Almost making up with color what it lacks in coherence, this mid-period Elvis Presley vehicle comes on the heels of what is marginally The King's finest feature-film moment -- the buoyant Viva Las Vegas -- and seems all the worse for it. Roustabout is perhaps the most static film set amidst the backdrop of a traveling carnival, despite its eye-popping Techniscope cinematography and cotton candy-hued production design. The script attempts to mine some would-be sparks by contriving to have Presley's rebel/beat/biker character meet up with a sour-faced bunch of carnies. But as presided over by a particularly bitter Barbara Stanwyck -- who has that "why am I in this?" aura for most of the film -- the frissons never progress beyond the point of mutual fish-out-of-water annoyance. Joan Freeman doesn't add much as the love interest, but she at least provides an excuse for several squeaky-clean, finger-popping musical numbers.
by Michael Hastings review