Brash, gawdy and gloriously dated. Viva Las Vegas is all of these things and all the better for it.
Thirty one films in thirteen years, The King’s dramatic work is nothing short of formulaic; with plots wrapped around musical romps. A tough code to crack but director George Sidney II’s Viva Las Vegas gets it just right, with the synthetic storyline perfectly mirroring the superficial ‘Entertainment Capital of the World’ setting.
Elvis plays Lucky Jackson. A racing driver dreaming of the big time, he heads off to the Las Vegas Grand Prix with one eye on the prize and the other on his arch enemy Count Elmo Cancini (Cesare Danova). Before he can compete, Lucky has to earn enough cash to pump up his hotrod with a new engine. He swoons around the casino restaurant singing and waiting tables whilst swimming teacher/porn-star monikered Rusty Martin (Ann-Margaret) looks on dreamily. As conventional as they come, the plot is offensively predictable, with the perfectly coiffed maestro destined to win the trophy and get the girl before the film wraps up.
Although Presley’s cocksure charisma could be sold by the bottle load, Ann-Margaret is the stand-out as the all-singing and all-dancing Rusty. With ten brilliantly crafted musical numbers, a lightly comedic script from Sally Benson and a glitzy direction from Sidney, Viva Las Vegas is a pleasant Hollywood nostalgia piece. Hardly a ‘good’ film by any stretch, it’s best watched with alcohol, ironic grins and hip-shaking friends.
The whole film is up on YouTube here. Somebody get the beers in.