Change of Habit (1969)
Nun Match Up to Dr. Elvis
"Change of Habit" was Elvis's 31st movie and the last proper movie which he starred in, it was actually part of a deal which his manager struck with NBC in return for his 1968 TV special. To be honest, you can see through Elvis's performance, although enjoyable, that he didn't really care for movies anymore and most of the focus in "Change of Habit" is on the nuns and in particular the character of Sister Michelle Gallagher played by Mary Tyler Moore. Elvis's lack of interest maybe more due to the weak storylines which he was being given rather than not wanting to be an actor. As is the case with "Change of Habit", although an enjoyable drama, there is no real depth to the story and comes across as a rushed piece of movie making trying to capitalize on the popularity of it's star.
In an attempt to bring religion back to the streets of New York's roughest areas, the local Catholic Association decide to trial a new idea and sends a trio of nuns to work in the community as civilians in a small medical centre. The centre is run by young, hip doctor , John Carpenter (Elvis Presley - King Creole) and as well as being popular amongst his patients for his easy going manner, his good looks and singing voice wins him a legion of teenage female groupies. After shedding their religious shrouds, the nuns are thrown into the thick of things as their presence in the local community is far from welcome. With animosity coming from everyone, including Dr. Carpenter as well as the local priest, who is aware of their real identities, but opposes what they are trying to achieve. On top of this, the local money lender, who rules the neighbourhood with a rod of iron, tries to capitalize on their naivety.
The story, which is supposedly a drama actually lacks any real drama and the only real interest comes in the form of the relationship between Dr. Carpenter and Sister Gallagher, which although not used to its full potential, provides enough quality to keep you entertained. It is as was too often the case a movie with really no point only put together to show off the talents of its star.
As already mentioned the lead in "Change of Habit" comes from Elvis Presley and marked the end of his career as a movie actor. Although his heart was not really in it, his performance is still enjoyable and I would love to know what would have happened if he had been given a better level of movie to make. Opposite Elvis is Mary Tyler Moore, who puts in easily the best performance in the movie. Although she plays the romantic role opposite Elvis, there is a lot more to her character than just being all girlie, and at times comes over as a very strong minded character. In all honesty, the scenes which require interaction between Elvis Presley and Mary Tyler Moore are good and very enjoyable. Sadly, the rest of the cast are purely there as support for Presley and Moore and never really get used to any great affect.
"Change of Habit" is directed by William A. Graham who up until a few years ago was directing TV movies at the ripe old age of 70. In all fairness, he has done a fair enough job of turning what is essentially a weak story into a reasonable movie. At times some of the plot lines are not exploited to their full potential, but this may be more down to the lack of a decent script than Graham's incapability. Some of the scenes which although are not intentionally created to upset you, do come over as quite harrowing. Especially the scene, where Dr. Carpenter is attempting to cure a small girl of her silence, by holding her until she got so angry that she shouts out in rage. All in all, he has done an admirable job of creating a movie with a disenchanted star and a weak script.
As with all Elvis's movies, you would expect to watch a whole host of musical scenes and outrageous dance routines. Surprisingly, there are only 3 such musical scenes which although are overly produced do not end up in a huge song and dance performance. The 3 performances include the songs "Rubber Neckin'", "Have a Happy" and "Let us Pray".
What this all boils down to is that as a die hard Elvis fan, I like "Change of Habit", but for someone who may not have my fondness for the King, they may find it a bit disappointing. "Change of Habit" is by no means his best ever movie and has far too many flaws in it, to make it his most memorable. Probably the most disappointing element is the lack of any decent story line, which is surprising as it was the culmination of 5 acclaimed screen writers, which then went onto much greater works with the likes of "Shogun" and "Roots". This is one purely for fans of Elvis, as it will more than likely bore anyone else with its weak plot.
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