The Worst Elvis Movie?


credit

(November 17th, 2005)

There is one Elvis movie you will never see available on DVD. It truly is awful, but that's what makes it such an interesting subject for an Elvisblog article.

My nominee for the worst Elvis movie of all time is "Stay Away, Joe." How many of you readers have even seen it? Not too many, I'll bet. When it wass released in 1968, it reached only #65 in the box-office rankings for the year. Now, 37 years later, if the movie rating code included a "Not PC" rating, "Stay Away, Joe," would get one.

Stay Away Joe

The movie portrays young Indian men on a reservation in Arizona as beer-drinking, women-chasing hell-raisers, and Elvis (Joe Lightcloud) is right there with them for every brawl and midnight party. The fights are almost slapstick and good-natured, but there's a lot of them. I did find some humor in their frequent runs to the liquor store to get more beer, and they sure could put away a lot of it.

Elvis In Store

Elvis (Joe Lightcloud) in the Liquor Store


A good bit of the total viewing time of the movie occurs while the boys are drunk. After one all-nighter, Joe is found covered in beer cans under the front porch of the family's ramshackle home. It was supposed to be humorous, but I've got to think Native Americans would find these sterotypes highly offensive.

Fortunately, the worst totally-stupid drunk action is not done by Joe, but by his buddy Bronc. The Lightcloud family had received 20 cows and a bull from the US government under an experimental program to show that reservation Indians weren't lazy and shiftless. All the Lightclouds had to do was raise and grow the herd. Well, the night the cattle arrive, they have a huge drunken party on the spur of the moment. There is no food, so Joe instructs Bronc to barbeque up one of the government cows. Have you figured out what's coming? Of course, Bronc cooks and serves the bull, their only bull. Uh-Ohh.


After blowing their opportunity, the family resorts to selling off the rest of the herd, one-by-one, to buy things they need for their home. Just when it appears the worst fears of the government men have been realized, Elvis/Joe saves the day. He comes up with a way to raise a bunch of cash quickly and bail out everything, but it's pretty far-fetched.

There are two good things that can be said about "Stay Away, Joe." Elvis looks great -- tanned and rugged in his redskin make -up. Also, the credits open during extended aerial views of the beautiful redrock formations around Sedona, AZ, accompanied by an Elvis vocal on a serious western song, "Stay Away." It all feels like you are about to see a good western, but noooo...

Elvis does three other songs in the movie, and one is notable. Elvis/Joe sings the song, "Dominique" about their replacement bull (selected by Bronc, of course), which has no interest whatsoever in chasing after any of those 20 lovely cows. An ode to an impotent bull. Very strange.


Elvis and Bull

Elvis and Dominique the Impotent Bull


I have a VHS copy of "Stay Away, Joe." Someday, when I retire, I'll put it up for sale. I'm counting on its rarity to make it a desirable Elvis collectible. I don't think there are many of them around (and that's probably how it should be).