USA - 1964
Lucky Jackson lives
life to its fullest. His days
are spent racing cars, gambling, and chasing women.
His nights are spent partying, gambling, and chasing women.
But when Lucky meets a red-headed bombshell named Rusty Martin, all
bets are off.
boy is instantly smitten, but the girl wants nothing to do with a player.
To win Rusty’s heart, Lucky must utilize all his charm, good
looks and cunning. He’ll
also have to sing about seven songs.
To make matters even
more complicated, the suave Elmo Mancini also has his eye on the lovely
lady. Worse yet, Mancini is
also a favorite in the upcoming Vegas Grand Prix.
Lucky would like
nothing better than to win both the race and the girl; and after a
triumphant first date, love seems to be coming Lucky’s way.
But all hell breaks loose when Rusty hears about a fatal mishap
where one of Lucky’s racing buddies was killed in a ball of smoldering,
twisted metal. Terrified, she
forces Lucky to choose between a life of love and security, or the
perilous life of a race car driver.
Despite his strong
feelings for Rusty, Lucky isn’t necessarily torn between the girl and
his passion for racing. It
takes approximately five minutes for Our Hero to decide that he will
participate in the Vegas Grand Prix, with or without Rusty’s approval.
But if all goes according to plan, Lucky will drive away with the
prize money and the girl; it’ll take just a little more of his
charm, good looks, and approximately three more songs.
My second foray into
the films of Elvis and all is well. Clambake
was only slightly tedious, and Viva Las Vegas, much to my surprise,
was thoroughly enjoyable. I
don’t expect high art when it comes to Elvis’ films.
I expect entertainment; and Viva Las Vegas is, at the very
The story is pretty
thin, but moves along at a good pace.
I credit most of the
film’s energy to the chemistry between Elvis
and Ann-Margret. It doesn’t
rocket science to notice that these two really dig each other.
And what’s not to dig? Ann
is quite a sight with her tight dancin’ britches and flaming red hair;
and Elvis, well, is Elvis. Viva
Las Vegas is fun, and it looks like the two leads are having fun
The only thing that
bothered me was the big race at the end.
I loathe racing movies. Fortunately,
the Grand Prix itself only lasted about ten minutes; and you really
can’t go wrong with a foolproof formula involving rapid acceleration,
hairpin turns, fiery wrecks and Elvis’ face in front of
an obvious blue-screen. The
highlight of the epic finale had Elvis watching the obliteration of one of
his buddies in a particularly nasty crash, then turning apathetically back
to the task at hand. You
can’t blame him. Can’t
to lose the big race, right?
The scary thing is:
I’ve only watched two of Presley’s movies, and so far, both
have prominently featured auto racing.
I mean, what are the odds? The
man has made over 30 films, yet I randomly pick two and they both focus on
life behind the wheel. Perhaps
Elvis’ racing movies are a genre in and of themselves.
But let’s focus on
the positive (for once). Viva
Las Vegas is a fun movie. The
acting is good, the story serves its purpose, and the songs, for the most
part, are inspired. Highlights
of the musical
numbers include a verbal duel between Elvis and Ann-Margret entitled
“The Lady Loves Me”, the rockin’ “C’mon, Everybody” and the
requisite ballad “If You Don’t Think I Need You”.
(It just wouldn’t be an Elvis movie if he didn’t ask some girl
to love him tender.) Of course, you can’t forget the title song, which even the
most casual fans are familiar with. The
most surprising track on the film was the Forte Four’s “The Climb”,
a bluesy r & b number that I wouldn’t have expected from an Elvis
film. There’s also
Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” (covered by Elvis and Brian
Dennehy!). Musical lowlights
are few and far between, but Ann-Marget’s “Appreciation” is pretty
bad. But what do I know?
The piece was obviously an influence to Madonna’s “Material
Girl” video. So it
must’ve struck a chord with someone. And for the record (no pun intended), I don’t like that
fun, Viva Las Vegas is Elvis at the top of his game.
2003, J. Bannerman