Wild in the Country (1961)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Romance, Rock Musical  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Wild in the Country may not be Elvis Presley's best film, but it's arguably his most serious -- as well as the film that most tested his acting ability. As the screenplay is by Clifford Odets, this is understandable, but the mixture of Odets and Presley doesn't combine productively. Presumably, Odets (or some uncredited writers) adapted an earlier work to better suit the talents of the star, but the result has too much Odets to work as a Presley vehicle and too much Elvis to be the serious "issue" picture that it tries to be. Neither fish nor fowl, Wild is ultimately unsatisfying, but it does have some strengths. While an actor with the intensity of a James Dean or Marlon Brando would have been more welcome in the lead role, Presley comes off better than might be expected. He doesn't embarrass himself and some scenes are nicely done; he just doesn't have the chops necessary to make the part really work. Tuesday Weld does very well, demonstrating once again that she is a talented and often surprising actress who has rarely been given the chance to show what she is really capable of, and Hope Lange comes off nicely, especially during the motel sequence. There are some small stretches of flavorful Odets dialogue, although these are offset by some unfortunate arid stretches -- and by some hard-to-take plot developments. Indeed, the last portion of the film becomes unbearably melodramatic and never recovers.