Charlie Rogers (Elvis Presley) is a leather-jacketed biker who's fired from a singing engagement after getting into a fight with a group of college toughs. While riding his cycle to the next gig, an irate dad runs him off the road when he flirts with his daughter. He's forced to hook up with a travelling carnival until his bike can be fixed. The carnival is run by a tough old broad, a broken-down drunk, and his nubile daughter. Along the way, Charlie (who's got a chip on his shoulder about being an orphan) somehow learns about family values from this vaguely dysfunctional one. A scheming rival carny shows up, based on the legend of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's real-life manager.Written by
This movie was originally going to have a title song written by Otis Blackwell and Winfield Scott. Elvis Presley recorded the Blackwell/Scott song, but Producer Hal B. Wallis apparently found one of the lines in the song offensive ("stick it in his ear") and demanded that a different title song be used. So Elvis recorded a different title song by Bernie Baum, Bill Giant, and Florence Kaye, which was what ended up in the movie. See more »
When Freddy takes Charlie's challenge to hit the target twice in a row at the dunk tank Freddy disputes the first throw so they start again. On the first throw of the re-start you hear the sound of a hit and the girl is dunked but you can see that the ball never really hits the target. See more »
Elvis Presley was a hugely influential performer with one of the most distinctive singing voices of anybody. He embarked on a film career consisting of 33 films from 1956 to 1969, films that did well at the box-office but mostly panned critically (especially his later films) and while he was a highly charismatic performer he was never considered a great actor.
'Roustabout' is not one of Elvis' better overall films, not being as good as the likes of 'King Creole', 'Flaming Star', 'Jailhouse Rock', 'Viva Las Vegas' and 'Loving You'. This said as far as his mid- 60s onwards efforts go, 'Roustabout' generally is one of his better faring ones.
Very rarely were the script and story strong suits in Elvis' films, quite often being weak links even. 'Roustabout' is not an exception. The story is paper thin and formulaic, with neither the friction between Charlie and Joe or the romance between Charlie and Cathy ever igniting and structurally it's all too pat and obvious. The former due to too much immature silliness and not enough grit, which one kind of expected when you have the rebellious sort of character that Elvis played in the 50s in films that did have tension and grit, and the latter due to the chemistry not being there and Joan Freeman being somewhat bland.
The songs generally are less than stellar and mostly very forgettable. A few do work, and they will be mentioned later, but most suffer from lacking sound mixing that give them a cheapness, sloppy lip-synching, fitting awkwardly and from being too short. "Carny Town" and "It's Carnival Time" especially apply here. The script has its fun and good-natured moments, as well as its tragic ones, but over-silliness and corn run all over it as well.
However, 'Roustabout' is a good-looking film, it's beautifully shot with a great atmosphere and the rural scenery is colourful and evocative. A few of the songs are good, the title song and "Little Egypt" being knockouts. The tender "Big Love, Big Heartache", the acid "Poison Ivy League" and the energetic "One Track Shot" also stand out. The choreography has a good deal of energy, the carnival atmosphere is just magical and the Wall of Death scene hits hard.
A good cast helps and 'Roustabout' has that (Freeman excepted), John Rich also directing more than capably. Elvis is not at his very best and has been in better shape, but there is still an easy-going charisma and vigour to his performance. Barbara Stanwyk provides compelling realism and effortless command to her role, while Sue Anne Langdon adds a good deal of lustre and Leif Eriksson relishes his unsympathetic character. Familiar faces such as Pat Buttram, Steve Brodie and Jack Albertson are fun to see, and the film also boasts short appearances from Racquel Welch, Richard Kiel, Teri Garr and Billy Barty.
Overall, not great but decent likable fun. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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