Written by General Jabbo
It would be difficult at best to document the career of Elvis Presley in 102 minutes, but This is Elvis does a reasonable job of doing just that. The film chronicles Elvis’ life from his humble beginnings in Tupelo, MS, his rise to the top, his fall from grace, and his tragic death at the age of 42.
The movie begins with a reenactment of the events the day of Presley’s death and begins its flashback, using reenactments mixed with actual footage of Presley to great effect. The movie is narrated by Ral Donner as Elvis from beyond the grave and pulls no punches, dealing with racism he encountered from his music being “too black” to parents feeling threatened by him to his extensive drug use and cry for help during the 1970s.
Along the way, we are treated with archival footage of Presley from 1956 on the Dorsey Brothers and Milton Berle shows to his appearance with Frank Sinatra after getting out of the army to a sad performance from 1977 of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” where an overweight, sweating Presley forgets the words to the song. It is a sad sight to see for such a brilliant performer. Along those lines, there’s also interview footage with former bodyguards Sonny West and Dave Hebler, whose book, Elvis: What Happened? was the first tell-all book about Presley’s drug use, infidelities, and other things the Colonel tried to keep from the public’s eye.
It’s not all negative though, the film shows plenty of highlights, including home movies from his wedding, his return to the concert stage, and his triumphant Aloha From Hawaii TV broadcast. Part of the Elvis: 75th Anniversary DVD Collection, This is Elvis attempts to paint of balanced picture of a brilliant performer who was human and had flaws like anyone else. And in this sense, it largely succeeds. This is a single-disc version that features the theatrical cut and a featurette “Behind the Gates of Graceland.”