I avoided this film for years, mainly because it simply looked too embarrassing to sit through as a fan of the King. Since it was included among the newest wave of Elvis dvds, I finally decided to give it a chance.
It didn't surprise me to find that, as a meaningful film, it is arguably among Elvis' worst. The premise is silly, the leading lady (Mary Ann Mobley) has little to do (and little screentime with the King), and the whole thing is pretty hard to take seriously. But then, considering that much of Elvis' film canon was pretty lightweight anyway, it's hard to imagine anyone going into this expecting a meaningful film.
What is left is an Elvis movie that works surprisingly well as a campy B movie. In fact, if it had been released as an MGM dvd, it would've fit well into their (highly entertaining) Midnite Movies line. For starters, while shot using some of the old King of Kings sets, you almost expect to see Kirk and Spock beam in at any moment. There's also a surprising amount of humor in it (both unintentional AND intentional), with Elvis getting off quite a few good one-liners early on. Also good is Jay Novello as that rare comic relief that is actually funny. As the film progresses, you can almost sense Elvis' waning interest, but the rest of the cast puts in a fine effort. And where else can you see Billy Barty bellydancing or Elvis bringing a bullwhip to a fight?
Ironically, Elvis was actually very eager to make this film. He saw it as a chance to create a meaningful character and drew inspiration from Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik. According to Priscilla Presley's Elvis and Me, Elvis was so into the character that he would come home still in costume and keep it on until he went to bed. However, as the film progressed, he quickly lost interest as he realized the direction the film was heading.
Overall, despite its secure position at the bottom of the barrel, it's not as dull to sit through as some of Elvis' other lesser efforts. Many fans even consider the soundtrack to be underrated, and it does feature one really great standout, So Close, Yet So Far. It's quite a hidden gem among Elvis' movie songs, and I was suprised to find anything like it in this film. Elvis probably could have incorporated it into his later live shows without anyone batting an eye.