I've been a huge Elvis fan since I was a little girl, but had never seen any of his movies until this weekend, when I received this one for Valentine's Day. Elvis is pretty much playing himself as singer/actor/martial artist Johnny Tyronne. Johnny's latest project Sands of the Desert is predicted to be a huge success. Johnny is in an unnamed part of the Middle East doing a goodwill press tour to promote the movie.
Things are going well for him until he's kidnapped. Some revolutionaries who've seen his on-screen fights want him to assassinate the ruler of a small kingdom that's been cut off from modern culture for about 2,000 years. Johnny manages to escape his kidnappers and goes on the run, hoping to find an airport where he can catch a flight to the next stop on his press tour. The rest of the plot is thin and involves assassins, a bulgy-eyed thief, a little person, two cute orphans, and plenty of belly dancers.
At its best, the movie is campy fun. None of the locals look even vaguely Middle Eastern. Elvis is so charming that you forgive him for not being a great actor. During the film-within-a-film Sands of the Desert, Elvis kills a leopard by karate-chopping it. There are duels with very obviously plastic swords. I suspect the setting was chosen to cash in on the popularity of both Elvis and Lawrence of Arabia. Like all Elvis movies, this is a musical. The best song involves Elvis strutting around a marketplace imploring the belly dancing native girls to "shake that tambourine."
However, the fun grinds to a screeching halt during a scene where Elvis is sheltered by the caretakers of the orphans. The girl, who's probably 10 at the oldest, begs to be taken to America and promises to "be a good slave girl." She then shows Elvis some seductive dance moves while he sings to her. Yes, you read that right. It's pretty creepy to watch and it seems to go on forever.
That part aside, Harum Scarum was intriguing enough overall that I may well investigate some of The King's other movies.