Vegas Movie Spotlight of the Month: ‘Leprechaun 3’

Every month, we spotlight a quintessential Las Vegas movie

Before he went to space and to the ’hood,’ the evil leprechaun played by Warwick Davis came to Las Vegas in 1995’s “Leprechaun 3.” The first movie in the horror franchise to skip theaters in favor of a direct-to-video release, “Leprechaun 3” is not a high-profile, big-budget production. But it makes better use of Vegas than plenty of other, more expensive movies set in the city, especially horror movies. A monster whose powers are based on luck is perfect for Vegas, and the leprechaun fits right in.

“Golden Nugget? I’d like one of those,” he quips as he passes the casino downtown, where he also pauses in front of now-defunct gentlemen’s club Glitter Gulch and has to convince himself not to go in. The leprechaun is a killer, but he’s also a mischievous imp who leers and makes crude rhymes. The rhyming in the screenplay by David DuBos isn’t exactly sophisticated, but it gives Davis plenty of chances to deliver goofy puns and groan-worthy jokes. Veteran B-movie director Brian Trenchard-Smith embraces the cheesiness of both the franchise and the setting.

Most of “Leprechaun 3” takes place at the fictional Lucky Shamrock hotel-casino, which is portrayed by the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, but the exteriors were all shot in Vegas. Sure, the movie freely skips between the Strip and Fremont Street as if they’re the same place, but that’s not uncommon for Vegas-set movies. The Lucky Shamrock may not be real, but it’s a believable second-rate hotel-casino, apparently located somewhere between the Riviera and Binion’s Horseshoe.

From the pompous magician performing for a half-full showroom, to the sleazy casino manager, to the scantily clad, sexually harassed female employees, “Leprechaun 3” fully captures the seedy side of Vegas. The self-important Fazio (John DeMita), who “couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a pet store,” fancies himself a sleight-of-hand genius, and vain roulette dealer Loretta (Caroline Williams) longs to be a young hottie. Plus, the leprechaun briefly poses with an Elvis impersonator.

The actual plot involves naïve college student Scott (John Gatins) stopping in Vegas on his way to start his freshman year, falling for magician’s assistant Tammy (Lee Armstrong) and encountering the leprechaun, who’s been freed from a statue by a greedy pawn shop owner. As always, the leprechaun is after “me gold” and will kill anyone in his way. This time around, the gold pieces each grant a single wish to anyone who holds them. Of course, those wishes backfire in deadly ways, bringing comeuppance to the selfish supporting characters, but the movie retains its wicked sense of humor amid the violence.

“Vegas has a way of latching onto a person,” Tammy tells Scott when he arrives in town, and it’s a shame that the leprechaun didn’t stick around and takeover the city as he promises. He could have become a Vegas icon, opening his own casino where he could swindle and murder unsuspecting victims. Outer space and the inner city never seemed like the proper place for him, but in Vegas, he’s right at home.

“Leprechaun 3” is streaming on Peacock.

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