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September 1, 2015

'Elvis' - DVD Review

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 2nd 2010 3:03PM
The cover of the Elvis Movie DVDMy eyes didn't see this movie when it came out since they weren't even a fully functioning organism until a year after it hits the airwaves. But my brain carries a fleeting memory of a syndicated run of John Carpenter's TV movie about the King of Rock 'n Roll.

I only saw one brief scene, but I remember thinking that this must have been a theatrically released movie because it felt like one. Back in the 80's, it was hard not to be able to tell the difference between a melodramatic TV mini-series and an honest and bracing biopic even if my TV diet consisted mostly of 'The Real Ghostbusters' and game shows that forced kids to dive in slop for a trip to Universal Studios.

Now almost fifteen years after that brief moment and more than 30 years after the TV movie told the life story of the King just a few years after his untimely passing, 'Elvis' returns to a TV near you in the form of a new DVD.

The restoration of the classic 1979 TV movie feels very crisp and clear or as crisp and clear as you can get for a TV movie. All of the pops and whistles that came with the VHS version feel a lot smoother and even if they aren't Blu-Ray quality good, they ride a fine line between TV movie good and theatrical movie reproduction mediocre. It gives it a nostalgic feel that hearkens back to your old 1980 TV set, even if you're watching it on a high quality HD TV that can make your old Zenith chroma green with envy.

Naturally, a movie about one of the most distinctive sounds in music history needs an equally decent sound. The sound pours out of the speakers for the show's numerous show-stopping tunes but feels flat for the dialogue and the rest of the movie's scenes. It doesn't get in the way of the viewing experience since this is a retro-viewing experience but viewers with gigantic Stonehenge surround sound speakers might find something a little lacking.

The most interesting extra is the commentary provided by Elvis historian and author Edie Hand and singer Ronnie McDowell who provided the singing voice for Kurt Russell's performances for the film. The two not only drop all sorts of funny and interesting stories about the making of the film, but they have an encyclopedic knowledge and memory of Elvis history and lore and drop all sorts of interesting trivia about the man and the effect he has had on their own lives and careers.

As for the movie itself, it hasn't exactly aged as nicely as I hoped but the Elvis story is one of epic legend and works in just about any time as long as rock is still tearing up the airwaves in one form or another. Carpenter took a surprisingly subtle approach with his film to the King's larger-than-life life from childhood to his epic return to Las Vegas and the public's consciousness in 1969.

Russell not only connected with the core of the Elvis character as he struggles for acceptance as a budding musician and even after becoming a mega superstar, but pulls off a measured, even-handed tone as the King even as he's knocking cameras out of paparazzi's hands and blowing away TV screens with a concealed revolver. It's easy to see why Carpenter took a shine to the one-time Walt Disney Pictures regular and went on to work with him in even more memorable films from 'Escape to New York' to 'The Thing'. It's so good that you can almost forgive them for teaming for 'Escape from LA.'

Notice I said almost.

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I'm not a big enough Elvis fan to consider buying this, but I do recall Kurt Russell doing a good job with it.

Nice chroma green joke. ;)

March 03 2010 at 5:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike Zlotnicki

I WAS alive in 1979, and 21 to boot ! I've had to wait 31 years for this ( mine just shipped ). I'm really looking forward to it. Cute review, esp. the " Stonehenge speakers " crack ( that'd be ME ).

March 02 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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