Shocking Blocking (14)
February 4, 2011
In this scene from Clambake, Miami Beach gals varnish Elvis’s speedboat — heh — with a special resin (“Glaco-oxy-tonic phosphate, it’s the latest scoop/But that’s all right girls, you can call it ‘Goop’!”) that Elvis, a millionaire scion and chem-lab researcher masquerading as a water-ski instructor, has invented. Despite its brilliant premise, Clambake is a lackluster movie; its star was both sick (concussion, diet pills, saddle sores) and tired (this was his 25th, second-to-last, musical-formula flick). So even when singing and dancing atop a speedboat, he’s only go-going through the motions. Offscreen, while the Beatles were gearing up to transform pop music and culture with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Elvis and the Memphis Mafia (some of whom make cameo appearances) were running amuck. Despite all that, Arthur H. Nadel’s blocking here merits praise as a spirited rebuke to Fordism — Elvis sings to his labor force, “We’re gonna start an assembly line,” and they do! Also, precisely because it’s lackluster, this is a much hipper musical interlude than, say, the frenetic middlebrow “Greased Lightning” spectacle in Grease.
An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.
THIRTIES (1934–1943): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–1953): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–1963): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–1973): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–1983): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n’Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–1993): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)
READ MORE essays by Joshua Glenn, originally published in: THE BAFFLER | BOSTON GLOBE IDEAS | BRAINIAC | CABINET | FEED | HERMENAUT | HILOBROW | HILOBROW: GENERATIONS | HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION | HILOBROW: SHOCKING BLOCKING | THE IDLER | IO9 | N+1 | NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW | SEMIONAUT | SLATE
Joshua Glenn’s books include UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).