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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Viva Las Vegas (Blu-ray)
Viva Las Vegas (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 18, 2007 // Region A
List Price: $28.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted September 26, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
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R E P L A Y
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The Movie:

Warner Brothers has reached back into their vaults and pulled out a film that I'm a little surprised to see on Blu-ray:  Viva Las Vegas.  It makes sense though.  Even today Presley is a bankable commodity and this 1964 vehicle is his best film.  Filled with catchy songs, beautiful scenery and the lovely Ann-Margret this movie may be short on plot but it's still a lot of fun to watch.  The Blu-ray disc is wonderful too, presenting the movie with brilliant colors and a lot of fine detail.  What's more, there's a great commentary and an interesting featurette included too making this a great package.

Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley) is a race car driver who has a car, but no engine.  Traveling to Vegas in order to register for the city's Grand Prix, he stops off in a casino and manages to win the money he needs for a new high-powered motor.  Though he was planning on heading back to LA and working on his car, he catches sight of swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret) and decides that he doesn't need to go back quite yet; he has a girl to woo.  Losing the money, he takes a job at the same hotel where Rusty works and starts to ply his charms.  He has competition however in the form of Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), a European racing star who has come to America to conquer its racing tracks, and Rusty while he's at it.  Can Elvis win the race and the girl?

There are a couple of reasons why this film is so much fun.  One is the fact that Ann-Margret and Presley had an incredible amount of screen chemistry.  There's a sexual tension between the two that is so apparent you can almost see it.  Whenever those two are on the screen, which is most of the time, it's hard to look away.

The songs are also energetic and exuberant.  The Elvis/Ann-Margret duet, The Lady Loves Me, is funny and well done and The King's version of Yellow Rose of Texas/The Eyes of Texas, while an unlikely Elvis song, is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Of course the best song in the movie is the title song, a rocking tune that still has a lot of appeal.  The scene in the movie where he performs it is a rarity too:  it's his only performance in a movie that was done all in one take with no cuts from a single camera.  Yes, he's lip-synching, but he's a bit out of breath by the end of the number and starting to sweat.  It's a very enjoyable scene made all the better since viewers can tell he really did the whole song at one time.

The main reason that this film raises above the other 30 or so movies that Presley made is the director George Sidney.  He was responsible for some quality musicals including Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly (remembered for the dance number that Kelly does with Jerry Mouse from Tom and Jerry), and, ironically, the film version of Bye Bye Birdie.  Sidney includes some interesting shots to make the movie stand out.  The scene where Lucky first meets Rusty is a great example.  Lucky and Elmo slide under the Count's car to look at the engine.   The camera follows them down and then focuses on a pair of great legs approaching.  The two men push themselves under towards the legs and the camera follows them in one smooth motion traveling beneath the auto.  It's a simple scene, but it adds a dash of humor to the film along with some suspense.  I promise that every man watching the movie for the first time wanted to see what was attached to those long, toned, legs.

The Blu-ray Disc:


Video:

This film is presented with its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and looks absolutely wonderful.  The last time I saw this movie was on cable years ago, and the difference couldn't be more pronounced.  The colors on this Blu-ray disc are vivid and dazzling.  The bright neon lights of the Vegas strip at night are vibrant and colorful while still being individually discernable.  It's a very colorful movie and the disc does a wonderful job of reproducing every shade.  The whites are solid without blooming and the blacks are deep and dark but not crushed.  Elvis is wearing a bright red shirt at the beginning of the film and there isn't a trace of bleeding, something that happens often with that color.  The desert scenery is also lovingly reproduced during the race at the end.  The level of detail is also excellent with even the smallest lines being well defined and tight.

On the digital side things also look good.  There's a very slight amount of digital noise in a couple of scenes, and some edge enhancement has been added here and there, but it was never distracting.  Posterization and aliasing are not a problem at all.  This is a very impressive looking BD.

Audio:

The disc comes with several English audio tracks:  Dolby True HD 5.1, DD 5.1, and the original mono.  In addition there are mono dubs in Spanish and French.  The multi-track elements are contemporary creations but they sound wonderful.  Warners did a great job with the sound especially when you consider that this was recorded over 40 years ago.  The film has a full range with both the lows and highs sounding natural and not artificially generated.  While there wasn't much use made of the soundstage during the dialog scenes, when the music started there the rears kicked in and did a good job of surrounding the viewer with sound.  Elvis' voice was strong and clear, and the True HD track did a great job of bringing the songs to life.  There wasn't any distortion or dropouts, and while the movie can't compete with a current release in terms of exciting sound design, this disc did a great job of making the film sound better than it ever had before.

Extras:

The movie also comes with a commentary track by Elvis in Hollywood author Steve Pond.  This is my favorite type of commentary track, one created by a film historian.  Pond does a great job relating behind the scenes anecdotes, placing the movie in the context of Elvis' career, and discussing some of the rumors that were spread during the production.  This is informative and entertaining and well worth listening to.  (Of course getting Ann-Margret to share her recollections of the film would have been wonderful, but you can't have everything.)

There's also a new featurette; Kingdom:  Elvis in Vegas.  It runs a tad under 21 minutes and looks at the King's relationship with Vegas, a place that he played early in his career without much success.  Of course he set records there after his '68 Comeback special, and that stage of his career is also examined.  Finally there is a theatrical trailer rounding out this nice package.

Final Thoughts:

I'll be the first to admit that a lot of Elvis movies are pretty mediocre but this isn't one of them.  While the plot is a little contrived and the film ends rather abruptly, director George Sidney crafted a fine film that's full of energy and good music.  The Blu-ray disc really makes this movie shine too.  The image is just beautiful and the sound is very good.  Added to that is a top-notch commentary by Elvis film historian Steve Pond and an informative featurette about Elvis and his relation with Vegas.  Altogether this is a great package that gets a strong recommendation.

Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.
 

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