Viva Las Vegas (1964) - 7/10
After hating Blue Hawaii, I’m hoping to fair better with Viva Las Vegas. This was also a big hit, but are Elvis films’ grossing numbers the true mark of a great film? I’m going to say no. Lucky Jackson (Presley) is in town for a grand prix. He’s got a car… minus an engine. He’s also got competition from the brilliantly named Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova). Not just on track either. They’re both chasing Rusty (Ann-Margaret). It’s certainly got more pace than Blue Hawaii, pun intended and even a spot of light mockery of gun-toting Texans. There’s songs aplenty again, but it’s not all Elvis this time. I’ve heard Ann-Margaret gives him a run for his money and I heard right. Presley ups his game though, she brings out the best in him. We’re in the 60s now and things are certainly swinging and pretty sexy. Parts of it don’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s fun and a pretty decent advert for Las Vegas. I’m sure the tourist board were chuffed to bits. As surface as all this is, the songs are good, the dancing brilliant and the chemistry between the leads fizzes (apparently they did date). It’s enough to make you forget this is supposed to be about racing. Getting back on track, Lucky wins Rusty’s heart, but she’s worried about him losing his life in a crash, never mind a race. Although a much lighter affair, like King Creole, this has enough story to keep it entertaining and because Presley isn’t doing all the lifting, it feels much more rounded. The race they finally get around to is genuinely great. Not so much as a race, but as a cinematic spectacle. Crashes, gorgeous cars, winding desert roads, it’s excellent. I can’t quite say the same for the film as a whole, but it is very good and possibly my favourite Elvis film.