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Viva Las Vegas


We're watching the new HBO documentary, limited series about Elvis and its fascinating. I never knew how seriously he took his movie career and I must admit that I've NEVER seen an Elvis movie in my life.

Intrigued, and just back from Vegas, what better place to start than VIVA LAS VEGAS, a 1964 box office smash.

Who doesn't like Vegas? Who doesn't like young Ann Margret, hot off her performance in "Bye Bye Birdie".

Elvis oozes charm and screen presence as budding race car driver Lucky Jackson. (Lucky! Vegas! clever! hahahaha).

He falls for the casino swimming pool manager Rusty Martin (Margret), who's also being pursued by older Italian race driver, Count Elmo Mancini. Look, I don't know whose in charge of these names, but they're a royal flush.

As the smooth talking Count, Cesare Danova (Animal House) has a blast, as does William Demarest as Rusty's Dad, having a lot more fun here than he did for years as grouchy Uncle Charlie on "My Three Sons".

It's hilarious to see all the show rooms from the early 60's Casinos, most of which are long gone, as are those big old, clunky metal slot machines.

When Elvis, oops I mean Lucky, loses his money in the pool (some kid made a killing cleaning the pool later I bet) he's forced to be a waiter at the Casino to pay for his room. Will he get enough money to buy the engine for his race car? Will he serve the romantic dinner that the Count orders in his room as he tries to seduce Rusty? The surprises are not in the plot. For me, they were watching just how good Elvis was at physical comedy on screen.

How can you not like Elvis, belting out hit after hit and dancing like a mad man with Margret. The big finale talent show is a real blast from the past.

The Las Vegas Grand Prix sequence that ends the film is surprisingly well shot and exciting. I guess I always figured Elvis movies were made on a shoestring, but there's clearly a decent budget in play, along with plenty of talent in front of and behind the camera.

It's damn near impossible to watch this for 90 minutes and not have a giant smile on your face as the credits roll.

A jackpot of nostalgia, VIVA LAS VEGAS gets an enjoyable, pure 60's, rock & roll B.

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