Elvis references in films fewer, farther between

"Elvis: What Happened?"

That's not just the title of the first Elvis exposé book, published in 1977, shortly before the King's death, 34 years ago this coming Tuesday.

Kirk the Yodeler in 'Hoodwinked Too!'

Kirk the Yodeler in "Hoodwinked Too!"

It's also my reaction to the relative paucity of Presley content available to me as I prepare my 15th (!!) annual "Elvis Allusions in the Movies" column.

For many years now, I've made a note every time I've seen or heard a reference to Elvis Presley in a new movie. Each August, I write a column collecting these Elvis "sightings," from one annual Elvis Week celebration to the next.

Death hasn't stopped Elvis. In fact, the King has overcome the apparent handicap of being deceased to show up in some of the biggest films of the era, including "The Dark Knight," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and the "Godzilla" remake.

Some movies even have been built around Elvis, such as 2002's "Bubba Ho-tep" (in which an elderly Elvis battles a mummy) and 2001's "3000 Miles to Graceland" (Elvis impersonators rob a Vegas casino).

Some years, I tagged Elvis in close to 30 movies. This year, however, I found him in fewer than a dozen.

Does this represent an anomaly or the start of a trend? We'll know more next year. For now, here are the films that played in Memphis theaters during the past year in which I discovered at least a hint of the King:

Kirk the Yodeler adds leiderhosen to his Elvis jumpsuit when he imitates the King in the computer-animated fairy-tale spoof sequel "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil."

In "Somewhere," Sofia Coppola's portrait of privileged movie-star angst, Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning are entertained at the Chateau Marmont by a hotel employee who performs a pretty solo guitar rendition of the Elvis hit "Teddy Bear."

Mike Leigh's most recent masterwork, "Another Year," finds the alcoholic, unhappy, middle-age Mary (Lesley Manville) trying to make conversation with the taciturn Ronnie (David Bradley). "Did you like the Beatles?" Mary asks. "They were alright," Ronnie replies. "I was more Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis." Responds Mary, quoting: "Yeah -- 'I'm all shook up.'"

The documentary "Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin'" makes Elvis allusions in connection to the Bluff City's other King, Jerry Lawler, who is said to have been responsible for more sold-out Memphis arenas than Presley himself.

Nerdy high-school wrestler Stemler (David Thompson) offers a weak Elvis-style "thank yuh veruh much" in "Win Win," a drama with Paul Giamatti.

Star Jamey Sheridan delivered a more authoritative "thank yuh, thank yuh veruh much" after performing an a cappella duet in "Handsome Harry," which screened during the Outflix Film Festival.

Elvis' face is seen on a Downtown Memphis wall during the locally shot African-American-marketed psycho-melodrama "N-Secure."

The cast attends the Elvis Candlelight Vigil at Graceland in one of the more documentary scenes in Kentucker Audley's well-reviewed no-budgeter "Open Five."

Unsurprisingly, "Nowhere Boy," a biopic about the prefame Liverpool years of John Lennon (Aaron Johnson), is loaded with allusions to Lennon's Memphis hero. Early in the film, after seeing a picture of Elvis in a local newspaper, John adopts an Elvis coiffure. "I want to start a rock and roll group, be like Elvis," John says; in fact, his band covers "That's All Right Mama" at its first gig. In another scene, young Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster) croons "Love Me Tender" to John's aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). "So Mommy's cool with baby Paul wanting to be Elvis?" asks the snarky John. Later, John moans to his mother (Anne-Marie Duff): "Why couldn't God make me Elvis?" She replies: "Cuz he was saving you for John Lennon."

Sam Raimi's horror movie "My Soul To Take" features yet another "thank yuh veruh much." More intriguingly, a skeptical paramedic checking a guy's vital signs refuses to take the word of an onlooker who insists, "he's dead." Responds the paramedic: "So is Elvis. It pays to be sure."

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