Roustabout (1964)

Welcome to 1964. Elvis is still stuck in movie limbo, the Beatles are ready to conquer America, and this movie pops up. Elvis has one of his better roles since Flaming Star, as he plays a angry young man named Charlie Rogers, who is not that likable at all. After Charlie gets sprung for getting in a fight with some college students, he heads down the road to nowhere for the next gig. That’s when he meets Maggie, Cathy, and Joe. Joe runs him off the road and destroys the Big E’s guitar and ‘cycle in the process. Maggie offers him a job as a roustabout in her carnival until his bike is repaired.

Elvis sheds the family friendly 60s image for this role. He is a cross between likable and a jerk. He has the benefit of working with a fine supporting cast. Barbara Stanwyck shines as Maggie, who lives and breathes the carnival life (She also keeps this film from being just average). Joan Freeman is great as Cathy, a love interest that plays much harder to get than any other Elvis movie femme fatale. Even Billy Barty shows up in a short role. Steve Brodie and Iris Adrian show up again to reprise their loud, annoying husband/wife roles (they just have different names and backgrounds in this one).

The King manages to belt out 11 forgettable songs that include his better than average take on “Little Egypt”. This film also shows an era when the carnival was a profitable business (I laughed at seeing an orchestra pit inside a carnival tent). The ‘Wall of Death’ scene was also the basis of the Irish film, Eat The Peach. All in all, a better than average performance for Elvis in a standard formula film.