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Noir-vember 2013: The Las Vegas Story

Posted by martinteller on November 18, 2013

Look, you’ve got everything you’ve always wanted.  Whatever it is you came back to Vegas for, find it quick and get out.  I have to live in this town.

Lloyd Rollins (Vincent Price) has brought his wife Linda (Jane Russell) for a week of gambling.  Linda has a history with this town: she used to be a nightclub singer, performing at the Last Chance Saloon with her trusty pianist Happy (Hoagy Carmichael).  And she left behind her old flame Dave (Victor Mature), now a lieutenant with the sheriff’s office.  Lloyd is going through mysterious financial trouble, and following him is Tom Hubler (Brad Dexter), an insurance agent assigned to keep an eye on the $150,000 necklace around Linda’s neck.  Dave is tormented by Linda’s return, and Lloyd is blowing his all credit at the craps table.  This is a Las Vegas story that seems destined for an unhappy ending.

This is a Howard Hughes production, and has a similar light tone as Macao and His Kind of Woman, just with Mature in the Mitchum role.  The film’s most obvious problem is that it can’t sit still and decide what it wants to be.  Is it a melodrama about the past coming back to haunt Linda?  Is it a romance rekindling between Dave and Linda?  Is it about Lloyd’s gambling problems?  Is it a murder mystery?  And what’s this nutty subplot about the two kids who want to get married?  It’s all over the place, trying to be everything and satisfying as nothing.

I’ve said before that despite her formidable physical assets, Russell does nothing for me… and that remains true.  She’s a decent actress but I find her to be a bit of an empty shell with little in the way of distinctive personality traits or magnetic charm.  Sure, she fills out an evening gown or a bathing suit nicely, but she doesn’t leap off the screen.  Likewise, Mature is always solid but rarely exciting.  The secondary roles fare a bit better: Price is enjoyably dry and Dexter is gloriously slimy.  And Carmichael adds some pleasant color.  He performs three songs.  One is “The Monkey Song”, a goofy little number in the middle of the film (his “Knock on Wood”, if you will).  The film closes with a duet with Russell, the slight but pleasant “My Resistance is Low”.  The centerpiece is “I Get Along Without You Very Well”, which is a recurring musical motif throughout the film.  Russell sings it (in Vaseline-smear flashback) competently, but can’t hold a candle to my favorite rendition by Chet Baker.

The dialogue snaps, with a lot of punchy lines.  It snaps… but it rarely sizzles.  There’s a cleverness to the writing, but it doesn’t land with any force.  Like everything else about the movie, it’s good but not good enough to make a difference.  The film culminates with a chase scene (involving a helicopter for no reason except Howard Hughes) which is somewhat exciting but overlong and feels like another tacked-on piece.  This movie just comes off like a bunch of scraps patched together.  Patched together with enough sheen to resemble entertainment, yet too jumbled and half-hearted to pull you in.  Rating: Fair (63)


2 Responses to “Noir-vember 2013: The Las Vegas Story”

  1. Alan said

    I think best jane Russel performance is in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” , Her charecter is much more pleasant than Marilyn Monroe’ and her solo “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love” is fun. I think Russlll just didn’t take the whole sex symbol thing too seriously…. . She looks at her best in “Macao”.. Perhaps duie to director josef von Sternberg’s handywork.

    • Yeah, she’s fine in GPB, I just don’t get much out of her. I agree she didn’t get into the whole sex symbol thing and that’s fine, but she’s just not very memorable or interesting to me.

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