When one achieves any level of stardom, it only makes sense that they ride that wave for everything it is worth. When you are a global superstar like Elvis Presley, that line of thinking only intensifies. In the 1960s, you could not throw a rock without hitting a new feature film starring the music icon. Some were better than others, but good or bad his dedicated young fans would take any chance to see him flash a smile and croon a tune or two. In the earlier half of the decade, the lighthearted romp It Happened At The World’s Fair debuted with only the promise of recreating the historic Seattle Expo to distinguish itself. The result is nothing too special, but it is a bit of harmless fun that fans of the artist will enjoy revisiting from time to time.
Elvis takes on the role of Mike Edwards, a hotshot pilot who has a weakness for the ladies (who would have guessed?). He has big dreams of opening up a proper airplane business with his partner and best friend Danny (Gary Lockwood), but Danny has a bad habit of gambling away all the money they make. As much as Mike tries to set his friend on the right path, Danny always seems to find a way to get himself into an unpleasant situation. When Danny cannot pay up on some of his gambling debts, the sheriff confiscates their aircraft – their only means of making money – and agrees to hold it for 12 days to see if they can come up with $1,200 before it gets sold off. Earning that kind of scratch is going to take some mighty maneuvering, so the two decide to hitchhike to anywhere they can conceivably earn some money. While many people drive right past them, they eventually get picked up by apple farmer Walter Ling (Kam Tong) and his niece Sue-Lin (Vicky Tiu). These two are headed to the World’s Fair in Seattle, which is a place the boys think sounds as good as any to have a reversal of fortune.
In order to enjoy this particular film, you need to throw out any semblance of logic that might want to pop into your head. You get a sense of what the movie views as reasonable when Walter allows Sue-Lin to ride in the back of the truck with two random hitchhikers, but circumstances eventually lead to Sue-Lin being seemingly abandoned with only Mike, and to a lesser extent Danny, to care for her. The fact that this man has the classic Elvis good looks does not qualify him in any way to be a guardian, but it happens and you might even let go of the gaps in logic just based on how precious young Sue-Lin is when she is with Mike. The plot is a series of convenient plot points strung together, so logically a food-drunk Sue-Lin leads Mike to a doctor’s office at the World’s Fair where Mike falls head over heels for a stubborn nurse, Diane Warren (Joan O’Brien), who is not having any of Mike’s flirtation…for a bit. The film struggles to balance Mike as a stand-in father figure, the development of a new relationship, and the complications that arise from being friends with a gambling addict – spoiler alert: he screws up a lot.
The plot is horrendously scattershot, but fans of the singer will likely be able to forgive this on some level thanks to the numerous songs he sprinkles throughout the runtime. Some of these easily could have been cut, such as the oddball “Cotton Candy Land” that is intended to be a lullaby for young Sue-Lin but presents with an almost nightmarish melody. If we are being honest, most of the songs do work, though, and help give this film a purpose outside of the poorly constructed plot. Elvis does not seem to be at the point yet where he is just sleepwalking through these roles, but he is not the most charismatic he has ever been either. This is a perfectly middle-of-the-road effort from the performer which is complemented by a pleasing enough ensemble doing as well as can be expected from a frothy movie such as this. It Happened At The World’s Fair is a movie that is hard to take seriously, but those not going in expecting much will probably enjoy it on the low-stakes terms that go along with it.
Warner Archive presents It Happened At The World’s Fair with a beautiful new 1080p master transfer in 2.35:1 sourced from what appears to be a 4K scan of the original camera negative – though that is not confirmed. Warner Archive once again knocks it out of the park as they continue to revisit these sumptuous features of yore. The film features some splendid colors within the costumes and 60s production design that pop off the screen with a great vibrancy. The level of minute detail and clarity is stunning with a lovely amount of natural film grain intact. The film is practically pristine with no noticeable instances of damage or dirt detected here. The black levels are incredibly deep with a pleasing stability throughout. Compression artifacts, banding and other such issues do not pop up as an issue in this transfer. This presentation is another instance of Warner Archive delivering a perfect technical feat.
The Blu-Ray comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that is also quite excellent. The main draw for many will be hearing Elvis sing his songs, and this track delivers them with perfect fidelity. Dialogue and background noises are represented perfectly along with the gentle score from Leith Stevens. There is no discernible age related wear and tear to the track such as hissing or popping. No sounds ever overpower the dialogue that is being spoken here. While mostly dialogue and music driven throughout, the more kinetic moments, such as when Mike and Danny are up in their plane, are handled with ease and give the track a bit of life. There are also optional English (SDH) subtitles included for the feature film. Warner Archive has provided a disc that sounds wonderful in all respects.
- Trailer: A nearly three-minute trailer is provided here which gives away a good deal of the movie.
It Happened At The World’s Fair is a lighthearted feature that does not showcase Elvis at his most entrancing, but it is far from an embarrassment. The story falls very much on the silly side of the spectrum, but for those who come into the story wanting to see Elvis exude charm and show off his vocal prowess, this feature delivers on those terms. Warner Archive has released a Blu-Ray that features a stunning A/V presentation that really brings a whole new life to this story. Those fans of Elvis looking to round out their collection should be thrilled by the presentation. Recommended
It Happened At The World’s Fair can be purchased directly through the Warner Archive Amazon Store or various other online retailers.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Archive has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.