be independent and do things his own way, moves into his own place.
His girlfriend Maile Duval (Joan Blackman), is a secretary at a travel agency. Chad takes a job there as a tour guide. For his first assignment, Chad takes a pretty schoolteacher Abigail Prentice (Nancy Walters) and her four teenage coeds on a tour of Hawaii. It’s anything but easy. Elvis lands in jail overnight after a fight at a luau. He quits his job after his dimwitted boss (Howard McNear, The Andy Griffith Show) doesn’t support him. Bring Maile along, Chad starts his own business—Gates of Hawaii. Despite some brief jealousies, Chad and Malie end up marrying. That’s all there is…
The attraction of Blue Hawaii is the atmosphere. groove to. You can zone out to and enjoy the scenery and the songs. While not necessarily memorable, the musical numbers are easy to groove to. Elvis may have dreamed of being a serious actor, but he’s clearly enjoying Hawaii and the Polynesian inspired tunes. Veteran director Norman Taurog, obviously aware of the thin plot, keeps the focus on the music, scenery and the star that is Elvis.
The supporting cast is fine. Kudos to the always good Angela Lansbury. She really hams it up as a Southern belle. In one scene, Presley is covering his face, genuinely cracking up as she tells a story about a Southern relative. Howard McNear makes a brief but funny appearance. Naturally there are plenty of girls vying for Elvis’s attention. Blue Hawaii is by no means a classic but has everything fans of Elvis’ movies would expect.
Paramount says this about the 4K debut of Blue Hawaii:
For the restoration, the original negative was scanned in 4K/16bit, however the opening title sequence was very grainy because it originally used duped film. That sequence was completely rebuilt using the original film elements from the Paramount library. Brand new text overlays were created for a truly spectacular opening sequence befitting this delightful film.
The result is solid. Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, depth of field is strong throughout. Sharpness varies somewhat but looks fine as a whole. Soft shots appear occasionally but resolution is largely appealing. Print flaws are absent, and the use of grain appears natural. Colors work well. Blacks are deep snd inky. The Hawaiian locales offer a mix of vibrant hues, assisted by HDR. Shadows display appropriate clarity. Overall, fans should be pleased with this presentation.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is fine but nothing special. Remixed from the original monaural, the soundscape is somewhat inconsistent. Rather than spatial involvement, it tends toward “broad mono,” meaning audio elements are front center focused throughout. Environmental elements are occasionally heard elsewhere, but those moments are far too limited. Unfortunately, songs lack any real stereo presence, and remain largely in front. On the positive front, music is clear with no moments of distortion. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
English and French subtitles are included.
Along with a Blu-ray and a Digital Copy of the film, the following special features are available:
- Audio Commentary by Historian James L. Neibaur
- Blue Hawaii Photo Scrapbook (SD, 5:29) A mix of 77 items, a mix production shots and publicity stills.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3:14)
4K UHD Review: Blue Hawaii
Movie title: Blue Hawaii (1961)
Director(s): Norman Taurog
Actor(s): Elvis Presley, Angela Lansbury, Roland Winters, John Archer, Pamela Austin, Joan Blackman
Genre: Comedy, Musical