Would you like to know the precise moment OTF is updated? 
Click here to join the OTF mailing list!

Harum Scarum (The center key, apparently, wasn't working.)

Director: Gene Nelson

US - 1965



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).  It's good to be the King.My first two Elvis films were enjoyable (Vegas was actually pretty good), but finally, inevitably, I’ve seen my first really bad Elvis movie.

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 mind boggles!) 4 words: Slow and painful death (with emphasis on the "death" part).

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 kingdom.

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.Barty!

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.

Only Elvis would dare sport pistachio pants.



-- Copyright 2003, J. Bannerman



We love your money!




Home  Reviews  Ramblings  Mail  Updates  Links