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DVD Review: Speedway (1968)

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Written by General Jabbo

In an attempt to possibly recreate the success of Viva Las Vegas, Elvis Presley stars as a racecar driver with a dynamic leading lady in Speedway. Presley is Steve Grayson, a playboy racecar driver who finds he is $145,000 in debt with the IRS due to mistakes and shady claims on his return made by his manager Kenny Donford (Bill Bixby).

Susan Jacks (Nancy Sinatra, in what would be her final movie role) shows up at Grayson’s trailer and he mistakes her for a fan. In actuality, she is working for the IRS who is about to audit him. Grayson learns that Donford has a gambling problem that has led the government to repossess not only gifts Grayson had bought for his friends, but Grayson’s personal belongings as well. As a result, the pair is put on an allowance — a paltry $100 per week for Grayson and $50 per week for Donford — until they are able to repay their debts.

Grayson goes about wooing Jacks and he manages to get her to convince her boss at the IRS, R.W. Hepworth (Gale Gordon) to let him keep some of his earnings to pay off the innocent people who have had their lives ruined by Donford’s gambling. Whether or not this could actually happen in real life is a matter of opinion, but hey, it’s an Elvis film, so it’s OK.

While not as good as Viva Las Vegas, Speedway does have its good points as well. NASCAR fans will enjoy the cameos by real-life drivers Richard Petty, Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough while Bill Bixby is great in his comic role of the likable, yet sleazy manager. There are a few good moments on the soundtrack too; most notably Presley’s “Let Yourself Go” and Sinatra’s “Your Groovy Self.” Sinatra’s track has the distinction of being the only song without Elvis on one of his soundtrack albums. Part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, Speedway would be the last of the typical Elvis movies, with subsequent releases featuring more serious plots and less songs. Speedway is worth a look for fans of racing, Elvis Presley, and Nancy Sinatra.

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