Viva Las Vegas

 

Viva Las Vegas

Written by Sally Benson

Directed by George Sidney

1964


Cast:

Elvis Presley

Ann-Margret

Cesare Danova

William Demarest


Studio:

Theatrical:  Jack Cummings & MGM

Video: Warner Home Entertainment


Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: VC-1

Disc Size: 17.94 GB

Feature Size: 16.75 GB

Bit Rate: 20.41 Mbps

Runtime: 85 minutes

Chapter: 25

Region: All


Audio:

English Dolby True HD 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 1.0

French Dolby Digital 1.0

Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0


Subtitles:

English, French and Spanish


Extras

• Commentary by Steve Pond (author of Elvis in Hollywood)

• Featurette: Kingdom: Elvis In Vegas

• Remastered soundtrack in Dolby True HD & Dolby Digital 5.1

• Theatrical Trailer


Amaray Blu-ray case

BRD x 1

Release Date: September 18, 2007

Comment

I learned from the commentary on this DVD that this was Elvis' seventeenth of 31 movies over a 13 year period that included 2 years off for a tour in the Army.  31 - that’s an average of three a year!  I had no idea.  Colonel Parker sure knew a good thing and how to exploit it.  Mr. Pond states that Viva Las Vegas marked the end of what were generally good films (for the genre) and the beginning of an overall decline in quality of effort and results for Elvis movies.  Perhaps so, but Viva Las Vegas had a lot going for it right off the top besides its star.  The director, George Sidney, was a man with serious musical credentials (Anchors Aweigh, The Harvey Girls, Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate, Pal Joey and, not accidentally, Bye Bye Birdie.)  Viva Las Vegas makes ample use of real Vegas locations at a time when The Strip was only about a mile long with headliners playing in low-lying hotels in a fairly unphotogenic part of the city, which the opening montage demonstrates to our horror.  Back then, it was the downtown that glittered with lights and color. The movie ends in a blazingly fast sports car race with lots of cool cars – and perhaps a couple too many crashes for a breezy musical - from Hoover Dam to town.  And, of course, there's lots of Elvis, singing, dancing, crooning and wooing.


     


But most of all, Viva Las Vegas has Ann-Margret.  I think it's no exaggeration to say she's the star of the movie.  Mr. Pond notes that Colonel Parker was particularly concerned with this, and her glory may have contributed to the fact that Elvis's movies from then on had no competing females.  Ann-Margret seems to get most of the screen time with more costume changes than a rattlesnake in a time warp.  Besides her jaw-dropping good looks and sex appeal, what boggles the mind about Ann-Margret is her boundless energy – evident not only in her spirited dancing but in her limitless facial expressions, not one of which isn't gorgeous or portentous of  . . . well, you know.   While only 22, Ann-Margret was already a star, having just completed her breakout movie Bye Bye Birdie, not coincidentally about a teenager's crush on a rock star (and, possibly for that reason, the release of Viva Las Vegas was delayed about year.)  In this movie, the crush is clearly the other way around.  Elvis is beside himself with the ga-ga's.  He has some competition both on the race track and off, including her character's bizarre change of rules for romance just to keep the plot going - but there's no question how this is all going to come out.


     


Elvis is fine enough.  His droopy style tends to make him appear that he is sleep-walking, but I think he's simply not much of an actor.  The songs are a mixed bag, though some, including the title song and both of the ballades, are very good.  The dance numbers, likewise.  The costumes are a hoot.  It's not just the fashions of the day.  Check the two stars' costumes in the Talent Contest. Ann-Margret has on this huge white fur coat whose sole purpose seems to be to lead the audience to the inevitable taking off thereof – to reveal . . . a bathing suit that has even less to do with the song and, alas, doesn't really fit all that well.  For his contest entry, he sings the title song in one continuous take (or so it seemed.)  Elvis wears a black jacket over a deep red shirt, which looks great until we realize he is also wearing dark grey slacks.  It really clashes.  Why not black, I wondered?  Perhaps it comes down to the difference between video and film.  That said, his number is quite cleverly staged in that girls from each of the floorshows he visited earlier in the movie appear again.


It may need restating the obvious, but this is not a movie whose plot we should be too critical of.  Though it's all fairly mindless, Viva Las Vegas is really is no more full of plotholes and inconsistencies than others of its ilk, even if his competition in the Garnd Prix and for Ann-Margret should have been wasted in one of those nasty crashes, but shows up at the wedding with nary a scratch.


     


The Score Card


The Movie : 6

Elvis is a sports car driver/mechanic with an eye to winning the Las Vegas Grand Prix.  He wins enough money at the casino to buy himself the engine that should do the trick, but loses it all in a swimming pool while showing off for Ann-Margret.  Elvis and fellow mechanic/sports car driver meet her a bit earlier, but fail to get her name, and so spend a night on the town checking out the floorshows, thinking she could be a dancer.  These are some of the better artsy bits in the movie, and I would have liked to have known if hotels other than the Tropicana Folies Bergere were involved in the staging.  The commentary didn't say. Elvis and Ann-Margret soon find each other, fall in love, and have a serious disagreement about his racing – all in one day.


     


Image: 9/9

For good reason, all the reviewers gush about the image quality, which really does look like the movie might have been made yesterday.  Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music – all made within a couple of years of Viva Las Vegas don't look or sound nearly as good.  And it's not just the high definition transfer – which is dynamite, to be sure.  Warner's 2000 SD DVD may not have been anamorphic, but it was clear that the source was in very good shape. Go figure.  The Blu-ray image shows off the range of MGM's version of Technicolor: flesh tones are natural, contrast is well controlled even when dealing with Vegas night club acts.  Digital transfer issues are minimal.


     


Audio & Music : 8/7

Contrary to my usual purist default attitudes about such things, it's the 5.1 mix – either of them – that scores here, and is the only way to listen to the music.  There is a breadth and lushness to the sound that leaves the mono in a two-dimensional dust without abusing the vocal part of the mix.  The title tune, a rollicking version of What'd I say?, and a couple of the ballades are worthy, but the rest are fillers.


Operations : 7

I continue to appreciate Warner Home Video's avoidance of pre-feature ads so that we can get directly we get right to the business at hand.  The menu is straightforward, simple, easy to understand. Lots of chapter stops though, as is typical with Warner Blu-rays, the slightly expanding thumbnails are not titled.


     


Extras : 6

What is conspicuously absent is a commentary or interview with Ann-Margret.  Steve Pond's commentary is good, as far as it goes (and he does openly explore some of the sometimes difficult  relationship between Elvis and Colonel Parker), but Ann-Margret's memories of the production and her relationship with Elvis would have made this BD edition that much more indispensable.  The vintage featurette, Kingdom: Elvis In Vegas, is as brief as it is fuzzy.  Best watched on an iPod.


     


Recommendation: 8

Elvis, Ann-Margret, Vegas, a hot sports car race through the foothills, a great image and terrific sound!  What more can you ask?  Oh: a gripping and involving plot?  That may asking for too much.  But that's not why we come to an Elvis picture is it?  Along with Warner's new Blu-ray edition of Jailhouse Rock, this one is a must for Elvis and Ann-Margret fans.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

October 6, 2007



     







          
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