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Although my own personal favorite Elvis film is "Tickle Me" (1965), "Viva Las Vegas" is the last remotely classy film he made and his best musical in years. The Las Vegas locale enabled M-G-M to put in some rock songs--and Ann-Margret (a cross between Marilyn and Madonna) whose image is similar to Elvis's, was a definite plus. The film was even more successful than "Blue Hawaii" (1961)--Presley's biggest hit to date. They took their time shooting it, the songs are well showcased and Elvis and the sexy Ann-Margret form the most attractive twosome in years. It's even quite possible that the challenging Miss Margret briefly lifts him from the doldrums he's been in; most certainly when they double (as in the very catchy "C'mon Everybody" sequence) the fireworks explode loud and bright. Both performers are sinuous and sensual and assured, and between them they manage to lift a routine movie far above what it would otherwise be. But it also has the bonus of director George Sidney ("Bye Bye Birdie")--and it's the last Elvis film that will be so blessed.
Viva Las Vegas is a highly entertaining and lively film, sparked by the
chemistry of its two gorgeous stars, Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret.
When Ann-Margret appeared on Larry King last year, King kept bringing
up Elvis, but she wasn't about to talk about him. They were certainly a
hot couple, and if they were crazy about each other, which reportedly
they were, who can blame them? There is absolutely nothing special
about the story, but the movie has some delightful musical numbers,
including the title song - which has become part of the popular culture
as it personifies everything Vegas.
Colonel Parker wasn't happy about Viva Las Vegas because he felt that Ann-Margret was getting too many closeups in an Elvis Presley film. But without her sexy presence, the film would have lacked a lot of its energy. Elvis was unhappy making this kind of movie, and I imagine he was more willing to go to work with Ann-Margret on the set. It's fun to see them so young and beautiful, and having fun.
Okay, I've seen enough Elvis movies to last the rest of my life. I've seen the westerns, the post army movies, the musicals, the documentaries. But this movie stands alone because of the performances of Elvis Presley and the beautiful Ann Margaret. If you ever wanted to see Elvis at his peak ( still young at 29, in shape, confident in his every move ) this is the movie for you. The dance numbers are some of the best I've seen from the era. Elvis was truly at the top of his game filming this movie. I only wish some of the later movies were as good. Sure, this movie has its cheesy parts, but what Elvis movie doesn't. My four year old son likes to watch the ending race sequence over and over again. I wonder who wins the Las Vegas Grand Prix?? I can't say enough about the vivacious Ann Margaret. Elvis himself was smitten for her in real life and I can't blame him. She matches Elvis song for song and dance for dance. At the time of filming, she was referred to as the "female Elvis". Deservingly so, I might add. If only Elvis and Ann had made some more movies together.
I used to not be a big fan of Elvis movies. For all of his talent with a song, his films (with a few exceptions) were basically all the same formula: a crooning playboy situated in (exotic location of your choice), with any number of young, excited women waiting in the wings. But in "VLV" he has a more independent-than-usual female co-star (the stunningly beautiful Ann-Margret), who not only matches him in sex appeal, but who forces him to fight for her affection. It's a wonderful match of wits, from the first number, "The Lady Loves Me." They are both marvelous as they each musically bait the other, right up until he takes a header into a swimming pool. (In subsequent scenes they water ski, have a western-style showdown, tour Vegas in a helicopter, and dance in a gymnasium.) Later, when they both compete in the same talent show, A-M gives Elvis a run for his money with her hotter-than-hot striptease "Appreciation." It's perfect that the final shot in the movie is a split-screen of the title song sung (by him) and danced (by her). If no one knew that they were having a romance in real life; they'd figure it out from the chemistry generated in this film. This one and "G.I. Blues" (which features another independent co-star) are my favorites.
I have always been an Elvis fan, but I've never really seen a movie with Ann-Margaret featured in it. I always thought she was just a (very) pretty face, but I feel bad that I only now know what a dynamic entertainer she was in her day...and what a knockout!!! The scene."The lady loves me" is such a keeper!!! Forty-one years later, it's still a blast. Most people would call it corny as hell, but I thought it was a great performance by both Elvis and A-M. I just really don't think there are any female performers today with the combination of looks, personality and overall talent of Ann-Margaret in her hey-day!...a terrific movie....
I love this film! Actually, every time that I see it I like it more. I'm
biased, of course, being an Elvis fan (hey, isn't everyone?...if you're
you should give it a try), but it's still an entertaining way to spend a
while. The film's not based on the strongest storyline ever created and
relies on the chemistry between foxy mamacita Ann Margret and the King
himself, and that's more than enough. The two had some intense off-screen
things going on, too, and perhaps that helps the movie. Both Elvis and
Margret look great and they trade lines perfectly. Elvis is more engaged
this film than he had been in any since 1961 and the result's one that he
could have been proud of. The shame is that the glossy musical formula
began with 1960's "GI Blues" became an endless rerun throughout Elvis'
Hollywood career, but "Viva Las Vegas" is perhaps the highlight of these
musicals. Perhaps it's no coincidence that this film has less singing
the ones before and after, the songs all fitting well within the plot.
songs are also among the strongest of Elvis' '60s soundtrack offerings --
pretty much all of them are great tunes. This was most definitely not the
case even in earlier films and would progressively become less the norm in
subsequent years. The cinematography is also first-rate, as are lighting
and transitions -- all of the things that add up to 'production value.'
Lush colors and effective use of scenery -- natural and manmade --
This is obvious right from the opening credits and is stunningly apparent
in the musical numbers. It really looks like a lot of thought went into
the songs were staged, lit, and filmed and that alone is a departure from
Elvis' norm. Even most of the other of the better '60s films just stick
Elvis up there, singing, while they roll film. Not a lot of imagination
very evident in that approach. Check out the great presentation work on
songs like "C'mon Everybody" and "What'd I Say," as well as the classic
"Viva Las Vegas" talent-contest scene and the perfectly-executed "I Need
Somebody To Lean On" scene in which onscreen Elvis is double-tracked with
melancholy inner-voice Elvis. Great stuff.
The film's -- to me -- probably the most entertaining and enjoyable of any of Elvis' '60s musicals. In that category I include most of the films that Elvis shot during the '60s except for the two dramas of 1960 ("Flaming Star" being a particularly excellent film), the two song-sparse movies of 1961 ("Kid Galahad" and the great "Follow That Dream"), and some of the late '60s movies that included only one or a few token songs and had stronger storylines ("Live A Little, Love A Little," "Stay Away, Joe," "Charro!," "The Trouble With Girls," and "Change Of Habit"). Actually, "Viva Las Vegas" is even more enjoyable than most of these ones, too.
Among the supporting actors are Cesare Danova, a beatnik-y Nicky Blair, and William Demarest (Uncle Charlie from "My Three Sons"!), all of whom do a great job. Sharp eyes might also catch Terri Garr, especially in the "C'mon Everybody" scene, though she's in at least one or two others in the film. Red West, Elvis' bodyguard (he also wrote a song -- "If You Think I Don't Need You" -- used in this film) is an extra in the scene that included a bunch of Texas rowdies. Lance Le Gault (a blues singer and Elvis' double in '60s films, inadvertently seen in "Kissin' Cousins" and on full display as a tambourine-player in Elvis' sensational leather-clad 1968 'comeback' shows...he was also Colonel Decker on TV's "The A Team") plays a waiter who, ironically enough, is mistaken for Elvis by Ann Margret's character.
But yeah, when it comes down to it this is a film that succeeds primarily on the strengths of its male and female leads. Some great work by supporting actors doesn't hurt, but Elvis seems inspired to do a good job of acting -- not the walk-through that was becoming increasingly tempting in the face of uninspiring and mediocre storylines and production staff and accountants who didn't care about quality as long as the film was completed on time and on budget to result in the predictable crazy profits that Elvis movies generated in the first half of the '60s. The scene with Elvis waiting on the Count and Rusty exploits Elvis' comedic talents and was a nice touch. I'm surprised, really, that the pairing of Elvis and Ann Margret was never attempted again. They could've done "Grease" in '68!
The film also accomplishes its travelogue role and both it and the title song have become inextricably linked with that desert city. For those of us who have only visited Vegas in more recent years, and to those who remember it as it was in the summer of 1963, this film is a handy time capsule to the Vegas of yore. It was a kick for me to see Elvis and Ann Margret at the Sahara's camel statues because I had my picture taken there, atop one of the camels, back in the '80s (without realizing that it had such a direct Elvis connection). Cool!
All in all, if you haven't yet seen this film you might just enjoy it. It's not going to change your life (then again...who knows?) and it's not "Citizen Kane" (it's a lot more fun, though), but it's a classic of its kind. Scratch that -- it's just a classic. Unfortunately, a couple of months after wrapping "Viva Las Vegas" Elvis began production of "Kissin' Cousins," a film from producer Sam Katzman ("King of the Quickies") that was as cheap and nasty as they come and that showed the way to even greater profit (but at what cost?).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Viva Las Vegas' is not a good film. It is however a great musical, and
a very entertaining film. This entertainment value should be the only
reason to see this. Granted, there is no other reason to watch any
Elvis movie, with the possible exception of 'King Creole'. Alongside
the magnificent and early-fire film 'Jailhouse Rock' you won't find a
more entertaining film starring the King.
Clearly, that has nothing to do with the screenplay, by Sally Benson, which best line would have to be Ann-Margret's entrance 'My car whistles' and Elvis' reply 'Can't blame it'. If that is the 'wittiest' line of your movie, you've got a problem. There's no originality, no wit, no character development (or even creation, to start with), no story.
THE SONGS: One of the most consistent soundtracks for ELvis films, mostly hits, next to none misses. Highlight is the title song which hasn't lost one ounce of its excitement in the last 40 years. The duet 'The Lady Loves Me' with Ann-Margret isn't far behind. Elvis didn't duet often, and this is his best one. Actually the lyrics of the song seem far more clever and funny than the whole screenplay. Ann-Margret's a good singer, underrated certainly, and her solo numbers 'Appreciation' suffers from bad composing, not from bad singing. Elvis is on high form on the rocker 'C'mom everybody'.
THE DANCING: The University of Nevada bit is the centerpiece here as far as dancing goes and it's a joy to watch. Good choreography and Elvis is seen with the excitement and pleasure he had in the fifties, and seemingly lost. Ann-Margret arguably out-dances and up-stages him here, which shouldn't be seen as disrespectful to him but merely as a compliment to her.
THE ACTING: Without fleshed out characters written, you can't have them acted. Elvis was not a bad actor, and even if he did appear unnatural and stiff in other films, he seems quite energetic and talented here. Ann-Margret's a better actress, natural and talented.
THE DIRECTION: Sidney knows how to film musicals, he was one of the best of the genre, so no complaints here at all. I like the race at the end which may even be called 'exciting' at times.
THE CO-STAR: Without any doubt this is the reason for the film's success, both in entertainment and financially. Ann-Margret in her fourth movie is, quite simply put, great. She can sing, dance, act, and I guess there's no explanation needed on how she looks. In her prime, and she's in it here, she was Hollywood's most attractive actress - face and body-wise, but with enough talent to move way beyond starlet-status. Her costumes are great (take special notice of her black-tights-red-sweater wear in the Nevada university number). There's a typical amount of bad 60s makeup (in the otherwise great 'What'd I say' routine) and hairdo, but that's not too much of a problem.
THE CHEMISTRY: Another point that sets Viva Las Vegas apart from, for example, Speedway with Nancy Sinatra, is the on-screen chemistry between Elvis and Ann-M. Love affair or not, these are simply two attractive people liking each other and making the romance in the film really believable. They both seem like they had one hell of a good time.
THE STORY: What story? Race car driver wants to win both the race and the girl. He succeeds in both. Wow.
TO SUM IT UP: Of all Elvis movies of the 1960s this is the best. The soundtrack is unbeatable, the King himself never again seemed to have so much fun, and in Ann-Margret there's not only his most attractive but also best co-star.
Arguably the best of the standard Elvis Presley travelogue confections that comprised the majority of the films in his screen career, Viva Las Vegas succeeds largely due to the chemistry shared between E and sexy inferno Ann-Margret. Sporting the impossibly comic-book perfect names Lucky Jackson and Rusty Martin, the two stars forge a romance against the backdrop of the Vegas Grand Prix, which Elvis, naturally intends on winning. Typical Elvis movie values like achievement through hard work (E must slave away as a lowly hotel employee in order to raise enough cash to fix his racer) and plucky perseverance don't detract from the colorful widescreen photography and a number of fun songs, like "The Lady Loves Me," "C'mon Everybody," "I Need Somebody to Lean On," and the memorable title tune.
Watch the section where Ann-Margaret sings "Her Rival" Song in a letterbox
format. The camera starts from above and does remarkable movement (before
the age of computer controlled cameras) and Ann-Margaret does all the
choreography (including catching the toast and making sandwiches) to the
beat all in one shot! Possibly the best single-camera sequence of all
The movie only really slows down during the obligatory tourist travelog while in the helicopter scene.
The first time I saw this movie was in the Army before it hit the movie theaters for the general public, and as all ye guys know, if a movie goes over in the Army - well, it's gotta become a big smash it, and with Elvis Presley wooing Ann Margaret, well - Ann Margaret was all the service guys had to see. The Hell with the rest of the show! The guys whistled, cheered, and that night probably dreamed that they were Lucky with Rusty! Anyone who doesn't like this movie is an old Grumpy! All right gang, so it's predictable and we've seen it many a-time in the movies. Guy sees girl, girl hates guy, guy still chases girl, and like Irving Berling wrote: "A Man Chases A Girl Until She Catches Him!" In the old Fred Astaire-Ginger Rodgers movies, Ginger always hated Fred until they had their first dance together and then the love affair started, and if you'll notice, the same thing happens here in Viva Las Vegas. Rusty doesn't like Lucky until they sing their first song together and then the love affair starts. This was the formula in those days. Funny thing: There was this story that went that in the Astaire-Rogers movies, Fred gave Ginger class and Ginger gave Fred sex! Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. Astaire was not really the most sexiest looking of men, so he had to have the sexy lookin' gals around him to make the teaming work, but in Elvis and Ann-Margarets pairing, who was giving who sex? Song are great, dances numbers great, cast is very good, and it IS probably the best musical film that Presley ever made! He and Ann-Margaret was very wise never to appear again in a film. This was as far as I'm concerned a one time deal. Same thing as Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Partin in Rhinestone. It was a one time deal and the paring for one film was great and should not be repeated, but - sometimes I wonder what Barbra Striesand's "A Star Is Born" would have turned out like if she could have got her first choice for the film - Elvis Presley. What a dynamite of a movie that would have been, but - it was never to be!
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