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  Las Vegas Hillbillys Country MattersBuy this film here.
Year: 1966
Director: Arthur C. Pierce
Stars: Ferlin Husky, Mamie Van Doren, Jayne Mansfield, Don Bowman, Robert V. Barron, Bill Anderson, Christian Anderson, Larry Barton, Billie Bird, Wilma Burgess, Arlene Charles, Helen Clark, Roy Drusky, John Harmon, Chuck Harrod, Sonny James, Richard Kiel
Genre: Comedy, Music
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Woody Wetherby (Ferlin Husky) is driving along this Tennessee road in his jalopy, singing away when he notices a still up ahead run by his old friend Jake. He finishes singing then pulls up nearby and goes over to speak with him, where they discuss family and how the White Lightning business could be better - a lot better, as the still begins to emit strange noises, steam, smoke and eventually goes up in flames with a bang. Woody thinks the best thing is to get away from the moonshiners and heads home, but his dreams of becoming a country performer might be growing more promising...

Well, Mr Husky was already a country singer and well known for having two number one smash hits, the religious ditty Wings of a Dove among them, but the character he was playing was not, which for a lighthearted comedy did evoke a curious mood of melancholy as there's something slightly depressive in the manner Woody was written and played. Not enough to bring down the goofy tone, but enough to add a pall over the film which you could not quite put your finger on. Perhaps it was the overall impoverished nature of such a low budget enterprise that saw stars appearing while on their way down the ladder of fame.

Along with the stars who never quite made it, although country and western aficionados might have relished putting faces to the more obscure names on the bill. The songs are grouped into big batches throughout, as every so often there will be an excuse for a concert of sorts, whether the shindig that Woody wants to appear on (and does, apparently ignoring the audience's applause to convince himself that nobody there liked his crooning), or later on where our hero drops off and dreams about the calibre of guest star he's going to secure for his new Las Vegas nightclub and casino, the smallest in the world.

This is because Woody's uncle has just died and left him his establishment in Las Vegas - hence the title - but setting up in business will be easier said than done. Fortunately, he will have the assistance of two blonde bombshells of the fifties, going past their prime into the sixties: Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren. Fans of these two gals may be rubbing their hands together in anticipation of them meeting onscreen, but the story goes that they were great rivals and refused to appear together in the same frame, so the sole opportunity for history making is fumbled when Jayne and Mamie exchange a couple of words as one leaves and the other arrives, but were plainly shot at different times and with the use of a Mamie stunt double.

They do both get to sing, however, and Van Doren gets the better deal as Mansfield ends up having her number cut short - well, neither of them were really country tunes anyway. Meanwhile, Woody has trouble with a local gangster who has the towering Richard Kiel as his bodyguard, but doesn't convince as a genuine threat, as this is strictly good-natured fluff all the way. Films like Las Vegas Hillbillys were designed to appeal to a specific market in the Southern states so not many people outside of those territories got to see much of them as the demand for this kind of music wasn't supposed to travel. Most of the songs are perfectly passable, even if too many of the singers are lacking in screen charisma, but once you've heard a couple they may sound too similar to the non-connoisseur. There was a sequel to this, so somebody must have enjoyed it, Dixie-lovin' bikers, custard pie fight and all.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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