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"This is Elvis" is an interesting and fantastic documentary to watch
even if you are not an Elvis fan.
As an Elvis fan, I am very critical when it comes to inaccuracies about his life. I found this documentary to be very accurate and honest with the way it told the story of Elvis' life. The blend of actual Elvis footage along with very believable reenactments makes the documentary flow with continuity and excitement.
In addition, the song selections that accompanied the various video sequences were always right on the money. It was like watching Elvis' life story being told through entertaining and poignant music videos.
One thing I respected about the documentary, although difficult to watch, was the way the creators did not try to candy-coat the details of the sad way Elvis' life began to spiral down a self-destructive path during the 70's until his untimely death at the age of 42.
All in all, "This is Elvis" is a very entertaining, empathetic, and honest look at the life of Elvis Presley; the American Icon who rightfully earned the title as the King of Rock 'n Roll.
Malcolm Leo and Andrew Solt: enough said. These guys do deep research and do
everything first class. This will be one of the best documentaries of an
entertainer ever put on film. Elvis Presley meant so many different things
to so many different people. He effected society, hair and clothing styles
like no one before him. He changed the music world with the power of an
Atomic Bomb. He has sold over one billion records and was the first visual
founding father of the phenomenon that became rock 'n' roll. His influence
will live for decades to come. This is a personal look as well as a tribute
to the world's most loved entertainer.
I have the expanded 144 minute version of THIS IS ELVIS and watch it at least once a year. The soundtrack is like a history and not a greatest hits project. Even the non Elvis fan will be impressed with this entertaining look at musical history.
"This is Elvis" is one of the oddest "documentaries" I've ever seen. Using
extensive archival footage, mixed with recreations shot to look like
archival footage, the film looks at the rise of fall of
The problem is that the recreation footage comes off as bad TV movie of the week, standing in stark contrast to the original, compelling material presented in the piece.
The success of "This is Elvis" was the impetus behind the current style of historical documentaries that attempt to recreate drama where no original footage exists to illustrate it. In that sense, "This is Elvis" looks a bit embarrassing at times, since it doesn't have the slickness of more contemporary "docu-drama-documentaries" in the genre.
What I'm waiting for is an Elvis documentary done with the taste and skillfullness of the "Beatles: Anthology" mini-series aired on ABC.
On Elvis' birthday this past year, I watched his movies and documentaries
television all day long. By the end of the day, I was a hooked fan and
understood why this man is worshipped around the globe. Since then I have
seen many of his movies, concerts and read books.
This movie is separate from all of that, as it reveals the man inside the myth. Anyone with even a casual interest in Elvis would find this interesting, but to a fanatic like myself this is immeasurably important. I enjoyed seeing him in the later years practising karate, to the song "Kung Fu Fighting".
I remember when this film first appeared on HBO in the early eighties. I was never a huge Elvis fan, but found myself watching this film every time it came on. It is a fascinating portrait of a man thrust into overwhelming fame and fabulous wealth and how it eventually destroys him. The "recreations" are very well done and the film as a whole is very balanced in it's view of Elvis' life. It neither canonizes nor trashes him, but shows him as an ordinary guy dealing with extraordinary fame. The longer version now available on video is nice, but I miss the late concert performance where Elvis, sick, overweight, and bathed in sweat, forgets the lyrics of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and nervously "wings it". Maybe that was too much truth, even for this documentary.
Very good documentary from Malcolm Leo and Andrew Solt on Elvis
Presley's life, as "narrated" by Presley from beyond, in the voice of
sound-alike impersonator Ral Donner (who doesn't sound exactly like
Elvis if you're someone who's really become familiarized with Presley's
speaking voice). Anyway, this is essential viewing for fans, naturally,
but even for those who aren't big followers of Elvis. It shows the rise
and fall of a music legend, and along the way are a plethora of choice
musical performance clips, interviews, home movies, and montages.
The one thing that has always bugged me slightly about this film are the occasional "faked" interviews supposedly done with fans at various times over the years, like the segment after Elvis and Priscilla got married in 1967. This was completely unnecessary, and some of the re-enactments with a phony Presley supposedly walking around his hospital with his current girlfriend Ginger are equally silly and not needed. The movie hit theaters in 1981 at around 100 minutes, but for home video in 1983 there were an additional 40 or so minutes of performance clips added, which is the version I watched, and is the one this review is based on. In the theatrical version, an original line is left intact during a backstage Elvis exchange where he says that the girl he had the other night "gave great head"; on the extended version, this is overdubbed into "could raise the dead". Another change regards a song switch during Elvis' final 1977 concert... originally, the film had him singing "Are You Lonesome Tonight" where he's nervously laughing and screwing up the lyrics; in this edition it is changed to the less embarrassing "Love Me". Perhaps the shorter theatrical edition might work even better, since the 144 minute cut does feel occasionally padded in the earlier years. Whatever the cut chosen, it's still an important and vital piece of music history. ***1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of the most interesting movies, I have ever seen. I like the way it has people portraying Elvis, and the way the narration is done, it is almost authentic. The stock files of Elvis are really interesting. Seeing the real Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show, and the other shows he did during the early part of his career, are really cool. Listening to his obvious frustration of being drafted into the army, and the hurt he felt when his mother passed away and his total disgust for the movie treadmill he was on, it revealed quite a bit about the man. I loved watching his comeback and seeing him back on stage in the 1970's again. I had never realized how many health problems that he was having by the mid 1970's and the movie touches somewhat on that as well. For most of the movie, Elvis looked good, and healthy, the most shocking part was near the very end of the movie, when he walks out on stage for the last time in the movie, in one of the two concerts taped for the CBS Special "Elvis In Concert", just how terrible he looked. Seeing him so overweight, and obviously so unhealthy, was quite a shock. And watching him forget the words to "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", was sad. At that point, I think he was already dying. But still a great movie.
I recently purchased the new DVD of this film from Amazon, and it's
I'm so glad they included both the theatrical version and the extended version. I'd never seen the latter, and It's by far the better of the two. It includes more footage of the upstairs. You get to see Elvis' bedroom and even get a look at the bathroom, though from a distance. But the best part of all is the footage from the June, '77 tour. It's about ten minutes and has "Love Me", which isn't in the theatrical version. The video quality is perfect, much better than the original release. Seeing it makes me long for the day when EPE will release all the footage shot by CBS during the tour.
This is an excellent biography about the life of Elvis Presley on the heels of his death. Ral Donner, an Elvis clone, does his voice. It is as if Elvis speaks to us from beyond the grave. A young actor plays Elvis in scenes from his early life. Leo and Solt managed to tap Elvis' private film archives. Young Priscilla is shown at Elvis' birthday party in Germany. Of course, there is the condescending Ed Sullivan assuring us that Elvis is "a fine boy, thoroughly alright." Roger Ebert's review implied that Elvis was an alcoholic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He did not drink. There is a marked contrast between Elvis in his 20s and Elvis in his 40s, but I sense in some a grim exultation regarding the fall of Elvis Presley. The soundtrack contains Always On My Mind. Elvis' version is far superior to Willie Nelson's.
A reasonably accurate and sympathetic portrayal, sadly undermined by a
few glaring clangers..
At one point, the film attempts to use the Aloha From Hawaii concert to emphasise the widening gulf between the triumph of Elvis' professional life and his increasingly sad and lonely existence off stage.
A camera in the limo supposedly shows Elvis and a members of the inner Memphis Mafia departing the Honolulu International Centre following the show, as the narrating actor (as Elvis) laments, "If only I could have seen what was happening to me..".. Unfortunately, a clumsily overdubbed comment ("Man can Hawaii get sticky") didn't hide the fact that Elvis had already commented that it was a "hot time in Florida", another occupant pointed out the Gator Bowl in the distance, bright sunshine was evident (Aloha was filmed after midnight) and Joe Esposito (long serving Road manager) said with a sense of relief "The last matinée of the tour". This footage had been taken from a Florida concert filmed for "Elvis On Tour" a year previously, which also explains the fact that Presley was actually wearing a different stage costume in the Limo to the famous "American Eagle" suit worn for the Aloha show, and that the boys were discussing Florida landmarks and previous tour experiences at the Gator Bowl as they left the stadium.
Later, during a press conference in which ex bodyguards Sonny West and Dave Hebler attempt to justify writing the tell-all, "Elvis What Happened?" there is an enormous double take by a reporter, supposedly, over Presley's use of Demerol. "You actually saw him take (The name of the drug is edited) .?" "Yes".. Sonny goes on to explain that his cousin (and co author) Red West had threatened to "break up" the supplier but had relented when Elvis assured him, "I need it, man"..Demerol, a prescription painkiller, had already been alluded to as one of Presley's drugs of choice earlier in the interview. No one would have been surprised to hear that Sonny had witnessed Elvis taking Demerol, which was being prescribed (rightly or wrongly) by his doctor. The real question actually referred to cocaine, which explains the press reaction when Sonny said, "yes" as this allegation (true or false) was far more explosive.
Despite some ill-used dramatic licence, "This Is Elvis" is an interesting introduction to the Presley phenomenon, but a long way from the definitive account.
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