Roustabout – Biker Movie Review
Born To Ride is reviewing the top 13 “Biker Exploitation” Films. Elvis’ Roustabout comes in at number 11. In order to understand the true and effectual definition of the word (roustabout), I actually had to do some research. I had always assumed that a ‘Roustabout’ was just a loner that traveled around on a motorcycle, drinking and beating people up. This vision in my mind was likely based on the movie, which I viewed when I was a child. I wasn’t very far off. It seems that the true definition of a roustabout or people that are (roustabouts) are basically un-skilled laborers. The use of this term is common around oil-rigs and carnivals. I suppose now they would just be referred to as laborers. But that enlightenment, as late in life as it came, has little or nothing to do with the movie itself.
Roustabout isn’t really a biker exploitation film per se, but it does give a glimmer of what life was like in the mid sixties, and it does actually feature Elvis riding a 305 Honda in a lot of scenes. Elvis actually DID ride motorcycles, but the lore that follows him rarely refers to this activity. And this one is more of a ‘musical’ / ‘romance’ following in the footsteps of other Elvis films. Hey, you gotta admit – Elvis was mostly notorious for his music, not his acting!
Charlie Rogers (played by Elvis) is a musician performing in a “Tea House” which is the 60’s equivalent of a 1920’s speak-easy, or a place that may serve alcohol illegally, or perhaps to folks that are underage. I base this on a popular term used in the movie. The waitress serving some college kids says “ Well if you see that light come on over there it means that the FUZZ is on the way, and you better ditch the beer and go back to the coke”. I LOVE that term Fuzz. (For you younger folks) It’s a really old term for the Police. I remember once I asked a girlfriend “Have you ever been picked up by the Fuzz?” And she replied “No, but I HAVE been slung around by my t*&$!!!”
Anyway, our hero Charlie sings a great anti-college boy song “Poison Ivy League” to the table of kids. As Charlie leaves, he is confronted by a trio of the Ivy-Leaguers and is fired from the gig after brawling with them in the establishment’s parking lot. He uses Judo to overcome the trio, and is soon arrested by the local Fuzz. After a night in jail, Charlie hits the road on his Honda 305 Superhawk motorcycle and encounters Joe, Maggie and Cathy. Joe runs him off the road, and he crashes through a fence wrecking his bike and guitar. Maggie, a carnival owner offers him a place to stay and a job with her carnival while the bike is being repaired. Charlie becomes a roustabout or carnie, and spends most of his time chasing Cathy around the show grounds. Joe spends a lot of time abusing Charlie but Maggie recognizes his musical talents and promotes him to top billing. His singing and musical act draws huge crowds to the carnival. Off stage, Charlie cultivates a romance with Cathy but after numerous troubles with her pugnacious father Joe and an incident over a customer’s lost wallet, Charlie leaves the carnival to star in the show of rival carnival producer Harry Carver. It is at this juncture in the film that you will once again be reminded that this is a ‘biker’ film when Charlie on a dare, rides inside the “Wall of Death”. Yeah, I doubt that Elvis did this stunt himself, but it is curious to see one of the original barrels from the sixties. It’s still a great show today! Charlie is a great success at Carvers show but when Charlie learns Maggie may face bankruptcy, he returns to her carnival and relieves her financial woes with his earnings from Carver’s show. After yet another fight with Joe, our hero saves the day and in the musical finale, he is happily reunited with Cathy and remains with Maggie’s carnival.
If you are an Elvis fan, you’ve already seen this one I’m sure. But if your looking for a hard core biker exploitation film, this really isn’t it!
THE PHANTOM MOVIE REVIEW