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 was 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.





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 (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 stereotypes 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 govenment 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 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).


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13 responses to “THE WORST ELVIS MOVIE ?

  1. Pingback: 50th Anniversary Movie Pictorial – Stay Away, Joe | ElvisBlog

  2. Duane A. Wiedmeyer

    Folks get off your horse it’s was made to be stupid, just a total farce. BUT STAY AWAY is by far one of the BEST ELVIS SONGS EVER. Amazing range. The movie just plain dumb fun…..DEAL with it.

    • Hi Duane: I love it when somebody goes back in the ElvisBlog archives and comments on a 13 year old post. It’s nice to re-read a story I’d almost forgotten about.

      Phil Arnold, Original ElvisBlogmeister

  3. Nadya Anne Wall-Rossi

    Embarrassing, but maybe, by this time. Elvis was beyond being able to feel shame.

    • Hi Nadya: You are correct, and it’s such a sad thing it worked out like that. But Elvis recovered and rallied.

      Phil Arnold, Origunal ElvisBlogmeister

  4. As someone closing in on having watched almost all of the Elvis film catalogue (only his last 4 to go), I did for a little have Double Trouble as by far my least favourite. Like another commented, I really didn’t like the Girl in it.

    But, then I started watching Stay Away Joe, and this one shot to #1 Worst film like a Bullet.

    The whole first 40 minutes seemed to be one horribly acted, very loud, and raucous party scene, that never seemed to end. And watching Burgess Meredith bathed in dark makeup creepily smiling his way through one awkward scene to the next was just painful to watch. So far it’s been the only Elvis movie I’ve watched so far that I had to stop 20 minutes in because I didn’t think I could handle finishing it, it was that bad. Eventually I put myself through the torture of watching the rest..reluctantly.

    Some of these later films are ‘so bad they’re good’, but this and Double Trouble are so bad, because they’re just bad. Quite possibly the worst movie I’ve ever seen, let alone worst Elvis movie.

  5. ‘Stay Away, Joe’ is my favorite Elvis movie. As on reviewer said; “Every frame of that movie has the ‘lust for life’ in it.” Elvis himself said, “It was the most fun I ever had working on a movie.” Elvis is the only one in the community that takes action for success and to help his father. Everyone comes to the party when things are going well and Joe Lightcloud is paying the bill, but when things go wrong, everyone blames him and tells him to ‘stay away’. I call this the ‘Joe Lightcloud syndrome’. “Joe, why do you keep coming home and never staying away to make something of yourself?” Joe: “I just want to know this place is here when I need it.”

    • Hi Paul:

      Thanks for your interesting take on a movie I had some problems with. When I watch it again, I’ll try to enjoy it from your perspective.

      Phil Arnold, Original ElvisBlogmeister

  6. I felt that Double Trouble went on and on, and I did not care for the lead female in the movie. Plus the whole idea of Elvis falling for a 17 year old was kind of icky even though it hit pretty close to home for him. It is my least favorite of the Elvis movies.

    • Hi Laura: You’re right, it’s not one of his best. I make it a point to watch every Elvis movie that comes on cable, but I usually skip this one. For some reason, I still watch Stay Away Joe, even though it is so stupid.

      Phil Arnold, ElvisBlogmeister

  7. I really like Stay Away Joe. I understand that this film must be utter rubbish for anyone who isn’t an Elvis fan. However, as an Elvis fan it’s nice to see Elvis enjoying himself in a movie with some great lines. I also like the 4 songs (even Dominic!) My worst Elvis movie is Paradise Hawaiian Style. All the songs except the title song are bad with some real shockers (Queenie Wahine’s Papaya) and there are far too many songs. The story feels like a copy-paste job of Blue Hawaii and Elvis looks so bored + bad acting from everybody else.

  8. Paradise Hawaiian style

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