March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
When the Elvis formula started to fail in the mid-1960s, Elvis correctly intuited that audiences were sick of it and pushed for a more diverse set of roles. But his handlers–in particular his manager, Colonel Tom Parker–were unwilling to risk losing out on their substantial cuts of the formula films’ gravy train. Instead of allowing Elvis to take better roles, they simply introduced a new twist to the traditional Elvis formula: wacky hijinks and poorly planned-out mystery subplots. The travelogue-style films of the early ’60s, like Blue Hawaii and Fun in Acapulco, had been lightweight, but essentially realistic according to their own internal logic: if you could accept that Elvis was a singer and a race car driver, or that somebody would hire him to protect his daughter from oversexed men, that was all the suspension of disbelief required. But the moderate success of the campy Kissin’ Cousins in 1964 led to a string of sillier and sillier plots: the ghost town shenanigans in Tickle Me, the entirety of Harum Scarum. And then there’s Double Trouble . . .
Double Trouble proposes that Elvis is a rock star who’s distressed to be pursued by an underage fan across Europe–only to become even more distressed when he realizes that someone is pursuing (and trying to kill) one or both of them. The movie is basically the Elvis Formula stripped of all its fun. Hot girls in bikinis fighting over Elvis? Nope–not a bikini to be seen, and Elvis’s major love interest is a prim, 17-year-old stalker who calls Elvis “dahlink” and with whom he has negative chemistry. (And yes, Elvis does utter the line “Seventeen will get you 20.”) The second half of the “love triangle” disappears for forty minutes at a time. Gratuitous shots of exotic foreign lands? The film takes place in England and Belgium, but we don’t get a single exterior shot of the UK, and the shots of Belgium can be counted on one hand. Elvis’s character is even less fleshed-out than usual–he’s a rock star on tour, with no other goals or backstory. The mystery plot is poorly set up and poorly executed. There’s not a single memorable song, unless you count Elvis’s totally pointless-to-the-plot rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” which is memorable for how awful it is. Even the title makes no sense. No wonder this was one of Elvis’s lowest-grossing films ever