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DVD Review: Harum Scarum

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Written by General Jabbo

While many Elvis Presley supporters claim he could have been a fine actor, given the right material, his detractors point to films such as Harum Scarum as their proof otherwise. Presley had hoped for a Rudolph Valentino-style role, but instead got something much different (and much worse). Presley stars as Johnny Tyronne, an American action movie star (and singer, of course) who is in the Middle East to promote his new film Sands of the Desert.

After singing “Harem Holiday” and “Go East Young Man” for a group of dignitaries, Prince Dragna (Michael Ansara) and his lady Aishah (Fran Jeffries) invite Tyronne to be a guest of Dragna’s brother, King Toranshah (Phillip Reed). After seeing Tyronne karate chop a cheetah in one of his films (It’s an Elvis movie, why wouldn’t he be able to do that?), they are convinced he is the right man to kill the king. They drug Tyronne and take him to see Sinan, lord of the assassins, who asks Tyronne if he carries death in his hands. Tyronne tells him his skills are used for self-defense and Sinan sends his goons after Tyronne.

While in captivity, Tyronne meets Princess Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley) who is posing as a slave girl, when in reality, she is Toranshah’s daughter and therefore royalty. Shalimar gets wind that Sinan has returned and, sensing her father is in danger, helps Tyronne thwart the plot to assassinate him.

Presley looks bored out his mind throughout the proceedings and likely was. He was frustrated at the lack of good roles and music for his films and was going through the motions. The film is filled with ridiculous clichés such as a child with three mothers named Sapphire, Emerald, and Amethyst, and forgettable songs. Reportedly, even the Colonel was embarrassed and wanted to add a talking camel as narrator as a way of acknowledging the film’s cheesiness. For completists only, Harum Scarum is also part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection.

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