Original Air Date: November 25th, 1984
I have to wonder how on earth they got Rock Hudson to star in this plodding, ill advised drama/thriller about warring casinos on the infamous Las Vegas Boulevard. I get how they got Sharon Stone, she was still virtually an unknown actress at the time (with questionable chops) and I even get how they got James Earl Jones to do a fascinating Don King rip off (this guy can do anything), but the Rock? I dunno, it’s not connecting for me. But then again, so little does…
The Vegas Strip War is mostly of interest to people (like me) who love to see films shot in Vegas. I grew up there and am always fascinated with how the town continually changes. There is this fantastic scene featuring Rock hanging out in Downtown Vegas, which used to be the hub of the city. The empty, rain slicked street really captures a city that no longer is.
But enough pontificating on my part, how bad is this movie?
I mean it’s really bad. Like confoundingly-confusingly-ploddingly-suckily bad.
Rock is Neil Chaine, owner of the Desert Inn. He loves to ply his customers with wine, women, cars and lots of attention. He’s a good businessman, but is suddenly pushed out by the board members of his casino for alleged mob ties. Somehow, all the love he gets in the first five minutes of the film turn nasty as he’s ousted during an impromptu board meeting in a horse stable! So he goes across the street and buys the Tropicana! And then all bets are off as Neil charms his way into success, near defeat and then back to success again.
Nothing in this film makes sense. It’s written like a grand Shakespearian tragedy with long bits of dialog that mean nothing and have no real logic. There’s a nice bit of racism to be had as well, featuring Pat Morita as the rich Asian man who rings in other rich “orientals” and Jones accusing everyone of disliking him because he’s black (that is until Sharon Stone puts a cork in his bottle! It’s not as dirty as that sounds…). It’s fairly predictable, kind of unwatchable and yet sort of captivating. As I’ve said before, if you like films that take place in Sin City, this is a must.
This was not only Rock Hudson’s last made for TV movie but it was also his last film before he succumbed to the AIDS virus a year later. Watching The Vegas Strip War now feels bittersweet because it’s hard to detach this dim-witted tele-flick from the very real heartbreak that was the last days of Rock Hudson’s life. He’s in fine form here and looks pretty good. He might not have left this earthly plane with a scorcher, but this true professional exited this life like the star he was. That makes me happy.