Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition

By DVD Verdict / Erich AsperschlagerSep 18, 2007
Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition
Elvis movies aren't for everyone. They're cheesy, and they have flimsy plots. Even Colonel Parker viewed them as primarily moneymaking endeavors. That said, they have plenty of adoring fans and, well, who doesn't want the pure escapism of a movie like Viva Las Vegas from time to time? The Charge Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret): "I'd like you to check my motor. It whistles." Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley): "I don't blame it." Opening Statement Elvis movies aren't for everyone. They're cheesy, and they have flimsy plots. Even Colonel Parker viewed them as primarily moneymaking endeavors. That said, they have plenty of adoring fans and, well, who doesn't want the pure escapism of a movie like Viva Las Vegas from time to time? This classic 1964 Elvis movie has all the fun of a trip to Vegas without the incriminating photos and timeshare pitches. Silly, frenetic, and fun, it has some great songs, a fantastic leading lady, and—at 85 jam-packed minutes—moves along so quickly you won't miss little things like plot and character development. Whether you're one of the King's loyal subjects, or just want to see what the "Elvis movie" craze is all about, you can't go wrong with Viva Las Vegas. With arguably the best director, co-star, songs, script, and location of any Elvis movie, Viva Las Vegas captures all the charm, fun, and flair of his Hollywood years. As the approximate midpoint of Elvis's film career, it's like a bridge between his rockabilly roots and the late-career "comeback" which might not have happened had it not been for a certain neon-lit city. Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition—released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Presley's death—sports sharp and colorful remastered video, a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, a 24-page photo booklet, and extras that educate as well as entertain. Facts of the Case Elvis plays "Lucky" Jackson, a singing, gambling racing champion, who is looking to beat rival Italian racer Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova, Gidget Goes to Rome) in the upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix—if only he can win enough money to buy the motor he needs to finish his custom-built car. While trying unsuccessfully to woo the beautiful Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret, Tommy), Lucky accidentally loses his winnings down a pool drain and is forced to work as a waiter to settle his hotel bill. With time ticking down to the Grand Prix, will Lucky be able to win the girl and the race? The Evidence For many people, Elvis is Las Vegas: the sideburns, the glasses, the jumpsuits, the legions of impersonators twisting their pelvises (pelvi?) down The Strip. But it wasn't always that way. Elvis's 1956 attempt to conquer Vegas—two weeks at the New Frontier Hotel's Venus Room—was a bona-fide bust. Instead of the usual screaming teens, a tuxedo-clad audience sat quietly through his set. This was old Vegas, and they wanted the grown-up entertainment of Frank Sinatra, not the rock 'n' roll antics of some hillbilly kid. Despite the lumps he took there, Elvis loved Las Vegas and everything its non-stop party atmosphere had to offer. He and his entourage (known as the "Memphis Mafia") visited often during their trips from L.A. to Tennessee. Elvis's genuine love for Vegas comes through in the character of Lucky Jackson, and is one of the reasons this movie stands out among all the films he made. Compared to the wide world of cinema, Viva Las Vegas is a silly movie with a paper-thin plot. Compared to other Elvis movies, though, it tops just about every category: Best director: At the very least, George Sidney (Anchors Aweigh) was the best musical director to work on one of Elvis's movies. Known for directing MGM musicals, Sidney's experience shines through in Viva's musical numbers, which are marked by thoughtful staging and dynamic camera work, especially during the talent show sequence. Best co-star: Ann-Margret—who had just worked with George Sidney in the film version of Bye Bye Birdie—stands out as Elvis's most memorable female co-star, matching him beat for beat throughout the movie. In just about every way, she's his equal (if not his superior): as a singer, dancer, and actor, and in raw sexuality. In fact, Colonel Parker was so worried about Elvis being upstaged he insisted all but one of Presley and Margret's planned duets be turned into solo performances for Elvis. Off-screen, Margret and Presley hit it off famously. They had so much in common that Margret came to be known as "the female Elvis." Whatever relationship they did or didn't have during the making of the movie, their obvious chemistry spills onto the screen, making their fictional romance believable despite the script. Best script: Elvis movies are more about the songs than the story, and Viva Las Vegas is no exception—it's practically the definition of breezy. Still, the script—written by Sally Benson, whose short stories were the basis for the film Meet Me in St. Louis—moves along at a brisk pace and, while it never gets bogged down by little things like character development or realism, it's never boring. Even the clunky dialogue is full of infectious energy. Best songs: I'm sure I'm going to rile some fans with this one, but I don't care. Even if the only song in this movie was the title track, I'd say the same thing. Not only is "Viva Las Vegas" catchy as heck (it's in the movie three times, and I didn't mind), it marks a more grown-up sound for the King and, as the unofficial song of the city of Las Vegas, has pop-cultural significance. Besides the title song and his cover of Ray Charles's "What'd I Say?" (which backed up the title track's single), there aren't many recognizable Elvis hits. There are some fun songs, though, including the Margret/Presley duet, "The Lady Loves Me"—a scene that ends with Elvis falling about 12 feet into a pool. Best location: Given Elvis's affinity for the city's nightlife, its importance to his career from the late '60s to the end of his life, and its reputation for being all surface and no substance, I can't think of a better setting for an Elvis movie than Las Vegas. From the opening shot, flying over the city at night, Vegas makes a good case for being the ultimate movie set, and in this newly remastered transfer, the neon signs pop against the black sky. The surrounding area gets a good amount of screen time as well, especially Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, leading rock journalist Steve Pond—in his commentary track—to jokingly wonder whether the Vegas Chamber of Commerce helped write the dialogue. As a DVD package, Viva Las Vegas: Deluxe Edition is one of the most impressive I've seen in a while, not least because it doesn't try to knock the audience silly with an avalanche of bonus features. The features it has, though, do a great job of placing the film in historical context, in a way that made me appreciate it even more. "Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas" is a 20-minute featurette about Elvis's connection to Las Vegas—from the flop of his first performance, through the making of Viva Las Vegas, to the "comeback" performances at the International Hotel that cemented his legacy as a stage performer. The mix of interviews, still photos, and performance footage does a great job as an overview of Elvis's career. Though it's about more than just Viva Las Vegas, it shows the importance of the film to Presley's career as a whole. The feature-length commentary by Steve Pond, author of Elvis in Hollywood, is chock full of Elvis history, movie trivia, and cultural context. As much as I like hearing what people who worked on a movie have to say, I'm a sucker for commentary tracks by film experts. He goes into great detail about the events surrounding the making of the movie, what Vegas meant to Elvis, and the musical changes going on at the time (including the Beatles conquering America). He's honest in his assessment of this flawed gem, but has excitement enough to prove he's a real fan. For as much as he has to say, though
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Reactions

Elvisnites (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 27, 2007report abuse
I also ordered the new DVDs and own every last movie, with of course the exception of "Tour"... People have to remember as Mature Elvis said, they were a product of the time. They were enjoyable at the time and are alot of fun to revisit. "Cheesy" is also a very old US slang saying when I was a kid, which was many moons ago. I was hoping I'd never see that word again. What comes around goes around..
mature_elvis_fan75 (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 26, 2007report abuse
I think the thing that get's mentioned more than anything including some very bad plots,is that Elvis played the same role in alot of his movies,its not even so much of him singing in his movies,hes not the only actor/artist who has did this,make no mistake some of the movies were plain bad,his movies can leave the impression he only played 2 or 3 differt roles,with that said, there are many movies from 60's that are regarded as classics,that i personally dont see all the prasie,one movie that comes to mind is breakfast at tiffanys,now call me crazy but that movie was in my oppion very overratted, now of course thats a far cry from the musicals of the 60S but think of all those frankie avalon movies,how about gidget chitty chitty bang bang?
Greg Nolan (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 26, 2007report abuse
*"Elvis movies aren't for everyone. They're cheesy, and they have flimsy plots...."( I'm annoyed by Erich's juvenile opening sentence, to begin with. For one, what is he, fourteen? "Cheesy" is a relatively-recently coined English term. And more importantly, are we to dismiss everything that came of age before the snarky, pre-1970 world that is light-hearted, and emphasizes "entertainment"? Take these cynics...and shove'em, as Johnny Paycheck might sing... Other than that, it's good to see an otherwise positive review. I bought these sets during the first week and love that they finally released them. Enjoy, fellow fans!
Palle (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 23, 2007report abuse
Why aren't there any screenshots when you review dvd's???
lray (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 19, 2007report abuse
They did a great job with this DVD. Now one of Elvis' most watchable movies is even more so. Sound and picture are A+. Mr. Cool, in regards to the booklet, it isn't much of anything but the cards in the other movies are very well done.
Mr Cool (profilecontact) wrote on Sep 18, 2007report abuse
Got this with the Box Set of 9 dvds (11 discs) released here in England. No booklet. No free postcards with the other films. In fact even the scene selections are just numbers 1-3, 4-6 etc with no written title of where in the film you are. Wish i'd imported them as individual discs from the U.S.

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