With the battle between the Blu-ray and HD DVD just over, we found this review on the soon to be extinct HD DVD edition of "Viva Las Vegas".
"I'd rather kiss a rattlesnake or play Russian roulette." - Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret)
Stars: Elvis Presley, Ann-Margret, Cesare Danova
Other Stars: William Demarest, Nicky Blair, Jack Carter, Teri Garr
Director: George Sidney
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:25m:12s
Release Date: September 18, 2007
While the movies of Elvis Presley tend to range from forgettable to mediocre, there are a few exceptions that are major pieces of entertainment. The most stunning of these is his 15th picture, Viva Las Vegas, which benefited from both one of the highest budgets of his career and an electric co-star who more than matches up with his talents and charisma.
Elvis stars for the first time of several as a race car driver, Lucky Jackson, who wants to raise the money to get a new motor for his car so he can run in the Las Vegas Grand Prix road race. After he accidentally loses his bankroll while romancing pool manager Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret), Lucky is reduced to waiting tables to the amusement of his race rival, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova). While Lucky tries to get the money back, he comes into conflict with Rusty, who both fears for his safety and envies the attentions paid to her rival, his baby blue race car. Lucky pins his hopes on a talent contest, and is determined to beat out his principal opposition: Rusty.
The main selling point here is the teaming of Elvis and Ann-Margret; the twosome sings and dances with ferocity, and they have a fiery romantic spark together unlike any other of Elvis' movies. When they're in love, they are boiling over with passion, and when they're on the outs the animosity is both humorous and just as passionate. Ann-Margret is stunning, with athletic dancing that sparkles from beginning to end. The dance numbers are very well staged, particularly the elaborate My Rival, sung by Ann-Margret, which is shot in a single incredible take. The one drawback is that Elvis' lip-synching is fairly marginal throughout, but otherwise he seems to be having a great time.
Director George Sidney (Anchors Aweigh, Kiss Me Kate) does a fine job in making the visuals interesting throughout; Ann-Margret gets a particularly memorable entrance as a disembodied pair of legs as Lucky and Mancini lie beneath a race car. The shots of a long-gone Vegas strip will certainly be of interest to fans of the city. There are a couple of travelogue-style montages that drag a bit, but they're fairly short and at least one of them helps develop the leads' relationship so they're not too objectionable. The climactic road race is given plenty of tension and a fair dollop of mayhem for excitement purposes. William Demarest offers some entertaining comic relief as Rusty's racing-obsessed father.
The picture also benefits from one of the better song selections in an Elvis vehicle. In addition to the immortal title song with its frenetic electric guitar and percussion, there's a rousing Come On Everybody and a fine cover of What'd I Say, amongst a total of eleven tunes. They flow into the story line reasonably well, and few of them are seriously weak. Ann-Margret's big number in the talent show showcases her skills and her sexuality in a memorable way. The producers knew what would sell, and the appeal of these two sex symbols combined with the music, dancing and fun makes this a highlight of not only Elvis' career but of 1960s movies.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratio: Original
Image Transfer Review
Sidney uses the entire widescreen frame, and the HD transfer looks quite clean; a certain amount of grain seems to have been lost to noise reduction, but the sharpness doesn't appear to have been cranked up significantly to compensate. Texture is best in the closeups, and anything beyond a near-medium shot is a bit lacking in detail. The color is blazingly oversaturated throughout, as befits the city to which the picture is a love letter. The opening montage of the Strip at night looks absolutely splendid with rich colors and deep blacks.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Language Mono: English, French, Spanish
Dolby Digital / TruHD: English
Remote Access: Yes
Audio Transfer Review
In addition to the original mono, the soundtrack is also presented in a 5.1 remix in DD+ and TrueHD versions. There is nothing to complain about in the music, which offers excellent range and presence. The racing sequences have good depth, especially in the TrueHD version.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
* Animated menu
* Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
* Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
* 1 Original Trailer(s)
* 1 Documentaries
* 1 Feature/Episode commentary by author Steve Pond
* Packaging: Elite
* Picture Disc
* 1 Disc
* 1-Sided disc(s)
* Layers: single
Steve Pond, author of Elvis in Hollywood, contributes a full-length commentary that offers plenty of background information with few dead spots in the first half, though there are some substantial gaps later on. The documentary Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas (20m:32s) tracks his connection with the city beginning with his unhappy 1956 appearance, which found him billed third under Shecky Greene. Special attention is given to the filming of the feature in 1963, and the last section is devoted to Elvis' personal appearances in Vegas in the wake of the 1968 Comeback Special. There's even a discussion of the origins of his famous jumpsuit. Alas, it's not presented in HD, but only in nonanamorphic widescreen. There's also an anamorphic trailer that's in fairly rough shape.
Extras Grade: B
Delightful and sexy, Viva Las Vegas is fun from start to finish, and in HD it looks and sounds very good indeed.
Image Transfer: B+
Audio Transfer: B+