Friday, November 6, 2009

Revisiting past glories

It's not everyday I catch an Elvis movie from the mid 60's. But yesterday I was in the mood, and slotted my copy of Roustabout into the DVD player. Turned out it was a good choice.

The movie cast Elvis as a moody and arrogant leather-clad biker and singer (what else!) who reluctantly accepts an offer to work at a carnival. Elvis role figure Charlie spends a lot of his time on screen in conflict with both the carnival boss (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and the foreman, who hates Charlie's guts because he takes an interest in his daughter Cathy.

When things get too complicated Elvis joins another, bigger carnival as an entertainer. But all ends well as he returns, telling Cathy that he loves her and at the same time promising to help save the carnival that is now at the brink of bankruptcy.

Except maybe for the ending, I think Roustabout is a pretty good movie, certainly the last one showing him in a serious role before the established formula and stagnation took completely over. Elvis does a good job, and at times I'm reminded of his pre-army days and the anger he displayed in films such as King Creole.

Unfortunately, some of the songs and the scenes they are sung in, tend to lessen the dramatic feel of the movie considerably. One such example is Elvis singing "Wheels On My Heels" while driving his bike after being bailed out of jail. It completely ruins the atmosphere.

The use of an indoor studio for scenes that are supposed to be outdoor are annoying, too. Especially since a lot of exterior shots are used as well. How did director John Rich reason, I wonder, when he first let Elvis walk among some real tents outdoor, and in the next scene had him walking past the same tents, but indoor?

That said, I enjoyed watching Roustabout, and although it's certainly not anywhere near King Creole, it was refreshing seeing Elvis revisiting past glories on the white screen.


Unknown said...

Of Elvis' 1960's movies this one is very well lit and directed.
Many scenes was shot on location (not many of his films after this one was).
The scene where he sings to his girl on the ferris wheel was originally shot in one, uninterrupted, take and was quite inventive for it's time (Rich did not use back projection which was the norm). Unfortunately, producer Hal Wallis instated a clip of the wheel operator against the director's wishes, spoiling it being in one uninterrupted take.

Another plus with this film is his co-stars Barbara Stanwyck and Leif Erickson. They were old pros.
Too bad he couldn't have another girl in the role of the love interest. Ann-Margret would've been great!

Mr. Even B, Norway

MĂ„rtenbrother said...

I also enjoy this, one of his best. If only it had contain more songs of Little Egypt calibre ... Which by the way should have been a single!

Thomas said...

Even: Thank you for sharing that interesting story about the ferris wheel scene. I had to watch it after reading your comment, and admit I've never thought much about it until now.

MĂ„rten: I agree with you, "Little Egypt" should have been released as a single. Actually no single release was taken from the soundtrack alblum, now why was that?