Of the umpteen gazillion pop culture icons and references that circle throughout both my delicately-balanced conscious mind and that bizarre latent being that lies within on a regular basis like a poorly-loaded cheap washing machine, there is perhaps no name as popular as that of Elvis. In fact, so amused were a close grade-school friend and myself over the numerous tabloid headlines that popped up during the '80s amidst the Elvis Lives era, that we even started to write our own ridiculous magazines, complete with headlines such as "Elvis Possesses Woman's Toaster - And She Marries It!" and so forth (which may have served as some sort of catalyst to the type of articles I write today). Why, to this day, I still tend to answer some questions with a very Elvis-like "Muh-huh" because of my profound fascination with the late artist as a kid.
It therefore tends to come as a shock to people when I announce that I've really never been a big fan of The King. Most of his songs I'm actually semi-familiar with are only known to me from spending many a night in a Reno, NV karaoke bar. The only time I ever picked up one of his albums is when I won a CD of Presley's hits through a local radio station in the mid 2000s - which I always thought was kind of odd, partially because my phone number was unlisted, but mostly because I never signed up for any contest, nor did I ever listen to that station, for that matter. It is perhaps even more unfathomable to the average everyday individual who has ever had the misfortune of discussing the subject of film with me to discover that, prior to laying my eyes on Twilight Time's new Blu-ray presentation of Follow That Dream, there's a 2:1 possibility that I never sat through so much as a single Elvis movie.
Clips, highlights, and trailers aplenty, naturally - you'd have a better chance of swinging a cat around in Vegas without hitting an Elvis impersonator than you would getting through life without seeing any of those - but no actual full-length features on their own. (And yet I have practically every single movie and original theatrical poster of his B movie competitor, Arch Hall, Jr.). Hey, I always root for the underdog!) Now, while some of you may consider this sacrilege, I will first ask of you "OK, and how many Arch Hall, Jr. movies have you seen?" before defending my apparent laziness by stating some semi-delusional babbling about people preferring to remember the very image of an icon of an artist than for that which they actually gave unto the world itself. Peculiar people with those god-awful hip-swinging Elvis clocks on their wall excluded, of course.
So, as I lay there, the various frames of Follow That Dream - the ninth of what would tally out to a staggering 31 films Presley made as a motion picture actor throughout a single secular decade, the '60s - you can imagine my own surprise as I came to the theory that perhaps the same legendary recording artist who only wrote one song of his own (which failed) wasn't that bad of an actor. Mind you, I'm looking at his acting skills now in 2014 - wherein even the full-fledged "actors" are nowhere near as bad as the "recording artists" masquerading as such - so perhaps my time spent unintentionally avoiding The King's filmfare was well-spent. In fact, were it not for his near-catatonic behavior and downright terrible lip-synching - not to mention his curious way of pronouncing the word "contrary", Follow That Dream isn't that bad of a movie in-general.
Of course, it's a cutesy movie from the early '60s, designed to pack movie houses with adoring teenage girls, really white kids who enjoyed white jungle music, and people who would later one day adorn their wall with a hip-swinging Elvis clock. As such, one must suspend their disbelief to the point where it's right up there with the notion that Elvis faked his own death and that anyone who owns a hip-swinging Elvis clock is relatively sane. And once you've done that, why you can just sit back and enjoy Follow That Dream like it's no one's business.
Cast as Toby, the none-too-bright grown (blood) son in a vagabond family bearing the surname Kwimper, Elvis and Co. enter the movie by entering the state of Florida in an old jalopy, bound for wherever the road leads them. And when Pop Kwimper (Arthur O'Connell) chooses to take an as-yet-unopen-to-the-public new road, he sets a series of mishaps in motion. First, they run out of gas, and decide to camp out on a beautiful sandy cove wherein they construct a lean-to until someone comes by to help. Toby can't go fetch gas himself, since the Army's records claim he has a bad back, and they don't want to put an end to the easy paychecks, though he's perfectly able (yes, these are our heroes, people). But the brief pit stop turns into a permanent residence once a trumped-up official (Alan Hewitt) riles up Pop's feathers, and the contrarian patriarch, who promptly takes advantage of the homestead principle just to fight back.
But, thanks to a bright idea by one of Pop's non-blood entourage - a shapely 19-year-old beauty by the name of Holly (Anne Helm, who was Elvis' love interest onscreen as well as off for a spell), the oldest of of four orphaned kids the old man took in - the six-pack clan start up a small profitable fishing business. The road gets a bit bumpy however, once that official brings in an oversexed (and damn hot) welfare worker (Joanna Moore) to break up the illegitimate family - though she primarily wants to see Toby's hips-a-swingin' on her wall, in an entirely different matter, of course. Things take a potential turn for the worst once a big-time gangster (Simon Oakland) and his loyal thugs moves in next door with a fully-stocked normally illegal casino housed in a mobile home.
Will the dimwitted family be able to figure out just what the heck is going on here between Toby's mysteriously orchestrated spontaneous musical numbers? Will Toby notice his pseudo-sister in a sexual light, before it's too late (I sure as hell noticed Ms. Helm's marvelous figure)? And more importantly, will Roland Winters - the last of the actors to play Charlie Chan in the original Fox/Monogram series - get a chance to shine as Florida's last honorable judge in this enjoyable musical comedy? You bet your hip-swinging clock they will - and you just might find yourself having a good time in the process. Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber himself), Jack Kruschen, and Frank DeKova also appear in this Elvis filmic hit, which includes the noteworthy single "Angel" as part of its otherwise so-so soundtrack.
But even those so-so songs deserve a chance to be heard with a discernable degree of clarity, and that's where Twilight Time's secondary audio option - a DTS-HD MA lossless 2.0 track presenting Follow That Dream's isolated music score (and its songs) and sound effects - comes in handy. The standard original soundtrack is naturally on-hand as well, offered up here in a fine DTS-HD MA 1.0 track with optional English (SDH) subtitles. Picture-wise, the 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer presents the United Artists release in a beautiful presentation that brings out all those wonderful '60s colors so vividly, you can't help but wonder when Doris Wishman's nudie cuties are gonna start leaping out and play volleyball. Wait, have I just admitted to the type of movies I did watch growing up?
Twilight Time's release of Follow That Dream also features an oddly-edited original theatrical trailer for the film (is there narration missing here or something?) as well as the always-welcomed liner notes by Julie Kirgo. The Blu-ray is limited to a pressing of 3,000 units, and is available exclusively from Screen Archives.