Review

  • A rural "boy" gets in trouble with the law (Elvis Presley), but is granted probation and counselling by a psychologist at her home office (Hope Lange). He gets a gig living with his uncle and 'bad girl' step-daughter (Tuesday Weld), but dates a 'good girl' (Millie Perkins) whose father hates him because he pegs him as a ne'er-do-well. Meanwhile the counselor discovers that he has a gift for writing. Can he resolve his personal demons and become a productive member of society? John Ireland and Gary Lockwood play father and son in peripheral roles.

    "Wild in the Country" (1961) was Elvis' 7th movie of the 31 he did. This one's a serious drama with a couple well-placed songs. I'd put it up there with "Blue Hawaii" (1961), "Kid Galahad" (1962) and "Roustabout" (1964), but it's the most dramatic of these and you have to persevere with the mundane set-up of the first half, which some viewers will find boring. The second half, however, pulls the rug out from under you and is quite compelling, not to mention risqué for its time. It's a well-done soap opera with Elvis.

    Presley was 25 during shooting, but I'm assuming his character is supposed to be about 18-21. The therapist is supposed to be quite a bit older, like 10-12 years or so, yet in real-life Hope Lange was only 13.5 months older than Elvis.

    Millie Perkins is one of the most winsome and underrated actresses to appear in an Elvis flick and Tuesday Weld, who was 17 during shooting, isn't anything to sneeze at. Meanwhile Lange ain't no slouch. They're all much appreciated but, in my opinion, the top females to costar in Presley movies are Anne Helm in "Follow That Dream" (1962), Ann-Margret in "Viva Las Vegas" (1964) and Michele Carey in "Live a Little, Love a Little" (1968). I'd cite the 'banana dancer' in "King Creole" (1958), but it was only a bit part.

    The movie runs 1 hour, 54 minutes, and was shot in Napa, Napa Valley, California, and 20th Century Studios, Century City, Los Angeles.

    GRADE: B.