Ever hear Eddie Murphy’s bit on Elvis being allowed to do movies even though he couldn’t act, “We’ll let him sing all his dialogue”? Yep…
Ah, to be a young Elvis Presley; so completely on top of the world that they let you star in movie after movie, no matter how ridiculous. The thing about Elvis movies is that even you know exactly what you’re going to get, they’re still funny.
The story behind this one, if you care, places the King as a race car driver with the completely realistic name of Lucky Jackson who goes to Sin City for their first Grand Prix. He has a friendly rivalry in racing and in love with Count Elmo Mancini (seriously), played by Cesare Danova as they both pursue Ann-Margret’s hot pants. There’s also something about needing to raise money for an engine and, ahh, who cares…
I don’t think there’s 20 minutes of dialogue in the entire movie. And I’m probably over-estimating at that…The film does feature some hysterically fun footage of the stars participating in a number of fun outdoor sports and activities in front of projection screens.
Ann-Margret, 23 at the time was in only her 4th film, right after Bye Bye Birdie, and not only does her character have a name, Rusty Martin, she’s actually a good character for the first 20 minutes of the movie. After that she’s completely de-clawed and stands around waiting for Elvis.
The single most important feature of any Elvis movie, of course, is the music. Despite the world class title track, one of his best ever, the music is merely passable. Interestingly, the song Viva Las Vegas was released as a b-side – the a-side was the Ray Charles cover “What’d I Say”.
There’s an awful lot of dancing, taking advantage of the abilities of Ann-Margret. She’s more than a match for the King, being thought of as the “female Elvis”, and this was the last time that a co-star was allowed to upstage him. Colonel Tom Parker was furious how much time was spent filming her and the dance numbers, driving the costs over budget. Too bad, Colonel; she’s the only interesting thing happening here, even if she has an unfortunate tendency to yell out “ha” an unusual amount of times while dancing. Elvis’ dancing to the title track is downright frightening. Seriously, it’s disturbing to watch.
As far as the “story”, the less said the better. It’s your standard 60’s teeny-bopper fare. It’s distressing how quickly Rusty (remember, she’s the girl – told you she had a name) goes from a semi-strong character to a complete dimbo, being dismissed by her own father as getting in the way of the manly racing work.
Equally unbelievable is how quickly the picture wraps up. The race seems to be over merely minutes after it has started. There is so little racing footage. You look down at your popcorn for a minute, look back up and realize that his rival is out of the picture with a flat tire, Lucky has won the race and is now married to Rusty. It takes seemingly two minutes for all of the above to happen. The tour bus must have been leaving…
Viva Las Vegas is regarded as one of Elvis’ better pictures, which says a lot more about Elvis movies than it does about this film. It’s perfectly fine, I suppose, but reflect for a moment that this film came out the same year as A Hard Day’s Night, which it beat at the box office, and you can understand why I give it less leash.
The Representation Test Score: F (0 pts)
|Main Cast||Elvis Presley Lucky Jackson, Ann-Margret Rusty Martin, Cesare Danova Count Elmo Mancini, William Demarest Mr. Martin|
|Release Date||Wed 20 May 1964 UTC|
|Plot||Race car driver Lucky Jackson goes to Las Vegas to earn money to pay for a new engine for his motor car. Working as a waiter, he still finds the time to court young Rusty Martin.|
|Tagline||Elvis is at the wheel but Ann-Margret drives him wild!|
|Writers||Sally Benson (written by)|