When I was a kid, it seemed like the weekend midday movies on TV always fell into two categories, westerns and Elvis pictures. I was never a big fan, but with four channels to choose from, you couldn’t be too picky. Which is why I’ve seen Elvis movies like Kissin’ Cousins, Clambake and Roustabout… The last one, I think I’ve seen like three times. But I’ve never seen any of the big ones, until today when I watched Viva Las Vegas.
As Lucky Jackson, Presley is a wannabe race car driver. After a good run in a Vegas casino, he finally has enough money to buy en engine for his custom built car so that he can enter the Las Vegas Grand Prix. At the racetrack, he meets Cesare Danova’s Count Elmo Mancini, a European driver and playboy, and the two immediately begin a bit of a bromance. It’s here where they both also meet Ann-Margaret as Rusty Martin, a smokin’ hot local who they both decide to have a red hot crack at.
When Presley discovers she works at the hotel he’s staying at, we get a bit of a song and dance number where he lets his intentions be known and ends with her pushing him the pool. Underwater, his bankroll for the new engine falls out of his pocket and ends up sucked into the pool filter. Now he has no money for the engine or to play the bill for his room. Sohe’s stuck working as a waiter at the hotel to pay off his debt.
Later, there’s a talent show which Presley and Margaret both enter, which is were Presley performs the title track. There are a couple of times in this song where I realised that the signature droopy-eyed Elvis look may not have been about looking cool or seductive, and more than likely has everything to do with the handful of pills he’d chewed on before the camera rolled and was, what is technically known as, high as shit.
Obviously, he eventually makes the money for the engine, because you know Viva Las Vegas has to end with the big race. Can the homemade car and small town gumption of Lucky Jackson beat the suave European money and resources of Count Elmo Mancini? I won’t spoil it, but I’ll give you a hint. YES, OF COURSE ELVIS WINS. AND GETS THE GIRL TOO. THIS IS AN ELVIS MOVIE! IF YOU THOUGHT ANYTHING ELSE WAS EVEN AN OPTION, YOU’RE MENTAL!
As predictable as the vast majority of Viva Las Vegas is, the relationship between the two male rivals was a bit of a surprise. It never tries to make Danova the bad guy or anti-Elvis. The two hit it off immediately, then spend the rest of the movie almost more into each other than Elvis and Ann-Margaret.
Viva Las Vegas is light, simple, predictable fluff. But it’s entertaining and fun light, simple, predictable fluff. The songs are great, all the actors are having fun with it and Ann-Margaret really is smokin’ hot.
Viva Las Vegas
Directed By – George Sidney
Written By – Sally Benson