Allied Artists was going bankrupt in 1965. What to do? Producer Hal Wallis said, “The only sure thing in Hollywood is an Elvis Presley movie.” So, the studio raised 1.5 million dollars, gave Elvis $750,000 plus 50% of the profits and produced Tickle Me in 23 days. Money was saved by using Elvis’ previously recorded music, making every song special.
The story of a rodeo champion working at women only health-ranch starts out with a great ‘in joke’ when Elvis asks a bar owner, “How am I going to eat before rodeo season?”
Tickle Me made five-million dollars world-wide (45 million today). It was the #3 top grosser in Allied Artists’ history, after El Cid and 55 Days in Peking.
Recognizable supporting actors are: Julia Adams (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Bill Williams (Kit Carson, Assignment Underwater), Red West (Black Sheep Squadron), Alison Hayes, (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), Richard Reeves (Target Earth), Edward Faulkner (five John Wayne movies) with Jack Mullaney being a good Jerry Lewis substitute.
Julie Adams told me (name-drop) that black & white photo of her and Elvis ruining a serious take, was because of laughing at Elvis’ guys behind him staging a fake fight.
Elvis has five cool fight scenes in the movie, three using karate, which was new in the USA at the time. He saves his karate for the real bad guys in the story. For fights with jealous guys, Elvis uses good, old haymakers.
Elvis romantic interest, Jocelyn Lane has been said, by many fans, to be “Elvis’ most beautiful co-star”. Yes, more than Ann-Margret. Lane and Elvis make romantic heat in several scenes.
The two writers, who wrote 20 years of The Three Stooges shorts and movies, came up with slapstick, sight gags not found in any other Elvis movie. The long haunted-house sequence has jump-scares, stunts, fights, and laughs.
Final verdict: “If it feels so right, how can it be wrong?”