After a string of pretty good movies like Paradise, Hawaiian Style and Spinout (both 1966), Elvis Presley programmers suddenly got tired and out of step real fast. Where Spinout proved a solid money-earner, Elvis's next two films, Easy Come, Easy Go and Double Trouble (both 1967) were box office disappointments, and no wonder. Paradise, Hawaiian Style, made in the style of Elvis's travelogue-cum-musicals of the early '60s (and directed by the other Michael Moore) made excellent use of exotic locations, while Spinout benefited from an unusually funny script and good performances. But Easy Come, Easy Go was dreary and dull, and Double Trouble is frenetic instead of funny.
Double Trouble is set entirely in Europe but except for a handful of second unit shots was filmed entirely in Hollywood. The busy, disjointed script finds Elvis, here called Guy Lambert, on tour in England with guitarist Georgie (Monty Landis, one of Elvis's more improbable movie bandmates) and the G-Men. Despite the come-ons of apparent groupie Clair (former British horror ingenue Yvonne Romain), Elvis has the hots for redhead Jill Conway (Annette Day), though she plays hard-to-get.
Soon enough, Guy learns why. Jill turns out to be 17-year-old schoolgirl, just shy of her 18th birthday when, explains Jill's uncle, Gerald Waverly (John Williams), the orphan is to inherit an estate worth millions. But Jill is in love with Guy, and she follows him to Belgium, as does Clair, where the plot kicks into overdrive. A pair of bumbling diamond smugglers (Chips Rafferty and Carry On regular Norman Rossington) stash their jewels in Guy's suitcase, then spend the rest of the movie trying to get them back. Meanwhile, Guy and Jill are nearly killed in several "accidents," and spoiler it soon becomes clear that Jill's Uncle Gerald is trying to kill her before she can inherit the family fortune. Further, the character-filled script also introduces a mysterious, trench coat-type stalker (John Alderson) and, if that weren't enough, the captain (Stanley Adams) and first mate (Walter Burke) of a barely-seaworthy ship.
Double Trouble is a smorgasbord of ideas that never come together, and in style and tone the picture is all over the map. The seafarers played by Adams and Burke are like characters from a sitcom. Burke's first mate even has a motley parrot on his shoulder, spouting pirate jargon courtesy an uncredited Mel Blanc. Conversely, the attempts on Jill's life are done straight. When Michael Murphy (in his screen debut), introduced as a Morley, a geeky student, turns out to be a cold-blooded killer who lures Jill to a vacant lot, the effect is almost chilling, mostly because it's so out of place in this kind of picture. Indeed, Guy shows up and ends up killing Morley (with standard Elvis karate chops), leaving his dead body at the bottom of a well, a little detail that's forgotten by the time Guy takes his case to the local police.
The police in Antwerp, by contrast, are played strictly for laughs. Character favorite Leon Askin (still active at 96!) turns up as the police chief, while The Wiere Brothers, a kind of Austrian Three Stooges (imagine three Billy Wilders on Ecstasy) play bumbling detectives.
The diamond smuggling subplot is utterly superfluous. It doesn't even function as a red herring to the murder plot since Elvis and Jill hardly interact with the two crooks. The couple never even realize they have the diamonds until the movie's almost over. Further, a lavish carnival sequence, complete with jugglers and acrobats, turns up out of nowhere, chiefly to burn up more running time.
Guy's relationship with Jill seems loosely inspired by Elvis's real-life courtship of teenager Priscilla Beaulieu, who became Mrs. Presley a month after Double Trouble was released. Annette Day was discovered in London working at a market stall. Except for some plays in school she had no acting experience and it shows, though she's not bad, and does project a teenage innocence that probably appealed to Double Trouble's primary audience.
Elvis doesn't get much chance to sing, and in keeping with the film the songs are all over the map. "Long Legged Girl (with the Short Dress On)" is near-classic Elvis, but "Old McDonald Had a Farm" (yes, that one) is an embarrassment.
Video & Audio
Double Trouble is another winner from Warner Bros. Filmed in Panavision, the 16:9 enhanced image is clean with good color, and only a half-notch below the eye-popping transfers of It Happened at the World's Fair and Spinout. The mono sound is crisp and clean. An alternate mono French track is offered, along with lots of subtitle options: English (no subtitles on the songs), French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Indonesian.
The only extra is an Elvis Trailer Gallery for four later titles, all 16:9 enhanced: Spinout, Double Trouble (1967), Speedway (1968), and The Trouble with Girls (1969). All four are in good shape.
Double Trouble is Elvis on the downslide, out of touch with changing musical tastes (I mean, Old McDonald!?) and an insistence by his handlers to keep grinding out the same kinds of movies, even as cinema itself was on the cusp of its biggest revolution ever. Double Trouble biggest fault is its blandness.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Los Angeles and Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes The Emperor and the Wolf -- The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. His new book, Cinema Nippon will be published by Taschen in 2005.