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HARUM SCARUM (director: Gene Nelson; screenwriter: Gerald Drayson Adams; cinematographer: Fred H. Jackman; editor: Ben Lewis; music: Fred Karger; cast: Elvis Presley (Johnny Tyronne), Mary Ann Mobley (Princess Shalimar), Fran Jeffries (Aishah), Michael Ansara (Prince Dragna), Jay Novello (Zacha), Philip Reed (King Toranshah), Suzanne Covington (Naja), Joey Russo (Yussef), Vicki Malkin (Sari), Theo Marcuse (Sinan), Billy Barty (Baba), Hugh Sanders (U.S. Ambassador); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Sam Katzman; MGM; 1965)
MGM provides lush sets, bosomy gals, colorful costumes, and Elvis, which is probably all it needs to get the throng of Elvis fans into the theaters.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is Elvis Presley’s nineteenth picture. At this time of his career, he was making 3 films a year. In this unimportant quickie, shot in 18 days on the studio’s back-lot, Elvis sings a number of forgetable songs (“Go East, Young Man,” “Animal Instinct,” “Shake That Tambourine,” and the title song), falls for an Arabian princess and sleepwalks through the role of a Hollywood film star forced into assassinating an Arabian sheik so the evil Arabs could profit from granting oil rights to a big oil company. The comedy is so lame it doesn’t even hold a candle to an average Abbott and Costello silly romp. Former dancer Gene Nelson (“Kissin’ Cousins”)earnestly directs, but never can get it on track. The screenplay by Gerald Drayson Adams is witless and clunky, and the acting is dull; but the star is unscathed, as he can’t be blamed for doing what the formulaic scheme calls for–looking pretty, being likable and singing when things get too dull. MGM provides lush sets, bosomy gals, colorful costumes, and Elvis, which is probably all it needs to get the throng of Elvis fans into the theaters.

Johnny Tyronne (Elvis Presley) is a big Hollywood movie star, who just completed an Arabian swashbuckler film and has been asked by the state department to go on a goodwill tour of the Middle-East. At the showing of his movie in the fictional Middle-East Arab country of Babalstan, in the U.S. ambassador’s house, Johnny meets the sultry Aishah (Fran Jeffries) and the oily Prince Dragna (Michael Ansara) and is invited to Lunarkand to stay in the palace of the prince’s brother, King Toranshah (Philip Reed). Before reaching the palace, his two hosts arrange for Johnny to be kidnapped by the thuggish Arab Sinan (Theo Marcuse), head of a band of Assassins. While in captivity Johnny arranges with the con man Zacha (Jay Novello) to escape, and meets and falls in love with, at the market, the beautiful Princess Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley, former Miss America). Shalimar tells him she’s a slave. When Johnny is recaptured, he’s told by Sinan he must kill King Toranshah so his brother will get the throne. If he doesn’t, Sinan threatens to kill Johnny and the two cute orphan kids (Joey Russo & Vicki Malkin), who are traveling with the untrustworthy Zacha.

For further amusement throw in Elvis doing karate, courting the good Arab princess, and being helped by a frisky midget (Billy Barty) to fight with the good Arabs against the bad ones to save the life of the good king. The goofy film is tacky, tasteless and mostly unappealing, even if it glitters like a Las Vegas runway. Aside from the flashy sets and costumes, this feeble pic resembles one of producer Sam Katzman’s usual schlocky cheap film.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”