Written by General Jabbo
Elvis Presley made some forgettable movies, but he also made a few that have become classics. Viva Las Vegas is among the latter and is often cited as one of Presley’s best films. Presley stars as Lucky Jackson, a racecar driver headed to Las Vegas to participate in the city’s first annual Grand Prix.
Jackson needs a new engine for his car if he wants to race though and sets about raising the money while in Las Vegas. He does get the money, but manages to lose it all when it falls prey to the hotel’s swimming pool. It is here that he meets Rusty Martin (Ann Margret), the hotel’s swim instructor who immediately strikes his fancy. Martin plays hard to get and duets with Jackson on “The Lady Loves Me,” pushing Jackson into the pool. He eventually wins her over and the pair becomes inseparable, going skeet shooting, riding mopeds and taking a helicopter trip to see the Hoover Dam with Martin serving as tour guide. Martin takes Jackson to meet her father who, unbeknownst to Rusty, secretly likes racing. The chemistry between Margret and Presley is obvious, sparking rumors of an off-screen affair and for one of the few times in his movie career, Presley had a female lead who could give him a run for his money.
While at the hotel, Jackson meets Italian racecar driver, Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), who wants Jackson to drive for him. Jackson refuses Mancini’s offer though, vowing to get an engine and beat the driver in the race. Mancini tells Martin of a famous driver who crashed during one of his races and this makes Martin scared for Jackson’s safety. Jackson doesn’t want to give up racing though, upsetting her, while Mancini vows he’d give up racing for the right woman (e.g. Martin). Martin has dinner with Mancini to make Jackson jealous, only to have Jackson show up as their bumbling waiter, spilling champagne on Mancini. Later, in one of the film’s highlights, Martin sings “My Rival,” with the rival being Jackson’s racecar.
Jackson goes to work for Mancini to raise money when Martin’s father shows up, along with a new engine. Jackson rushes to get the car ready so he can win the race and Martin’s heart.
The DVD includes a commentary by Elvis in Hollywood director Steve Pond, a retrospective featurette and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound as well as the original mono. This DVD is also part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection.
The theme song to Viva Las Vegas has become not only one of Presley’s best-loved songs, but also an unofficial theme song for the city itself. There are a number of other musical highlights, including “What’d I Say,” “Come On Everybody,” and Margret’s “Appreciation.” For fans of Presley, Margret, and Sin City, Viva Las Vegas comes up a winner.