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  Stay Away, Joe That's A Lot Of Bull
Year: 1968
Director: Peter Tewksbury
Stars: Elvis Presley, Burgess Meredith, Joan Blondell, Katy Jurado, Thomas Gomez, Henry Jones, L.Q. Jones, Quentin Dean, Anne Seymour, Douglas Henderson, Angus Duncan, Mike Lane, Susan Trustman, Warren Vanders, Buck Kartalian, Maurishka, Caitlin Wiles
Genre: Musical, Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe Lightcloud (Elvis Presley) returns to his homestead today with big news: he has secured a herd of cattle for his family thanks to a government scheme, and if they make a go of it, they could be in the money. First up he meets his old pal Bronc (L.Q. Jones) on the way back to his parents' house, and they are tremendously excited to see one another, with Joe helping to round up his cows with his car until he crashes into a pond. No matter, as he can still get transport back to his destination where mother Annie (Katy Jurado) is giving his good for nothing father Charlie (Burgess Meredith) a hard time as usual...

In the Golden Turkey Awards, Elvis Presley was nominated for, but did not win, the gong for Most Ludicrous Racial Impersonation in Screen History for Stay Away, Joe, though a look at the film itself suggested another candidate in his screen parent Burgess Meredith. For one thing, Elvis may be slathered in brown makeup to make him appear more ethnic, though his blue eyes still twinkle, but Burgess' makeup job was absolutely dreadful, given a pair of starched eyelids to render the unmistakably Caucasian star looking more Oriental, not to mention the deep mahogany of his applied skin tones, you rarely saw a recognisable actor look so ridiculous.

Still, if you could put that to the back of your mind there was plenty to occupy you otherwise in a film which took a good half hour to settle into any kind of plot, and even then was as flimsy as Presley's accustomed fare could be. During that half hour we can surmise that being an American Indian is akin to be utterly on the edge of hysteria almost constantly, because Joe seems to throw himself at everyone and his brethren throw themselves right back. Seriously, that opening act is one long brawl, some of it jokey male bonding brawling and other parts actual aggression because they think the other fella needs a good kicking. Somewhere in the middle of this, Elvis rides a bull.

Or Elvis' stunt double rides a bull, anyway, the same bull that at the party that evening to celebrate Joe's return to the fold he barbecues by mistake. Quite how you go about slaughtering and cooking a bull by mistake is a mystery unsolved by the storyline, which only cares about whether Joe can get a new bull, and whether he can pair off with some nubile young lady, although oddly for a Presley movie he doesn't actually fall in love with any of them. The closest he gets is with the daughter of diner owner Glenda (Joan Blondell), one Mamie (Quentin Dean who despite the name was a girl); Glenda doesn't want her pride and joy corrupted, but Mamie has other ideas including marriage if she gets her way.

Joe isn't interested in being tied down like that, he'd rather play the field, and besides he has his bull to find which he does in the shape of Dominic, a large but sleepy beast which embarrassingly Elvis sings a song about, and how the animal has to live up to his reputation as a prize-winning stud. Joe has his reputation too, except the only prizes he wins are at the rodeo, a point not laboured but kind of daft when we can see he'd rather be munching on a steak than grabbing onto it for dear life. The whole movie was on that level as a subplot emerges with Joe's sister Mary (Susan Trustman) wanting to impress her new (white) boyfriend's family only to be continually let down by her family's uncouth ways. Quite what this was saying about Native Americans was unclear other than they were unwilling to leave barbarism alone, a message somewhat dodgy in itself but eased by the cartoonish fashion it develops, with the climax seeing yet another brawl where everyone laughs afterwards as if in Scooby-Doo. Music by Jack Marshall.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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