it was set in the Middle East, sets from the silent Cecil B. De Mille
1924 version of ‘The King of Kings’ were re-modelled for the film and
the costumes from the two versions of ‘Kismet’ (1944 and 1955 respectively)
were worn by 100 extras.Known as ‘Harem Holiday' in Britain (this was
one of its working titles, along with 'In The Harem'), the film opens
with the scene of a girl staked out in front of a leopard. A young man
knocks out the guards, using kung fu, and also gives a deadly chop to
the leopard. He begins singing to the girl as the credits roll.
This is the end of ‘Sands of the Desert’, the latest film starring Johnny Tyrone (Elvis). The film has been premiered in Abulstan, a country in the Middle East, at the urging of the American government. The American ambassador asks Johnny to sing and then introduces him to Prince Dragna (Michael Ansara) and his companion Aishah (Fran Jeffries) and Johnny is invited to the kingdom of Lunacan beyond the Mountains of the Moon. The ambassador urges him to accept in order to improve relations with the Middle East.
the journey they camp for the night and after the Prince retires Aishah
drugs Johnny’s wine and his unconscious form is dragged away by black-robed
men. He awakes in the Garden of Pleasure, surrounded by beautiful women,
and sings to them. The black robed men reappear and take him before
Sinan, king of the assassins (Theo Maruse), who is accompanied by Aishah.
Sinan believes that Johnny is actually the character from his movies
and is able to kill with a single blow of his hand. He offers him a
fortune if he will agree to kill an ‘important person.’ Johnny refuses,
saying he only uses Kung-Fu for defence. The guards overcome him and
he is whipped.
When Dragna arrives at the Royal Palace he reveals to his brother King Toranshah (Philip Reed) that Johnny has been kidnapped by the assassins. He asks the King to retreat to the summer palace for safety, but although the King agrees, he will not move until after the Ramadan fast. However, he sends his daughter Shalimar (Mary Ann Mobley) ahead of him. Johnny wakes up in the harem and meets Zacha (Jay Novello) who agrees to help him to escape if the reward is large enough. During the changing of the guard they escape and split up to elude pursuit, arranging to meet at the Pool of Omar. Johnny scales a castle wall and falls into a pool, he emerges to see Shalimar who tells him she is a slave girl;. He reveals the story of Sinan and his kidnapping and she agrees to help him and take him to the Pool of Omar. Johnny sings to her and they kiss. When he tells her of the kidnap and what Sinan wants him to do, she rides off to warn her father, believing him to be the ‘important person’ Sinan wants dead.
|Joined by Zacha, Johnny realises they must disguise themselves and join a band of musicians and dancers in order to avoid the assassins. In the meantime, Shalimar has warned her father, who orders Dragna to take the palace guard and seek the assassins. Baba, a member of the troupe, steals from the audience while entertainment takes place. He is discovered and the entire troupe has to flee to the Palace of the Jackals. Here, Johnny is introduced to some orphans who have also sought sanctuary. Zacha then leaves to seek Shalimar. After a night of entertainment Johnny is woken by Aishah and finds the assassins have taken control of the hideout. He is told that unless he agrees to kill the King, the assassins will murder the orphans. The troupe and Johnny arrive at the Palace and Shalimar sees him and screams. He explains that he only wants to tell them something important but, before he can explain that Sinan intends to kill the orphans, he and the troupe are imprisoned. Baba helps them all to escape, but helps Johnny to find the King’s room where Johnny explains to the King and Shalimar about the orphans. The King agrees to help but says that there is a traitor in their midst as the Palace guard were unable to trace the assassins who must have had inside information.|
Shalimar and the King sneak out of the Palace after leaving blood on
the King’s bed. The Captain of the guard informs Dragna that the King
is missing and Dragna says he will search the city for him. At the Palace
of the Jackals, Sinan has captured the troupe. When news comes that
the King is dead, he demands payment from the person who ordered it.
Dragna then appears and says he will pay him. Sinan tells Dragna that
he will only be a puppet ruler and has to obey his orders, then sends
him back to the Royal palace in the company of Aishah.
Sinan orders his assassins to kill the troupe but Johnny sneaks up and holds the assassin in a stranglehold, telling him to release everyone. He bundles Sinan into a cart and Zacha organises all the thieves to battle the assassins in the main square, during which Sinan is killed and the assassins defeated. At the Palace they find the King playing chess with his brother. Despite the treachery he cannot kill him, but will banish both Dragna and Aishah. The film ends in Las Vegas where Shalimar, the King, the orphans and Zasha and the entire troupe have come to see Johnny perform. As he finishes the show, he kisses Shalimar.
soundtrack was recorded at the RCA Studios in Nashville during February
1965 and the musicians were Elvis, vocals; Scotty Moore, Grady Martin,
Charlie McCoy, guitar; Henry Strzeleck, bass; D. J. Fontana, Ken Buttney,
drums; Floyd Cramer, piano; the Jordanaires, vocals. The album reached
No.8 in the Billboard charts and spent 23 weeks in the chart.
The tracks were: ‘Harum Holiday’ (Peter Andredi and Vince Poncia) sung over the credits and at the end of the film at the Galaxy Hotel; ‘My Desert Serenade’, sung to an Arabian girl in a scene from the film (Stanley J. Gelber); ‘Go East Young Man’ , sung to the audience after the screening of the film premier (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye); ‘Mirage’, sung to the slave girls in the Garden of Paradise (Joe Byers); ‘Kismet’, sung to Princess Shalimar at the Pool of Omar (Sid Tepper, Roy C. Bennett); ‘Shake That Tambourine’ sung in a courtyard (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye); ‘Hey Little Girl’ sung to the slave girl Sari during a dance routine (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye); ‘Golden Coins’ sung to Princess Shalimar as she sees Johnny’s image in a pool (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye); ‘So Close, Yet So Far (From Paradise)’ sung in a jail cell. (Joe Byers).
‘Animal Instinct’ (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye) and ‘Wisdom Of The Ages’ (Bill Grant, Bernie Baum, Florence Kaye) were cut from the film and ‘Please Don’t Stop Loving Me’ and ‘Let Yourself Go’ were songs rejected for the movie.