Steve Grayson (Elvis Presley) is a racing car driver who is best buddies with his manager Kenny Donford (Bill Bixby), but when he knocks on the door of the trailer home they share he finds him passionately kissing a young woman. She is not kissing him back, it must be said, so Steve breaks it up and finds out that she is the beauty queen who will be presenting the trophy to the winner - speaking of which, it's about time he got onto the track and began to race. He has been very successful so far in his career, but Kenny has been gambling away his money and the IRS are interested...
1968 will be remembered for the Comeback Special in Elvis's life's work, but he was still making movies during this time as well, though not for much longer, and indeed he joked about the poor quality of those flicks during the Special. Speedway was certainly one of the smarmiest he ever made, and the fact that it opens with an attempted rape doesn't indicate the filmmakers knew quite what they were dealing with, that impression only bolstered by the plot that spends less time that you might expect on the speedway track and more on the ins and outs of tax evasion.
Recruited to put a stop to Kenny's crimes is Nancy Sinatra, or her IRS agent character at any rate though she might as well have been playing herself for all the conviction she brings to the role. This was to be her final film, after a handful of big screen efforts the previous of which had been the cult classic The Wild Angels where her often icy cool was deployed by director Roger Corman with his typical savvy. Here, she was taking the money and running, as it almost came across as if she were doing a favour to the Elvis camp rather than performing in the spirit of enthusiasm, although her solo Your Groovy Self was probably the best number in the movie.
We're meant to believe that Elvis and Nancy will fall in love no matter what divisions arise professionally, as she is actually undercover working out what is really going on with Steve's finances. When big stars begin to make productions dealing with their ill-feeling towards having to pay hefty taxes, you know that we're not in the realms of the ordinary working folk, and that they thought this was a good idea when most of the kids lining up to see Speedway would have little inkling of the basics of such money matters illustrated how out of touch this was. To make it more child-friendly, there was the inclusion of five tiny little girls for Elvis to look after, but hearing him sing to them was far from rock 'n' roll.
Although much of this was quite resistable, as with many of the King's movies of this period the trappings - the "groovy" accoutrements, as Nancy might have it - provided entertainment. Some scenes took place in a huge car-themed nightclub where go-go dancing was the order of the day, adding colour and life to what looked like a contractural obligation of cynical proportions. On the other hand, there was Kenny acting as if he cannot wait until the availability of Rohypnol will become a reality, and his lechery was a real turn off, as was his hyperactive and duplicitous personality. Add in a musical number staged in the tax offices and you begin to wonder if Presley and his people had lost it - no wonder that they felt the need to reconnect with an audience quickly growing jaded with his antics, so thank heavens he got his own way on the TV Special. Oh, and speed fans will be let down too: one race at the start and one at the end is your lot. Music by Jeff Alexander.