Neither the songs nor the story is worthy of the King of Rock ‘n Roll.
The Production: 2.5/5
By 1966, Elvis Presley was no longer at the pinnacle of either the music or the movie business. Times were changing, but Elvis had not: his rock and roll style hadn’t altered appreciably in over a decade (his last album had charted no higher than 17th on the Billboard LP list) and his movies were now fluffy concoctions that were almost indistinguishable from one another. Though his 1966 films Frankie & Johnny, Paradise Hawaiian Style, and Spinout did just well enough to place Elvis at tenth on the list of top ten box-office stars, this would be his last appearance on the list with his movie career sputtering on for another four years. Norman Taurog’s Spinout offers the usual forgettable Presley plot with the King warbling nine songs (no one else in the film gets to sing even a single solo melody line, much less a song), but it’s a slickly produced package in Panavision and Metrocolor that gave his dwindling fan base exactly what they paid their money to see.
Band front man Mike McCoy (Elvis Presley) is so irresistible that women throw themselves at him. Spoiled rich girl Cynthia Foxhugh (Shelley Fabares) tells Mike he’ll soon be her husband, but she’ll have to move fast to beat best-selling author Diana St. Clair (Diane McBain), who claims Mike is the perfect male specimen for marriage, to the altar. And both ladies will have to contend with Mike’s tomboy band drummer Les (Deborah Walley) who’s had a crush on him for years. In his off hours, Mike’s a part-time race car driver who has a reputation for fancy moves on the track, and Cynthia’s millionaire automobile manufacturer father Howard Foxhugh (Carl Betz) has his eye on Mike, not as a potential son-in-law but as just the driver to handle his new sports car the Fox Five in an upcoming race.
It’s impossible to imagine that with only about twenty-five minutes of music, screenwriters George Kirgo and Theodore J. Flicker have managed to pad out the film to over ninety minutes mostly of Elvis making out with a bevy of gorgeous women over and over again. On the sidelines are his bandmates played by Jack Mullaney and Jimmy Hawkins, neither of whom seems to take much interest in any of the available ladies (of course, they’re all panting for Elvis and showing no interest in them, so maybe it’s understandable) that populate their poolside party during the “Beach Shack” number nor their house party as Mike croons the title song and “Smorgasbord.” In performance pieces and rehearsal numbers, many of which sound alike and feature the go-go beat of the era, the King frontlines “Stop, Look, and Listen,” “Adam & Evil,” “Never Say Yes,” and the climactic “I’ll Be Back” once all of the Mike-lusting ladies are paired with the other available gentlemen seeking brides. For two of the ladies who are chasing him, there are the ballads “All That I Am” for Diana and “Am I Ready?” for Cynthia. Veteran Oscar-winning director Norman Taurog handles it all smoothly and comfortably, his decades behind the camera able to make even mush like this momentarily enjoyable. But the race car sequences leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that it’s all stunt drivers doing to heavy lifting with the stars photographed in mock-ups in front of a process screen negating any sense of danger or excitement and leaving the race’s winner never in doubt even though that climactic race seems more Looney Tunes than anything seriously dramatic. In the movie’s most missed opportunity, the four-member band camps out in a local forest and pitch tents and set up the table in a neatly choreographed piece that’s the best thing in the movie. In Pat Boone’s April Love, a similar sequence was set to the song “Do It Yourself” which allowed everyone involved to be part of the musical fun, so it’s a shame a song couldn’t have been plotted here to give a charming scene some additional oomph and provide singing moments for all of the principal cast.
Spinout wasn’t the first time Elvis played a singing race car driver, but his Mike McCoy, stubborn to the point of arbitrariness, makes for merely an okay leading role for him. Shelley Fabares returned to the Elvis fold here after winning him in the previous year’s Girl Happy. She’s not an obnoxiously spoiled rich girl, but her time with the King is minimized here due to the plethora of other women who are being thrown at him. Diane McBain plays a man hungry authoress who’s close to being a stalker, a decidedly uncomfortable performance. Pert and perky Deborah Walley hides her femininity for much of the movie behind a big set of drums until she finally has her Cinderella moment. Carl Betz, who had played Shelley Fabares’ father on The Donna Reed Show, once again assumes the mantle of Fabares father as the millionaire car enthusiast out to prove his automobile is the best. Jack Mullaney and Jimmy Hawkins are Mike’s clueless bandmates while Warren Berlinger as Mr. Foxhugh’s often-fainting assistant and Will Hutchins as a friendly highway patrolman pop into the story as needed. Veterans Una Merkel, Cecil Kellaway, and Frederick Worlock don’t have much to do, but it’s always nice to see them in a feature film at this stage of their careers.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s original theatrical Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. By this time, Metrocolor had ceased to be a problematic color film process, and the hues here are robust and eye-catching. Flesh tones are especially realistic. The image is sharp and immaculate with no visual anomalies to spoil one’s concentration. The movie has been divided into 25 chapters.
Though not in stereo, the film’s soundtrack offers strong, solid fidelity in the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 presentation on the disc. Dialogue and song lyrics are well-recorded and easy to understand, and the music and sound effects (the roars of those race cars are especially notable) have been combined to make a full-bodied audio experience. There are no problems with hiss, flutter, pops, or crackle.
Special Features: 2/5
Tom & Jerry Animated Shorts (HD): Catty-Cornered (6:27) and Filet Meow (6:24).
Theatrical Trailer (2:21, HD)
Song Selection Menu: instant access to eleven musical portions in the film.
Norman Taurog’s Spinout offers for Elvis fans exactly what they’re looking for: the star in strong voice rocking and crooning a bunch of tunes and with a bevy of beautiful ladies eating him up with their eyes. It’s an otherwise forgettable star vehicle, but the Warner Archive Blu-ray release certainly gives it its best-ever home video incarnation.
Some of our content may contain marketing links, which means we will receive a commission for purchases made via those links. In our editorial content, these affiliate links appear automatically, and our editorial teams are not influenced by our affiliate partnerships. We work with several providers (currently Skimlinks and Amazon) to manage our affiliate relationships. You can find out more about their services by visiting their sites.