Elvis with co-star Ann-Margret
Viva Las Vegas (1964) is generally considered to be one of Elvis' "good movies," as opposed to Blue Hawaii (1961) or Clambake (1967), two of his "bad movies." But calling it a good Elvis movie is a little bit like calling skin cancer a good cancer. There really is no such thing as a good Elvis movie. He just didn't make quality films, and pretty clearly he (and/or Colonel Tom Parker) really didn't care too much. Unlike Sinatra, Elvis doesn't have a From Here to Eternity or The Man with the Golden Arm or The Manchurian Candidate or even Suddenly to point to as being significant and serious film work. Viva Las Vegas does nothing to really change that.
Elvis with co-star Ann-Margret's lower half
But it does have Elvis, and it has Vegas as it was in 1964. So, despite being just another Elvis movie (really), Viva Las Vegas is a priceless historical document - preserving both Big E and Vegas in their prime. Regular visitors to this blog might have noticed I have an interest in "old Vegas," and the film provides several, quick glimpses of what it used to be like. Here is the title sequence, quite possibly the best part of the film:
No movie could successfully follow that!
Let's have a longer look at some of that in screencap form. Witness the beautiful neon display that was Fremont Street:
By day, at the finish line of the Grand Prix
Glitzy hotels along Las Vegas Blvd., of which only The Flamingo survives. Today, it looks nothing like it did here, so this Flamingo is all but gone:
the eighty-foot neon "Champagne Tower"
Love is now the stardust of yesterday...
The music of the years gone by.
Ann-Margret reacts to the horrors of Grand Prix racing
Now, I understand that during the auto race, the cars are supposed to be driving across the Hoover Dam from Nevada into Arizona. And maybe it's just me, but it seems slightly implausible that one moment the racers can be here:
To fairly suddenly being here:
Finally returning back to here:
Elvis in a helmet just doesn't work. Bad idea.
"Luke! Use the Force."
Wisely, the makers of the Viva Las Vegas decided it would be a good idea to have Elvis remove the helmet during filming of the performance scene featuring the title track. Supposedly this scene is the only one in Elvis' career to depict him performing an entire song, in one uncut take, and as shot by the lens of a single. And he's really good in it: