Elvis’ best screen performance – “King Creole” gets a 4K restoration

Updated: May 11


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

Elvis Presley as Danny Fisher, a busboy who quickly becomes an overnight success at the Blue Shade Club in the French Quarter.


(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)






“KING CREOLE – PARAMOUNT PRESENTS”

4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, 1958, PG for violence and sexuality; Amazon Prime, Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, Vudu (4K), YouTube

Best extra: Filmmaker Focus with Leonard Maltin (Blu-ray only)







PARAMOUNT GOT this one right.

Just a few weeks ago the studio unveiled a new Blu-ray series “Paramount Presents” sourced from new 4K masters for Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief,” (1955) starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly; the psychological thriller “Fatal Attraction” (1987); and “King Creole” with Elvis Presley, filmed just before he headed to the U.S. Army in March of 1958.

The new 4K master for “To Catch a Thief” was extremely disappointing, with blown highlights and digital noise reduction (DNR) applied, which removed fine detail from Grant and Kelly’s face. And most of the natural film grain from the VistaVision large-format Technicolor three-strip negative had been scrubbed away. Plus the color toning had been dialed to the cooler side, while the previous 2012 Blu-ray was warmer and far superior in sharpness and contrast toning.

VIDEO

But, with “King Creole” the 4K master from the black and white camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) has no signs of DNR applied, which kept the natural film grain intact, and features excellent clarity for the majority of the film. At times, a second-generation print was used to fill in the gaps for damaged pieces of the negative, and the sharpness does drop.


(1) "King Creole" was mostly filmed in New Orleans by legendary director Michael Curtiz. (2) The Gumbo man. (3) Danny has a view of the French Quarter from his second-floor apartment balcony.



The longest section with a softer picture runs two minutes at the 20-minute mark when Danny Fisher (Elvis Presley)’s father shows up with a quart of ice cream and cake for his high school graduation party. The only problem is that, for the second year in a row, Danny won’t graduate. He tells his sister Mimi (Jan Shepard), “Old Lady Pearson flunked me… If this keeps up much longer, I’ll be a freshman again.”

Danny is balancing a morning and evening job at a New Orleans French Quarter nightclub while going to school. His father, played by veteran character Dean Jagger, has been fired four times in the last year and lost his own pharmacy business after Danny’s mother died.

The Blu-ray presentation is quite good, with a balanced grayscale from highlights to shadows, and it’s been completely restored with no marks or scratches. A real surprise is that Paramount ported over the 4K master with Dolby Vision and HDR10 toning for the majority of the digital platforms.

The difference between the 4K digital and Blu-ray is quite obvious, with the contrast and brightness toning with much richer blacks and controlled highlights, plus the clarity – especially those wide shots — are more detailed. After you see the results on digital you’ll wonder why a 4K disc wasn’t made available. Especially now, since there’s been an uptick in buying disc players and physical discs, since the COVID-19 pandemic overtook the world.



Top: Blu-ray edition has a slightly softer picture and the highlights and mid-tones are too bright. Bottom: 4K digital with HDR toning is much more dramatic, with a balanced grayscale from shadows to highlights.






EXTRAS

In the lone extra, film critic/historian Leonard Maltin says, director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” “White Christmas,” Paramount’s first VistaVision film; “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy”) who had 178 film credits, told the 22-year-old singer from Memphis to “underplay the role” of Danny, the rebellious nightclub singer.

He also says Elvis was polite, and took direction from Curtiz, “because he knew he was working with a veteran." Elvis considers “King Creole” his best movie, and, "he never seems stressed as a character," says Maltin.

Danny is an “open-hearted guy” who, during the opening sequence, steps out onto the second-floor balcony of the family apartment overlooking the French Quarter and “gets a friendly wave from one of the ladies of the night,” says Maltin. She yells across the street, “Hey songbird, you come here tonight and I’ll dance with you free.” He responds, “Oh, no you don’t. You gotta pay me.”

Curtiz and producer Hal Wallis deliberately decided to film the majority of the production in New Orleans, in black and white, which sets up a “credible backdrop for the movie,” Maltin says. “The first things you see are vendors calling out, singing out about their wares very early in the morning. You can tell it’s authentic.” Cinematographer Russell Harlan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") who had been nominated for six Oscars, gives “King Creole” a film noir quality – with deep shadows and plenty of moods, which gives it a more “realistic tone.”


(1) Dean Jagger stars as Danny Fisher's unemployed father. (2) Danny's high school classmates. (3) Walter Matthau as nightclub owner Maxie Fields and Victor Morrow as Shark holding Danny. (4) Danny and his girlfriend Nellie (Dolores Hart) take a riverboat ride.




Wallis was the producer who signed Elvis to a long-term movie contract. There are a number of good scenes with an excellent supporting cast that includes Jagger; Carolyn Jones as Ronnie, the woman who tempts Danny; and Walter Matthau as club owner Maxie Fields, who continually threatens the singer.

AUDIO

The original mono soundtrack is featured on the Blu-ray with a new six-channel Dolby TrueHD, while the 4K digital includes the slightly compressed six-channel Dolby Digital Plus. There are 11 original songs, including the opener “Crawfish,” a duet Elvis sings with a street merchant, played by jazz singer Kitty White. It also includes the No. 1 hit “Hard Headed Woman,” all from the “untamed” Elvis at his peak, says Maltin.

After Elvis returned from his military service in 1960, his movies were heavily controlled by Wallis and Elvis’ uncle, Colonel Tom Parker, “who pulled all the strings,” says Maltin. In those films, “they played it safe. They never wanted to give him the kind of acting challenges I think he was capable of meeting.”

“King Creole” was a success and, at the time, New York Times movie critic Howard Thompson wrote, “The lad can act.”

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


(1) Danny performances "Trouble" his first song at Maxie Fields' Blue Shade Club. (2) Charlie LeGrand (Paul Stewart), owner of the King Creole signs Danny to sing at his club. (3) Danny performs "King Creole" at LeGrand's club. (4) Danny and Nellie. (5&6) Danny wakes up at the home of Ronnie (Carolyn Jones), after sleeping two days from being injured in a knife fight.




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