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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Classic Film Review: The Las Vegas Story (1952)

The Las Vegas Story stars Jane Russell as ex-singer Linda Rollins who is hoping to pass through Las Vegas without stopping. Her husband, Lloyd Rollins (Vincent Price), insists on stopping off for a little gambling. Linda is apprehensive about facing her past, particularly the Last Chance, a casino she used to work in as a singer alongside pianist Happy (Hoagy Carmichael). That was where she was watched night after night by Dave Andrews (Victor Mature), now a lieutenant in the local police force. At the centre of the film is an expensive necklace given to Linda by her husband. Since he's in financial trouble, the insurance company has sent an agent, Tom Hubler (Brad Dexter), to make sure Rollins doesn't dispose of it. When a man turns up dead Lloyd Rollins is implicated and the necklace is missing.

If the plot sounds complex that's because it is, although it's much easier to watch than to explain. While Price and Russell seem like an odd pairing, as soon as it becomes clear that there's far more to enjoy in the Russell/Mature dynamic this becomes almost irrelevant. Hoagy Carmichael's supporting role is a rather bizarre one, particularly when he launches into 'The Monkey Song', a piece that has to be seen to be believed. The other two songs are performed with typical sultriness by Russell and I have no complaints on that score. There was an obvious decision to focus the camera on her as much as possible throughout and, for me, that's what made it enjoyable. 

The middle of the film sags a little. By the time the murder has actually happened, I was a little tired of waiting for it but there was a lot to set up beforehand. There are a few notable scenes, the best by far being the helicopter/car chase towards the end of the film. I don't know how that was managed in 1952 but it was excellent to watch. However, as an ardent Jane Russell fan, I have to include a scene of hers in this review (and not the shower scene) so I'd have to go with the scene where she walks into the Last Chance again for the first time and is hit with her memories. Wonderfully played by Russell. 

This isn't a fantastic film by any stretch but it's a good one. Victor Mature is ideal as Lt. Dave Andrews and Jane Russell doesn't take herself too seriously. A nice film of its time. 

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