In one of his best-loved films, Elvis Presley stars as a small-time convict who uses his time in prison to practice music, then goes on to become a big-time performer. Co-stars Judy Tyler and Dean Jones.
For more about Jailhouse Rock and the Jailhouse Rock Blu-ray release, see Jailhouse Rock Blu-ray Review published by Brandon A. DuHamel on October 4, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Some things that we know today before viewing an Elvis Presley movie are that Elvis will sing a few
songs, maybe dance a little, there will usually be a pretty woman that he has to win over, and after
it all shakes out, things will usually work out for the best with Elvis getting the girl in the
Jailhouse Rock was no exception. In this case, the pretty woman was Judy Tyler playing
Peggy Van Alden, business partner and love interest to Elvis Presley's character Vince Everett, an
ex-con out of prison where he did time for manslaughter after killing a man in a bar brawl coming
to a lady's defense.
Does this dance move look familiar?
While in Prison, Vince meets Hunk Haughton (Mick Shaughnessy) a washed-up Country singer
who teaches him some songs and how to play the guitar. It is after he leaves prison that Vince
meets Peggy and they strike up a friendship, partnership, and eventual romance on Vince's
troubled road to Rock and Roll success.
What sets Jailhouse Rock apart from all of the other Elvis movies is that at the time of
its release, this was all new. No one had seen the cliché story lines before and what's more, no
one had ever seen a movie that had Rock and Roll at its core. Everything was fresh. Even Elvis'
performance seemed fresh. Unlike most of his later movies, it didn't feel like he was just going
through the motions on this one – he wanted to do something real, and you could sense it in his
performance. Marlon Brando or James Dean he wasn't, but he surely did an outstanding job for
someone who was not an actor in the true sense of the term.
If there is fault to be found with Jailhouse Rock, it is that the whole plot of the movie is
predicated on a 1950's idea of the typical rebellious Rock and Roll teenager, portrayed as a misfit,
juvenile delinquent, lawbreaking and dangerous element of society; how little things have
As for the music, this was 1957 when Elvis was just hitting, and his music was still vibrant and
somewhat raw. Jailhouse Rock contains, arguably, some of the best Elvis Presley music
of any of his movies including the title performance, "Treat Me Nice", Don't Leave Me Now", and
"Young and Beautiful" amongst others. While watching the "Jailhouse Rock" performance
sequence, it is not difficult at all to make the connection between this film and the music videos
of the 1980's.
Filmed in Cinemascope and shot in black and white, Jailhouse Rock is presented on this
High Definition Blu-ray release in its original theatrical release aspect ratio of 2.40:1 in a VC-1
Contrast and black levels were nearly perfect, and blacks and greys were just as they should be. For
an older film, Jailhouse Rock looked exceptional in this Blu-ray release, and Warner have
done a relatively good job with this transfer. Detail, however, is not as sharp as it could or should
have been. Although film grain is presented clearly, there was a slight overall softness to the image
throughout the transfer in both foreground and background detail that forces me to knock the
rating down a notch.
On this release, Warner have provided a newly remastered 5.1 mix in the lossless Dolby TrueHD
audio CODEC, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. They have also included the original mono mix
in lossy Dolby 1.0, and French and Spanish dubbed Dolby 1.0 versions.
Just as its counterpart Viva Las Vegas, Jailhouse Rock was most likely recorded
to 4 tracks for a possible L/C/R/S (Left/Centre/Right/Surround) configuration, or what we might
call today 4.0. The TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is similar to that release also in that it is mixed across
the three front channels with some slight ambience placed in the rears. This is where the
similarities of the two sound recordings end.
Where Viva had a distinctly clear, detailed, and open sound to it, Jailhouse Rock
sounded more stifled, a little muddy, and in the louder passages of dialogue had a tendency to
distort. I'm certain these things had more to do with the source material than with the
mastering for this release. One other difference in Jailhouse Rock from Viva Las
Vegas is that the former had a flatter, warmer tone, especially in the musical passages, than
the latter. The high frequency sheen was not there. I, and many audiophiles I am certain, will
consider this a good thing.
Like its high-definition Blu-ray release companion Viva Las Vegas, the extras on this
release are limited to an audio commentary by author Steve Pond (Elvis in Hollywood),
the original theatrical release trailer (standard definition, 480i/p, 4:3 window-boxed), and a main
draw extra – an approximately 15 minute long featurette entitled The Scene that Stole
Jailhouse Rock (high definition, 16:9), which explores the title song's performance,
choreography, and cultural significance in the world of Rock and Roll and beyond.
English, English SDH (main feature only), French, & Spanish
Original theatrical release trailer in standard definition, 480i/p 4:3 window-boxed
As all Elvis movies go, this is no paragon of great filmmaking, but Jailhouse Rock has to
stand as one, if not the best of all of Elvis' movies. This is really Elvis in his prime, when he still had
some early Rock and Roll edge, when his music was still new and relatively dangerous. For all Elvis
fans, this is the definitive release of one of the classic Rock and Roll movies. The sound and picture
quality are not the absolute best they can be, but they are the absolute best you can get. Go out
and buy it. If you're just curious what the fuss was all about "back then", then at least rent it.