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Re: Movies Revisited: Speedway

Tue Mar 13, 2007 6:23 pm

shanebrown wrote:it aired on TCM a couple of days ago and was surprised by what I found.

What? You found some change down the back of the sofa while checking in your boredom?


shanebrown wrote:It is a light-hearted 60s romp and delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

This is true of the vast majority of Elvis' latter 60's movies. For the most part, they don't exceed their aesthetic; they fit snugly within it. They are well-crafted, albeit rather unexceptional, motion pictures.

Perhaps it is a sad reflection of where we are today, but in my trek through Elvis films thus far, I have noticed they have a considerably higher level of wit and timing than most mainstream films of today. The screenplays and acting isn't actually all that bad; in fact, it's rather good! There's an affable feel to most Presley films, and that -- along with Elvis himself -- is key to their success.

shanebrown wrote:Nancy Sinatra delivers one of the best songs in the film. I don’t particularly like her singing but the song suits her and the material is good.

Not meaning to take this thread away from its topic, but is there some underground Nancy Sinatra hatred I'm unaware of? I'm sure I've seen other comments slagging her off (either here or elsewhere). Her rendering of "Bang, Bang", which Quentin Tarantino used to open his "Kill Bill" features, is simply exquisite; I even like her better than Elvis during that. But I haven't really checked out her other work. However, based on that, not to mention her famous "These Boots" recording, and the fact that she's Frank's daughter, I'm guessing she's actually pretty damn good.

shanebrown wrote:This leads me on to He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad which, for me as someone studying film, is one of the films more interesting points. Bizarrely, the worst song on the album is raised to the status of being the most interesting within the film. It is one of the few examples of Elvis being allowed a big “production number” and this one clearly is aping the MGM movies of the 1930s, 40s and 50s but with a twist. Instead of a row of chorus girls doing the high kicks – it is a group of middle aged men. The effect is ludicrous, but fun, and the whole routine works – if only because it is so unexpected. What is even weirder is that, just as the production line of these formulaic movies was running down, someone thought up a way to make the routine that little bit different from those in earlier films. It also makes one wonder just what would have been made of Elvis’ songs in films if he had been making movies at the height of the musical era and had been allowed more songs to be well-staged.

It's a shame that higher calibre productions didn't get made with Elvis in them. "Mean Woman Blues" in "Loving You", "Jailhouse Rock", the snazzy opening to "Viva Las Vegas" and the weird 60's esoterica of "Edge Of Reality", and maybe a few others, including the one you've highlighted, are the only ones to bring a sense of style and panache to his on-screen singing. Or maybe there are others. I haven't really gone through all of his films yet. In fact, that might make a cool thread...

A big problem with "Speedway", as I see things, is that we'd already had a racing sequence in "Viva Las Vegas", not to mention the overt focus of "Spinout" (even the "sp" sound and contraction of two monosyllabic words into a compound word is repeated -- it's like Colonel P was just taking the piss). The well had already run dry. A lot like "Paradise Hawaiian Style" being a cheap bastardisation of "Blue Hawaii"... But I guess cars are a major piece of Americana, like Elvis himself. And, for sure, Elvis loved cars, so I guess all the pieces fit when these things were being made.

Wed Mar 14, 2007 12:00 am

shanebrown wrote:No hatred on my part of poor old Nancy! She just doesn't do much for me, sadly. Having said that her version of Bang Bang certainly IS much better than Cher's (I guess, Cryogenic, you meant Cher, not Elvis - unless you're sitting on an unknown master take!).

No. I meant Elvis. Nancy's singing in that song draws me in at a profound emotional level (i.e. in a way that eclipses my involvement in most Elvis songs).

shanebrown wrote:As for the racing car thing - perhaps this occupation was used in so many films to try to attract a male audience?

Good point.

I think it was a way of lazily adding excitement, or the appearance of excitement, to routine pictures. Of course, "Viva Las Vegas" didn't explicitly have to have anything like that, and could have been written a little differently, but with "Spinout" and "Speedway", it's coded into the very titles. Just another way that Elvis became a money-making attraction under the "tutelage" of his loving Colonel...

Wed Mar 14, 2007 5:11 pm

I've always enjoyed Speedway, even though it really isn't any better or any worse than other Elvis films from that period... I agree about the stronger cast, Bixby and Sinatra are certainly a cut above the usual. But the big difference in Speedway is Elvis himself, IMO. He looks better and happier than in a long time. Compare it to Spinout or Clambake, where he looks overweight, bored and at times downright miserable. Spinout is maybe a better film than Speedway, but you can tell Elvis really, really didn't want to be in the film. In Speedway, he looks and acts like the happy-go-lucky character that he is supposed to be.

By the way, wasn't Taurog nearly blind by the time he directed Speedway? I think I read somewhere he lost his eyesight completely in 1969 or thereabouts. Interesting thought... a blind film director!

Thu Mar 15, 2007 1:26 pm

Hav-A-Tampa wrote:is maybe a better film than Speedway, but you can tell Elvis really, really didn't want to be in the film. In Speedway, he looks and acts like the happy-go-lucky character that he is supposed to be.

Enjoyed SPEEDWAY in the past, but my last viewing of it was directly after SPINOUT and it really suffered in comparison. SPINOUT is a better film in every way, even if it doesn't have such a strong female co-star.

I don't find PARADISE HAWAIIAN STYLE "almost unwatchable." Sure, it's not very good, a few strange decisions were made ("Okay, we've got the greatest singer of his generation starring in the film so...let's have some little girl sing a bunch of songs!"), and it just seems to stop rather than end, but...well, let's say it's, er, watchable, just about! :)

Thu Mar 15, 2007 4:48 pm

I find all the Elvis films watchable, yes even Harum Scarum! :lol:
But those films really needed Elvis to carry them, and he started looking so bored (and who could blame him?) around 65-66. There really is a difference in him in Speedway, and even more so in Stay Away Joe, where I think we see a little more of the "real" Elvis again.