The Film: Speedway (1968)
The Principals: Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra, Bill Bixby, Gale Gordon, William Schallert
The Premise: Elvis portrays race car driver Steve Grayson who enjoys the fast lane on and off the track. Life is looking grand for our hero until he discovers that the IRS is on his case for owing over $100,000 in back taxes. Seems the tax return submitted by Steve’s manager Kenny (Bill Bixby) is not acceptable, so in comes Susan Jacks (Nancy Sinatra) to lay the hammer down on Steve.
Is it Good?: I learned a long time ago never to go into an Elvis movie expecting anything more than well, nothing. True to form Speedway does not disappoint because there is nothing here. Does anyone care whether Steve is able to pay off the IRS? Does Steve get the girl? Does anything bad happen to Steve? It is safe to say that you already know the answer for all these questions and that is what an Elvis movie is all about. You are there just to see Elvis and enjoy the musical numbers.
Elvis’ first movie, Love Me Tender, was well received by critics and fans and is actually a pretty decent movie with Elvis showing potential as a dramatic actor. However, the studios were not interested in Elvis’ acting credentials and instead wanted to churn out a ton of cheap movies that made money. Instead of audiences getting more movies like Love Me Tender they were given Speedway. Early on in Elvis’ acting career one could see that he was trying to offer audiences a good performance and then it seems he just did not give a shit anymore and sadly it shows in this film. Elvis phoned in his performance in Speedway and what we are left with is a silly story with sub-par performances.
Another downside to Speedway is the forgettable soundtrack. With most Elvis movies, even though the story lines are unmemorable, there is usually a track or two to help off set all the negative. Unfortunately, this movie offers some of the worst songs of Elvis’ career.
PS: Picked an Elvis movie today because his birthday is coming up.
Note: I reviewed this movie for CHUD a couple of years ago and decided to give it another visit last night.
Random Anecdotes: Elvis’ movies have found a new audience today who find them enjoyable in an Austin Powers sort of way. Fans have come to enjoy the campy atmosphere and the musical segments and of course, watching Elvis during this era of his life is definite eye candy material.
Cinematic Soulmates: It Happened at the World’s Fair, Kissin’ Cousins, Tickle Me