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  Harum Scarum Elvis Of Arabia
Year: 1965
Director: Gene Nelson
Stars: Elvis Presley, Mary Ann Mobley, Fran Jeffries, Michael Ansara, Jay Novello, Phillip Reed, Theodore Marcuse, Billy Barty, Dirk Harvey, Jack Constanzo, Larry Chance, Barbara Werle, Brenda Benet, Gail Gilmore, Wilda Taylor, Vicki Malkin, Rick Rydon
Genre: Musical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Johnny Tyrone (Elvis Presley) is an American movie star who is acting as a goodwill ambassador to the Middle East, by way of presenting his latest film, a romantic desert epic which shows off his singing talents. Once the premiere is over, he steps up to the microphone and sings another song, then is introduced to the local royalty, including Aishah (Fran Jeffries), a lady who catches his eye, so much so that he accepts her invitation to spend the evening with her. However, she has not told him the whole story, and Johnny soon ends up drugged and kidnapped...

Any movie which starts off with the King of Rock 'n' Roll karate chopping a leopard to the ground surely couldn't have been all bad, except Harum Scarum, which does begin in such ridiculous fashion (it's the climax of Johnny's film), was little loved in the canon of Elvis movies, and considering what most of them were like that's saying something. Set in a Hollywood impression of Arabia, and a desperately cheap one at that, this was for the most part resolutely setbound with the scenery provided by a previous production to save cash, an indication of the half-arsed nature of the work from beginning to end.

Apparently the reason for this was getting made was to shift copies of the soundtrack album, which was generally more profitable than the film it came from anyway, and with that in mind Presley broke out into song every couple of minutes, or so it seemed. Not that this helped, for every one of them was unmemorable aside from the number he performed in the prison, a ballad, and even that was no Jailhouse Rock, leaving the feeling of a towering talent being frittered away on trifles. By this stage the star was phoning in his performances, putting the barest effort into them and acting as if he really didn't care about the results, a sad state of affairs when he was capable of so much more.

Nevertheless, as with almost every Elvis movie there was a moment or two standing out, if only for the wrong reasons, therefore here you had the sight of Johnny coming around from his enforced slumber and immediately crooning to the slave girl who meets is gaze, which was amusingly silly. Incidentally, Harum Scarum was a good movie if you liked brunettes, for in lieu of actual Middle Eastern women the producers had assembled a bunch of dark haired lovelies to fill out the ranks to the female cast, not one of them of the origin their characters were meant to be yet typically for this shoddy effort presented as just that. You could excuse that in something like Road to Morocco, but here there was very little to entertain.

Johnny gets mixed up in an assassination plot where he has to kill the King (Phillip Reed) for oil wealth-based reasons or else he will see the friends he has made in the isolated country executed. Apparently someone was impressed with that karate. Incidentally, those friends included a silent Billy Barty and a little girl (Vicki Malkin) who offers one of the most uncomfortable numbers of Elvis's screen career where he croons an inappropriate-sounding tune to her as she gyrated before him. Best stick to the grown-ups really, as they included Mary Ann Mobley, the former Miss America who had been in a previous flick for the King and is the nice girl princess who doesn't know what to think, and as the bad girl Fran Jeffries, a nightclub performer now best recalled for appearing in Playboy twice, both times when she was in her forties, striking a blow for the attractive older lady. But aside from the odd diversion, Harum Scarum was a dreadful bore, all the worse for wanting to be serious when comedy was the best approach.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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