Roustabout [1964]

The Elvis formula was well in place by the time of 1964's Roustabout: a passel of undistinguished songs (anyone remember "Poison Ivy League"?), pretty girls, tight pants, a colorful setting, and a little bit of karate to prove that Elvis really had been studying his martial arts. With that understood, Roustabout is a better-than-average workout for the King--not as peppy as Viva Las Vegas, but a good deal livelier than the sleepwalking It Happened at the World's Fair. Elvis plays a bad-boy singer roaming the highways on his Japanese motorcycle; laid up after an accident, he joins a carnival owned by the feisty Barbara Stanwyck. ("This is not a circus, it's a carnival. There's a big difference.") The cast goes from high to low: both giant-sized future James Bond villain Richard Kiel and tiny Billy Barty are carny regulars, and Raquel Welch has a small role in the opening scene. Teri Garr is one of the carnival dancers behind Elvis. The legendary costume designer Edith Head puts Elvis in a series of snappy windbreakers, but thank goodness he's also in black leather a lot. As if that weren't enough to recommend it, the movie has a sequence involving Elvis riding a cycle inside the "Wall of Death," a huge wooden cylinder with high walls. This bit actually inspired an entire Irish film in 1986, Eat the Peach, in which friends build a similar contraption after they watch Roustabout on tape. --Robert Horton

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