Elvis Presley’s “Paradise, Hawaiian Style” Reviewed
Elvis Presley’s 26th album was the soundtrack to one of the worst movies of his career, an asinine piece of comedy surf and girls thingy, featuring the most annoying child actor ever, Donna Butterworth. Donna, a ten year old, apparently had a crush on Presley and there was a creepy subtext throughout their relationship. Worst, they stuck the poor child in a bikini and had her swing her hips. Donna kept on intruding on Presley songs (fortunately, she is dislocated from the album soundtrack) on stuff like “Datin'”, debatably the worst song Presley ever sang. This duet is the single most horriblt thing in the Presley oeuvre, with Elvis and Donna singing about things that lead to marriage.
The story, back in Hawaii for a third and worst time, has Elvis as a pilot starting his own business with a partner and nearly ruining the married with children (one being Butterworth) life and bankrupting. Big laughs.
As bad as it is, the album may well be worse. With six songs by the team of Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye, not only do they fail to knock it out of the ballpark, on “Queenie Wahine’s Papaya” they force Presley into such a low point it is immensely distressing to hear it, especially since there is so little to take the bad taste out of your mouth. This trio had been stinking up Presley albums for years, and in all that time the only hit song by the trio was “Devil in Disguise”, in 1963
Two exceptions: “Sand Castles”, which isn’t in the movie, is a lovely acoustic ballad and “Drums Of The Islands”. “Drums Of The Island” is the only song Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett got in the movie, but it is head and shoulders above the rest of the dross. A Hawaiian genre beauty, that is still performed in the State, it is the true embrace of Presley’s affection for the State. As Presley glides from island to island, it is as though Hawaii rises as one to let him in their hearts.
Otherwise, this is a sorry movie and a sorry album. It sold 250,000 copies, meaning it was a complete disaster by Presley’s standards, and rumor has it that Presley was doing everything through gritted teeth by this time. Colonel Bloody Parker.