News Column

'Time-Warp Drive-In' presents all-night Elvis movie extravaganza

August 14, 2014

By John Beifuss, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.

Aug. 14--Elvis Presley used to rent out Midtown's Memphian movie theater (now the Circuit Playhouse) for all-night viewing parties with his friends, but as far as anyone at Malco can remember, he never watched a movie at the Summer Drive-In, in a pink Cadillac or any other vehicle.

By the time the Summer opened in 1966, Elvis was as much a movie star as a movie fan. So if he never patronized the place, he certainly played there, onscreen, in such films as "Spinout," "Speedway" and "Stay Away, Joe."

Elvis returns to the fresh-air screen Saturday night -- the 37th anniversary of his death -- for the latest edition of the wildly successful "Time Warp Drive-In" program, a monthly dusk-to-dawn series of throwback thrills intended to recall the heyday of outdoor cinema, when drive-ins dotted the landscape.

Coordinated by Midtown's Black Lodge Video and Memphis filmmaker Mike McCarthy, the "Time Warp" experiment has exceeded expectations, attracting as many as 500-plus admissions and outdrawing the first-run movies on the other three screens of the Summer Quartet Drive-In. Saturday night's program -- dubbed "Summer Fun with Elvis" -- is the first truly "family-friendly" Time Warp event, however, considering that past programs have been devoted to horror, "soul cinema" and other exploitation genres.

As usual, trailers, vintage concession ads and other surprises will screen during the breaks between the four films that will screen Saturday night. Unique to this weekend's event is that a "headlight vigil" will be held after the first movie, "Jailhouse Rock," and before the second, "Viva Las Vegas." McCarthy said this vigil is the logical drive-in equivalent of the candlelight vigil being held Friday night at Graceland, in recognition of the singer's death.

Here's the "Summer Fun with Elvis" lineup. Start times are approximate.

"Jailhouse Rock" (1957, 96 min.), 8:30 p.m.: Elvis plays an often-surly James Dean-esque teen rock star with bad grammar and a manslaughter rap sheet in director Richard Thorpe's relatively rough black-and-white drama, which introduced not just the immortal title tune but several other Leiber & Stoller leg-shakers, including "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care." Arguably Elvis' best movie, the script provides Presley with probably his most classic "romantic" moment, when he grabs pretty Peggy and kisses her, without invitation. "How dare you think such cheap tactics would work withe me!" the shocked Peggy protests. Replies Elvis: "That ain't tactics, honey. It's just the beast in me." (Tragically, Judy Tyler, the 24-year-old actress who played Peggy, was killed in a car wreck two weeks after the movie wrapped production.)

"Viva Las Vegas" (1964, 85 min.), 10:15 p.m.: The 15th of Elvis' 31 movies as an actor was one of his best, but also arguably his final "quality" production, thanks to a relatively large budget and the unusual talent behind the camera, including director George Sidney, an A-lister whose filmography includes such famous musicals as "Anchors Aweigh," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Show Boat," "Kiss Me Kate" and "Bye Bye Birdie," which made a star of Ann-Margret, whose sexual charisma and showmanship in "Vegas" make her the rare Elvis love interest worthy of co-billing.

"King Creole" (1958, 116 min.), 11:40 p.m.: Elvis meets Morticia! Carolyn Jones is the King's co-star in this New Orleans-set Harold Robbins adaptation, one of the last films directed by Hollywood-by-way-of-Hungary legend Michael "Casablanca" Curtiz. The cast includes Walter Matthau and Dolores Hart, who a few years later decided "God Is the Bigger Elvis," to quote the title of the 2012 documentary about her life: She abandoned show business to become a Roman Catholic nun.

"Elvis on Tour" (1972, 93 min.), 1:35 a.m.: Elvis as actor gives way to Elvis as Elvis with this documentary, directed by Robert Abel and Pierre Adidge, which includes behind-the-scenes and concert footage. Among the editors? None other than Martin Scorsese.


"Elvis at the Drive-In"

Show begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission: $10. Visit


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Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

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