Viva Las Vegas (NTSC) (1964) (NTSC)

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Released 9-Jul-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 85:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By George Sidney
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Elvis Presley
Ann-Margret
Cesare Danova
William Demarest
Nicky Blair
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music George Stoll


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, The Count.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Over the years I have heard a lot of Elvis Presley songs. For most of that time Viva Las Vegas was not one of my favourites. A few years ago ZZ Top changed my opinion of the song. It is featured on their Greatest Hits DVD, along with the ghost of Elvis giving them the 'thumbs up'. After watching that DVD a few times I found myself humming the tune a lot, so I went back to my Elvis CDs and gave it another go, after which I have started to like it a lot more.

    All this of course is by way of introduction to the DVD of the Elvis Presley movie, Viva Las Vegas. The song features very heavily in the film; it plays over the opening credits, Elvis sings it again at 60:16, and reprises it at the end of the film (plus it is part of the background music on occasion). So, if you don't happen to like the song, you can wipe out about 10% of the movie. The film itself was a huge success at the box office - in 1964 it helped MGM recover financially from a disastrous year in 1963.

    If you have been following any of my other Elvis reviews (this is the fifth one I have reviewed in the past few months) you may recall that they all follow a bit of a formula involving Elvis in an unlikely occupation, wooing girls, singing songs, being part of a romantic triangle, singing songs (and so on). Happily this one varies the formula just enough to keep the fans happy but at the same time makes the film better than many of his others.

    The first, and possibly most significant, factor in the success of this film is that the director, George Sidney, had just made a hit musical (Bye Bye Birdie) with Ann-Margret, who gives a very energetic performance in this film. The plot is also handled differently here. Most of the other Elvis movies are romantic comedies (or dramas) with a few songs. This one is a Musical through and through, and the film is more cohesive as a result. Elvis also gives a very nice performance here, and works well with Ann-Margret which also adds to the enjoyment.

    As far as the plot is concerned it is situation normal. Elvis plays 'Lucky' Jackson, race car driver (and part-time singer). He meets Rusty Martin (Margret) and sparks begin to fly. Rival racing driver Count Mancini (Cesare Danova) provides the third part of the triangle, though his heart doesn't seem to be in it. Rusty's father is played by William Demarest (you may remember him from the old TV show My Three Sons). As usual, the romance hits a few bumps (including Elvis being tossed into a swimming pool at 22:22). Elvis also hits a few bumps of his own in a quite enjoyable car race tacked on at the end of the film (in fact the trailer dubs it, with a little hyperbole, "the most exciting road race ever filmed").

    The songs in the film are very good, and along with the spectacular Nevada scenery help to overcome the pedestrian plot. The stars are in fine form, and the whole family enjoyed this one. Unfortunately, the picture and sound are not as good as they might have been, which detracts from the overall package. In spite of this, I would recommend the film strongly to Elvis fans, and fence-sitters might also want to check it out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is another in a growing line of lazy imports. The picture is NTSC and is also not 16x9 enhanced. While it looks reasonable on a small screen it does not scale well on a larger setup.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 2.35:1, which is the correct ratio. As mentioned it is not 16x9 enhanced (despite what it says on the box).

    The film is sharp on a small screen (< 100 cm), but loses some focus on the review equipment. This would not have been such a factor if we had been presented with a 16x9 PAL transfer. Shadow detail is acceptable, except in one scene at 66:40, although this may have been an artistic decision as a dramatic spotlight comes on shortly after this time. There is some low-level noise apparent in scenic shots which seem to have been stock footage inserted into the film.

    The colour in the film is quite vibrant, though it generally has a dated look. The flesh tones hold up well, except in some outdoor scenes where they look washed out. Take a look at the red jacket at 24:57 for an example of how good the colour can look at times. The opening credits are also very colourful, being constructed in bright shining neon-look letters.

    Some pixelization is evident at times, but it is not significant. Some minor aliasing is also present, but again it is infrequent, as are the occasional artefacts (see 24:30 and 25:30 for examples). Overall the film seems to be in pretty good physical shape apart from some obtrusive reel-change marks (see one at 17:34).

    The English subtitles are close to the meaning of what is going on in the scene, without being particularly close to the spoken word. The line "She could be a tourist for all we know" becomes "She could be a tourist" in the subtitles. The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are quite good, including a good selection of descriptive phrases. There are also French and Spanish subtitles available.

    There is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Unfortunately the audio transfer on this disc is even more ordinary than the video, which is doubly disappointing given the importance of music in the film. I wish that Warner Home Video had gone to the trouble of attempting a 5.1 transfer as Paramount have been doing with their Presley films.

    There are two audio tracks on the disc, English and French, both in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono. I listened to all of the English track and excerpts from the French. The latter was not too bad apart from the actor dubbing for Elvis.

    The dialogue is varied in quality, clear for the most part but a little murky at times. The audio sync is acceptable, though it too is a little off on occasion, mostly in outdoor scenes.

    The incidental music by George Stoll is even more anonymous than is the custom in these films. Of course, the main reason for the film is to listen to the songs, and they are pretty good, varying from What'd I Say (you'll recognise it when you hear it) to The Yellow Rose of Texas! (which Elvis handles quite nicely). As Ann-Margret was a bit of a musical star in her own right at this time, she also gets a song or two, including some nice moments with Elvis. Musically this is one of the better Elvis films.

    The mono sound does not do justice to the music in the film. The dialogue is thin but luckily the songs project a bit better across the front of the soundstage. I would still hesitate to label this surround presence. The subwoofer likewise fares poorly, adding only an occasional boom in some songs.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Unlike Paramount, Warners at least have an extra on their Elvis disc, though it is only a lonely trailer.

Menu

    The menu is static and allows you to choose audio and subtitle options, or the trailer. There are 32 scene selections available for your delectation.

The Trailer

    This one is typical of 1960s efforts and is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, again not 16x9 enhanced. It starts with the title track, but fades to a poor voice over. According to the trailer this film is the "grooviest", and in its 3:11 running length gives away the entire plot of the film, so be warned.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is basically the Region 1 release re-badged, so preference would come down to getting it as cheaply as possible.

Summary

    For me, Viva Las Vegas was one of the best films that Elvis Presley made. It is a shame that it is not supported by a video or audio transfer to match (or extras of any quality). Still, an essential purchase for fans, and even the rest of you might want to at least rent it and see what you think.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Monday, December 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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