George Sidney’s “Viva Las Vegas” is a nit little bit of sixties funk that really takes the decade head on with jazzy music numbers, and dance solos. Surely, it’s Elvis’ vehicle, but the movie really belongs to Ann-Margret. Playing off of Elvis, Ann-Margret is a red bomb shell who completely dominates the film with her keen sexuality, and ability to out dazzle Elvis, on many occasions. Director Sidney seems to also enjoy Margret’s stunning appearance, as her first real introduction to the film zeroes in on her behind as she leaves character Lucky’s car shop, and then pulls back on her lower region as she approaches her own hot rod.
Surely, Margret knows how to keep the eyes on her, even when Elvis is butchering Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.” Elvis plays Lucky, an aspiring race car driver who is saving the money to buy a motor for his beloved car. After turning down an offer from wealthy racer Count Elmo Mancini to play second fiddle during the upcoming Grand Prix, the pair comes across the gorgeous Rusty Martin, who introduces a rivalry between the pair of racers. Despite scouring Vegas for the enigmatic Rusty unsuccessfully, Lucky persists, and begins romancing the very difficult Rusty, whose independence keeps him on his toes.
Lucky and Count Elmo begin to compete for Rusty’s affections while preparing for the Grand Prix, all the while Rusty begins to realize she’s in love with Lucky. Within the scope of Elvis’ filmography, “Viva Las Vegas” is a love letter to the city, with beautiful shots of the city’s massive land marks, while characters Lucky and Rusty court one another through montage after montage. Sidney directs with a sheer elegant lens. He paints Las Vegas as a paradise for literally anyone, and also knows how to give Ann-Margret and Elvis their own color palettes. The big talent show in the finale shows off both performers ability to take command of the screen, and Margret gives a lot of spunk to love interest Rusty.
She’s not just there to act as a lovey dovey swooner for character Lucky, but she also acts as a sexual rival. There’s even a very adorable musical duet (and the film’s best musical number) “The Lady Loves Me” where Lucky tries to win over Rusty, who has a serious distaste for his relentless charms. There are some fun supporting performances from Cesare Danova as Count Elmo, Nicky Blair as Lucky’s partner Shorty, and William Demarest as Rusty’s father who is put in between Lucky and Rusty’s tug of war. “Viva Las Vegas” really keeps the talents of Elvis and Margret on display, and it’s really their film, rather than Elvis’, in the end. Did I mention how utterly mesmerizing Ann-Margret is?
Featured on the new Digibook from Warner is an audio commentary by Steve Pond, author of the book “Elvis in Hollywood,” who explores the film’s quirks with behind the scenes anecdotes and accounts. “Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas” is a twenty minute featurette garnering a series of interview with Elvis experts and past friends, including Steve Pond. It explores the big relationship that developed between Elvis and Vegas, and how they formed an immortal parallel. Finally, there’s the theatrical trailer for the movie, with Ann-Margret given equal footing. The Digibook is a fine collectible for Elvis buff, featuring a slew of publicity stills, behind the scenes photos, and facts about the movie and the locations filmed within the movie.