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DVD Review: Stay Away, Joe

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Written by General Jabbo

Elvis Presley plays Native American bull rider Joe Lightcloud, who convinces his congressman to give his father 20 heifers and a quality bull to raise on their reservation in Stay Away, Joe. If Lightcloud’s family is successful, then the government will help their tribe financially. Joe asks where his sister Mary (Susan Trustman) is and his grandfather (Thomas Gomez) replies “she’s city folk now.” The Grandpa character is very stereotypical, even for 1968, as he warns of squaws and relies on smoke signals. While he has some comical moments, he is mostly over the top.

During a wild party celebrating Lightcloud’s return, his family, in their drunken haze, mistakenly cooks and eats the prize bull given to them by the government. Lightcloud is unworried at this point, having his friend Bronc Hoverty (L.Q. Jones) get a new bull for him, instructing him to make sure the bull is Blue Ribbon. The bull arrives the next day and spends most of his time sleeping, taking no interest in the heifers. At the same time, Joe’s father Charlie (Burgess Meredith) has been selling off the heifers to pay for improvements his wife wants made to their home. Meredith’s character is an odd sight for sure, with his dark makeup and strange behavior.

The government gets word of what has happened to the heard and is not pleased. Lightcloud finds out that the bull was indeed Blue Ribbon, but as a riding bull — not as a stud. The bull’s previous owner boasted that no one had ever successfully rode him and Lightcloud has an idea to stage a rodeo to raise money to replace the cattle and save the reservation. Lightcloud had previously been raising money by selling parts of his car to a junkyard until nothing was left. It is this strange sense of comedy that occurs throughout the movie.

Part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, Stay Away, Joe is a mostly forgettable film portraying Native Americans as sex-crazed drunks with odd performances from Meredith and Gomez. For his part, Presley seems to be enjoying himself, it’s just a shame the material isn’t stronger. The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name and while it follows the plot closely, something seemingly got lost in translation.

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