As you may know, I plan on eventually reviewing every
Elvis movie ever made (that is, movies starring Elvis).
There are over thirty Elvis films, and so far I’ve seen a
whopping three (Viva Las Vegas! and Clambake being
the other two). My
first two Elvis films were enjoyable (Vegas was actually pretty
good), but finally, inevitably, I’ve seen my first really bad Elvis
Elvis plays Johnny Tyronne, an action film star known
for knocking out bad guys and knocking the ladies off their feet.
After thoroughly impressing some Middle Eastern royalty with his
latest film, Sands of the Desert (where, in the finale, he slaps a
tiger unconscious!), Tyronne leaves for the Middle East on a goodwill tour
(considering current events, he apparently didn’t accomplish much).
Not long after his arrival, Johnny is kidnapped by a
group of assassins. Like all
his fans around the world, they too are impressed by the lethal skills
Elvis has displayed in his movies, and they now want him to employ those
skills to kill a rival ruler.
(Side note: Could you imagine what the assassins
would’ve done if it were modern times and they could get their hands on
the pasty skills of Steven Seagal?! The
At any rate, Elvis, of course, wants nothing to do
with their nefarious plan. He
escapes the assassin compound and makes his way across the desert with the
help of Zacha, the most odious of comic reliefs.
They meet up with a band of gypsy thieves consisting of three
beautiful dancers named after precious stones, a cute little boy and girl,
a drummer, and Billy Barty (?).
With the help of his newfound quasi-Middle Eastern
friends, Elvis hopes to elude the assassins, get the girl(s), and save the
But one must not rush into such endeavors.
Along the way, Elvis must, of course, sing a few numbers.
Listening to these songs, one is hard-pressed to find a Middle
Eastern cliché not expounded upon. With
titles like “Harem Holiday,” “My Desert Serenade” and “I Get So
Many Humps (I Should Be a Camel),” not one opportunity is missed to
include an allusion (or four) to something pertaining to sand and/or heat. Please don’t misunderstand me.
Using the desert as a metaphor can be clever - just don’t beat me
over the head with it.
When not singing, Elvis, for the most part, looks
rather bored. Not that I
blame him. A thin story, dull
characters and mediocre can make life rather tedious. And that damn comic
relief definitely doesn’t help matters.
I don’t know if camels are strong enough to draw and quarter a
full-grown man, but I’d be more than willing to try.
The film simply feels fake.
All things considered, you would at least think Harum Scarum would
feature some exotic locales. Well,
as Ian MacKaye would say: Think again.
A long time ago I went to Universal Studios and saw the Indiana
Jones Action Spectacular (or something like that).
They had a set that resembled the desert, a couple guys in turbans
and maybe a camel or two. When
it comes to convincing scenery, let’s just say that it’d be a toss-up
between the “Indiana Jones Action Spectacular” and Harum Scarum.
Now, I’m not saying that Harum Scarum is
absolutely horrible. There
are a few songs that aren’t grating, and Elvis is, well, Elvis. But although it may not be absolutely horrible, Harum
Scarum is still pretty darn bad.
Copyright 2003, J. Bannerman