Every new Blu-Ray commentary offers its own set of challenges. Having originally started my career as a music journalist, it feels more natural for me to dive into a music-related project. Providing the audio commentary for Heartbreak Hotel was interesting because I was more of a casual Elvis Presley fan and knew some but not all of writer-director Christopher Columbus’ work. So I got to do a lot of research, revisit seminal movie moments, and dive more deeply into Elvis’ catalog. That is part of the joy of my job: Discovery and re-discovery.
The basic premise of this movie is that a bold teenage rocker named Johnny Wolfe (Diagnosis Murder‘s Charlie Schlatter) decides to kidnap Elvis (a seemingly miscast but rather good Keith David) while on a Cleveland tour stop. Johnny wants to introduce The King to his single, alcoholic, Elvis-loving mother (Tuesday Weld, who actually co-starred with Elvis in 1961’s Wild In The Country) and lift her spirits. Their family life is in the doldrums, and her drinking and their poorly performing hotel are dragging them all down. It’s a crazy premise that totally fits the ’80s. This is a fantasy scenario that is very apropos of Columbus’ ouevre. He is the man who brought us movies like Adventures In Babysitting, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire, so you have to be onboard with his brand of pop filmmaking to enjoy it. Columbus is a big Elvis fan himself, and it shows in various details such as the recreation of a diner dance scene from 1957’s Loving You.
All in all, writing and recording this track was hard work but a lot of fun. I was a child of the ’80s but actually missed this movie when it came out originally. It’s interesting to view certain works of art from your youth that you actually didn’t experience. If you are open to looking back, you can appreciate it from the time because you lived through that era. I’m not one of those people who will shrug off the past to try to seem cool or be dismissive because it was a different time. Heartbreak Hotel is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun flick. Perhaps I enjoyed it more because of all that I learned while researching it.