Musical Monday: Harum Scarum (1965)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Harum Scarum (1965) – Musical #660


Gene Nelson

Elvis Presley, Mary Ann Mobley, Fran Jeffries, Michael Ansara, Jay Novello, Phillip Reed, Theodore Marcuse, Billy Barty, Brenda Benet, Barbara Werle, Wilda Taylor

Johnny Tyronne (Presley) is an American movie star whose film premieres in the Middle East. He is kidnapped and his kidnappers want him to kill the king. In the process, he falls in love with Princess Shalimar (Mobley), who is the king’s daughter.

• Shot on the set of Cecil B. Demille’s “King of Kings.”
• The first Elvis film to not make a profit.
• Released in the United Kingdom as “Harem Holiday”
• Former singer, actor Gene Nelson directed the film
• Filmed in 18 days, according to Presley’s biographer Steve Templeton

• Nothing to speak of.

Notable Songs:
• They all started to sound the same and nothing really stood out.

My review:
Goodness gracious.
I know that most Elvis Presley films aren’t works of art, but HARUM SCARUM takes the cake as potentially the worst Elvis film I’ve seen at this point.
At 95 minutes, this feels dreadfully long.
The film begins with Presley as an American actor Johnny Tyronne whose film (which is similar to Rudolph Valentino’s THE SHEIK) premieres in the Middle East. Tyrone is kidnapped – but not because he’s a wealthy actor – because his kidnappers want him to kill the king. What? In the process, he falls in love with the king’s daughter Princess Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley).
Then the plot gets even more muddled when Tyronne escapes and gets involved with a musical troupe, and he sings with some children … and it’s all connected to Tyronne can stop the assassination plot.
I know this is a strange thing to complain about in a Musical Monday post but oh my gosh, there are SO MANY SONGS in this film. Twelve minutes in, we were on our third song. In total there are 10 songs, and the thing is, all of them sound the same and none of them are all that memorable.
The whole thing is just ridiculous.
One minute Elvis is kidnapped, the next time we see him he is surrounded by women and singing to them. I was visiting my parents when I watched this one and at this moment, my dad remarked, “He’s taking this kidnapping pretty well.”
Really the most interesting thing about this film is that it’s directed by former actor and dancer, Gene Nelson.
I think one of the most unforgivable things is that all of the actors in this film are completely wasted. Singer Fran Jeffries has a small role, and she doesn’t even get to sing. Former Miss America of 1959 Mary Ann Mobley, who is co-starring with Elvis for a second time for this point, is pretty much wasted as well.
I mean, I think anytime you are going into an Elvis film, you know it’s going to be colorful and silly. But this one isn’t really even a good time. Elvis pretending to be Rudolph Valentino is just bizarre.

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