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Speedway

Elvis was starting to look a little weary by 1968's Speedway, but the age actually looked good on him — and to his credit, The King still managed to appear (mostly) interested in this retread of the usual "Elvis movie" formula. Here, Mr. Presley plays Steve Grayson, a high-living racecar driver (in his third outing playing one) who wears a snappy red-and-white zippered jacket and has a tendency to break into song. Despite his hot-shot track record, Steve manages to get in dutch with feds over $145,000 in unpaid taxes, so an attractive IRS agent, played by a bleach-blonde Nancy Sinatra, starts shadowing Steve to try and get the dough. In a freakish parallel to Elvis's real-life financial situation, it turns out that Steve's irresponsible best friend/manager (Bill Bixby) has been spending all of Steve's money — he's lost it betting on horses, in fact. So to pay his tax bill, Steve agrees to curtail his spending — and to hand over all of his race winnings to the government until he's in the clear, necessitating his winning The Big Race. Speedway, despite being yet another formula picture directed by nine-time Elvis director Norman Taurog, is notably better than most of the Elvis oeuvre. For starters, the songs are pretty good — including "Let Yourself Go," the funny "He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad" (sung in the waiting room of the IRS office and referring to Uncle Sam), and Sinatra's very '60s rendition of "Your Groovy Self." And the supporting cast is a cut above most Elvis offerings — besides Sinatra, who was at the peak of her career, Bixby turns in a charmingly high-strung performance as Steve's horny pal and other, smaller roles are filled out by familiar faces like William Schallert, Gale Gordon, and Carl Ballantine — plus there are cameos from a handful of NASCAR's top talents of the day, including Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Roy Mayne. Warner's DVD release of Speedway offers an exceptionally clean and almost garishly bright anamorphic transfer (2.35:1). The monaural Dolby Digital soundtrack is equally fine, in English or French with an array of subtitles. Also on board is a menu of trailers for Warner Home Video's Elvis releases, including Spinout, Double Trouble, and The Trouble with Girls. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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