VIVA LAS VEGAS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Elvis Presley, Ann-Margaret, Cesare Danova, William Demarest, Nicky Blair
Director: George Sidney
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: August 12, 2014
“Can you take a look at my motor? It whistles.”
“I don’t blame it!”
Viva Las Vegas from 1964 might have been the last attempt at any kind of quality for an Elvis movie. After it, the settings would be smaller, the songs would be less interesting, and not even Elvis’ legendary voice would be able to elevate the increasingly banal material.
To be sure, Viva Las Vegas is no great movie, but it’s well designed, and somewhat fun. It helps to have the legendary 1960s version of Las Vegas as a backdrop and the lovely Ann-Margaret as a co-star.
Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a race car driver hoping to compete in the Las Vegas Grand Prix. He wins some money at the tables, and loses it…not in the way you’d think for Vegas, enjoys repartee with an international rival (Danova), and falls in love with a firecracker named Rusty Martin (oh, Ann-Margaret…yow).
I’ll be darned if I could possibly diagram any kind of a plot, though. Lucky and Rusty seem to fall into each other’s arms and then butt heads at the drop of a dime. Everything is kind of all over the place, from the music (many songs, not many good ones) to the humor, to the romance. The film goes for energy rather than fluidity.
Yes, there’s even a race (finally), and yet…something happens in the race that I think was horrible, but the movie didn’t really pay much attention to it after the fact, so I was kind of left scratching my head wondering if I actually saw what I saw. I guess we aren’t supposed to feel sad about anything as long as Lucky wins the race and gets the girl (hope I didn’t spoil anything).
But the movie is gorgeous to look at, and not just for the stars. Vegas in its prime was a sight to behold. One might argue that the movie spent a little too much time lovingly taking in the sights of the city, but I didn’t mind…that’s a world I could escape to anytime.
This is certainly not the kind of movie that will win Elvis any new fans, but unlike some of his films, at least it’s not likely to lose him any.
I mentioned how gorgeous the movie looks…this is one of the finest pre-70s transfers I have ever seen on disc. Warner did a phenomenal job with this high definition release…frame after frame is a bright, colorful world of detail and vividness. Absolutely flawless and reference quality!
I was a little less enthused about the uncompressed audio…despite the music, it wasn’t very dynamic, and in fact, mixed surprisingly quietly. The sound was perfectly clean and crisp, but I had to turn the volume up a bit in order to find that out.
There is a commentary by Steve Pond, author of Elvis in Hollywood, which is actually a very informative and interesting listen. Then there is a short feature on Elvis and his ties to Las Vegas, plus the original trailer. The disc is also packaged with a 40 page booklet featuring rare photos, promotional art, and more!
Elvis rolled the dice and just managed to break even with Viva Las Vegas. His biggest fans will have a bit of fun with this nice little diversion, and Blu-ray fans will thrill to just how amazing the video quality is for this 50 year old offering.