Today, we will look at Elvis Presley’s 22nd movie, Spinout. Before we do that, however, I want to take a sidetrack to mention Baz Luhrmann’s ELVIS film. I usually dislike movies that attempt to portray Elvis, so I was fully intending to skip this one. That is, until I saw the preview trailer that Warner Brothers released last week.
The ELVIS trailer shocked me. Austin Butler seems to have captured the essence of Elvis. He has the body language and moves down without looking like an impersonator. I figured he would look like a clown once they showed him in a jumpsuit, but he pulls that difficult look off, too. I loved the unexpected use of “Unchained Melody” from 1977, which gave me chills. The production design is obviously top-notch, with a keen attention to detail.
The story of Elvis is a challenge to portray in an effective way. It is a tale of both triumph and tragedy. His life is both inspiring and depressing. He achieves the American dream many times over, but slowly allows it all to erode.
“The image is one thing, the human being is another,” Elvis said in 1972. “It’s very hard to live up to an image.” Once Elvis died in 1977, the image won and the human that he once was all but disappeared. Can Luhrmann’s film humanize Elvis again? If the script is as solid as the trailer, this could really turn out to be something special. ELVIS opens in the United States on June 24.
No need to wait until June to enjoy Elvis, though. Let’s take a drive with the real Elvis in Spinout.
“It’s Elvis with his foot on the gas and no brakes on the fun!!!”
Wide Release: November 23, 1966 (United States)
Starring: Elvis Presley, Shelley Fabares, Diane McBain
Written By: Theodore J. Flicker & George Kirgo
Music Score By: George Stoll
Produced By: Joe Pasternak
Directed By: Norman Taurog
Running Time: 93 Minutes
In Spinout, Elvis Presley stars as Mike McCoy. Is Mike a racecar driver who also sings or a singer who also races cars? Folks, we don’t ask such questions when watching an Elvis Movie. We just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Outside of the cars, there is not a lot of action in Spinout. The film focuses more on the romance side of the Elvis Movie formula. Three, count them, three women are vying for Mike’s affections. There’s heiress Cynthia (Shelley Fabares), who runs him off the road in the opening scene. There’s also author Diana (Diane McBain), who declares him the “perfect American male,” with the prize being herself, naturally. Even the drummer in his band, Les (Deborah Walley), has been secretly holding feelings for him.
Mike is initially unable to decide what to do about his admirers. “I’ve gotta think about it,” he says. “I’ll let you know after the race. I think better when I’m driving.”
Spinout is the second of three Elvis Movies in which Shelley Fabares appears. She is one of my favorite Elvis co-stars, so I really don’t understand how Mike found deciding among the three women to be so difficult. Anyway, the movie also includes a couple of fun in-jokes in regards to Elvis’ real-life past – the Ed Sullivan Show warrants a mention and Mike refers to a wandering canine as a “hound dog.”
Though production on Spinout began only a few months after the premiere of the Get Smart television series, be sure to listen out for Mike doing what sounds to my ears like a quick Don Adams impression with Agent 86’s “Would you believe?” catch-phrase.
Mike does sing quite a bit in the movie. “All That I Am,” “Am I Ready,” “Never Say Yes,” and “Spinout” are all strong songs. “Never Say Yes” is rare in the Elvis catalog in that it includes the “Bo Diddley Beat,” which is fun to hear. On the other side of the coin, “Smorgasbord” is awful.
For a movie named Spinout, there is less racing than you might expect. The Santa Fe Road Race featured in the finale is well-filmed. A humorous subplot involving Mike’s #11 car being stolen by another man vying for Cynthia becomes tiresome, though. Mike ends up substituting for Shorty Bloomquist (James McHale) in car #9 to chase after his own car. Look quick and you’ll see Elvis’ friends Red West and Joe Esposito in Shorty’s pit crew. Cynthia also winds up driving onto the road course, so she and Mike tangle again, creating a bookend of sorts to the opening.
Spinout sometimes qualifies as fun, but all too often feels like it is running on empty.
Spinout Tote Board
- Kisses: 28
- Songs: 9
- Cars Driven By Mike: 4
- Women Chasing Mike: 3
- Cars Crashed Into Water: 2
Songs In Spinout
- “Spinout” (1966) [performed twice], written by Sid Wayne, Ben Weisman, & Dolores Fuller
- “Stop, Look, and Listen” (1966), written by Joy Byers
- “Adam And Evil” (1966), written by Fred Wise & Randy Starr
- “All That I Am” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
- “Never Say Yes” (1966), written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman
- “Am I Ready” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
- “Beach Shack” (1966), written by Bill Giant, Bernie Baum, & Florence Kaye
- “Smorgasbord” (1966), written by Sid Tepper & Roy C. Bennett
- “I’ll Be Back” (1966), written by Sid Wayne & Ben Weisman
The Mystery Train’s Spinout Scorecard
- Story: 2 (out of 10)
- Acting: 5
- Fun: 4
- Songs: 6
- Overall: 4 (For Elvis Fans Only)
Further Spinout Reading
- ScottyMoore.net – “The Guitars of Spinout” by James V. Roy
- Hemings – “Spinout slipup: What car stood in for the wet Cobra?” by Daniel Strohl
- Graceland Blog – “Celebrating Elvis Presley’s ‘Spinout'”
“I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”
1 Corinthians 9:23-25