Reviews, Vintage Vault — December 21, 2015 at 3:00 am

VINTAGE VAULT: PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE

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Paradise Hawaiian Style 5Apparently, Elvis liked making movies in Hawaii. He filmed no less than three of them there. I guess when you’re a star of the magnitude he was you can just say, “get me another script that takes place in Hawaii…who cares what it’s about.” This time the writers decided that the King would be perfect as a helicopter pilot in 1966’s Paradise, Hawaiian Style.

Our story begins with Rick Richards (Presley)…wait a minute, stop! Rick Richards?! So his full name is, presumably, Richard Richards? Okay then. We begin with Rick Richards returning home to Hawaii after being fired from his job as an airline pilot. It seems that old Rick had a habit of getting a bit too cozy with the flight attendants. Anyhow, Rick needs a job of some sort, so he pitches an idea to a pilot buddy of his, Danny Kohana (James Shigeta) to open a helicopter charter business together. Danny, who has five young kids, is reluctant to sign on but eventually decides to join in this business endeavor. Rick’s first priority now is to hire an attractive secretary, and there are several candidates. Danny, though, hires an aspiring pilot named Judy (Suzanna Leigh) to work the office. He also convinces her to pretend she is married so that Danny will concentrate on his work.

Paradise Hawaiian Style 1Rick figures that one of the keys to success with the business is to make use of the numerous girlfriends he has that work at the various resorts. They will pitch the helicopter flights to the tourists, while he romances the girls. Rick has a bunch of troubles, though. One flight has him transporting a bunch of show dogs who go nuts and cause some erratic flying. This gets him in trouble with the Island Aviation Bureau. Rick also gets in trouble with Danny when he takes his daughter, Jan (Donna Butterworth) out on one of the flights. They are late getting back because one of Rick’s girlfriends playfully tosses away the keys to the chopper to keep him from flying off. So, somehow Rick needs to make things right with his pal, and all his girlfriends, and save the business in the process.

Paradise Hawaiian Style 4I’ve said before that Elvis films are often short on story. The story for this one isn’t just short, it’s downright microscopic. This really feels more like someone was making a film to entice people to vacation in Hawaii and just happened to get Elvis to star in it. Everywhere Elvis goes there are crowds of hula dancers, drummers, and guys floating around in those Hawaiian-style canoes. They pull out all the stops during these numbers, and they are nice to look at, but they come darn close to just holding up signs that say, “See Hawaii – Call your Travel Agent Now!” Likewise, there are a number of nicely photographed scenes of the Hawaiian landscape as Elvis flies his helicopter around. It’s pretty, but I felt like I was watching someone’s vacation home movies. There’s just not a whole lot of story to make any of this all that interesting.

Paradise Hawaiian Style 3One of the nice things about the film, though, comes in the form of the young Donna Butterworth. Butterworth was a promising young actress at this point, having received a Golden Globe Nomination for starring opposite Jerry Lewis in The Family Jewels the previous year. But Paradise, Hawaiian Style turned out to be her second, and final, film. It’s a shame because her scenes with Elvis are the highlight of this film. She and Elvis play off each other very naturally, and she even gets the best of him a few times. Butterworth even gets to sing with Elvis and holds her own with the King of Rock quite well. I can’t help but think that a better premise for this film would’ve been to have Elvis as the unlikely guardian for this spunky kid and send the two of them on a Hawaiian adventure.

The film does manage a few fun musical numbers, though they are a bit awkwardly placed throughout the story. I’m used to Elvis just bursting into song, but seeing him do that while flying a helicopter with dogs crawling all over the cockpit was a little weird. The musical highlight is a number that Elvis shares with Marianna Hill as one of his many girlfriends. Unfortunately, the songs, and the film in general, are far from being essential Elvis. Paradise, Hawaiian Style is probably best for the King’s die-hard fans only.

♥♥

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