aka: Elvis – The Movie
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Shelley Winters, Bing Russell, Robert Gray, Season Hubley
The King lives on!
This is the story of Elvis Presley, who went from being a poor kid from Memphis to growing up and becoming the biggest musical act and a cultural icon that will never be forgotten. His start came when he was signed to Sun Records, where he was allowed to do so-called “African American” music and bring it out to a wider audience.
Right after he started to make his mark in music history, he became a brand and was able to act in movies and sell out shows worldwide. His dabbled in all kind of music, from rock and roll to gospel and everything he did became a hit seller. Even though he was highly successful, he had his own demons and family issues to deal with and his story was not all roses.
There has been a few movies based on the life of Elvis Presley during the years, but as far as I know this was the very first one. And more interesting for me is that it was directed by one of my favorite filmmakers John Carpenter. Although I don’t consider myself to be a fan of Elvis, he actually did have an impact on my life since my mother was, and still is, a huge fan of his.
This made for TV movie was made two years after his death and is one of the first music biopics that I can think of. Because it was made so close to his death and because Carpenter is also a musician aswell as a filmmaker, this film focus mostly on the good parts of Elvis and doesn’t really go into the more controversial events of his life. It skips stuff like his health problems after his divorce, the controversial part of him using African American music and also his death and all the questions that was raised around it.
It is however a nice tribute to the man and what he did achieve as an artist. It doesn’t sugarcoat everything and does show his increased depression and some of the events in his life that contribute to it, but it does play very safe and respectable to the relatives that was still in sorrow over their loss. Other than that it seems to go through a checklist of stuff that happened in his life and doesn’t feel very fluid.
Kurt Russell sounds like a weird choice to play Elvis and from what I understand Carpenter had the choice between him and another guy who couldn’t act but looked exactly like Elvis, so he went with Russell. And that started the relationship between them that would go on for several collaborations in the future, including Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China.
Even though he doesn’t look anything like Elvis, he does a good job considering how little developement that are put into the Elvis character in this movie. Elvis at a young age and Elvis at the end is pretty much the exact same character and with that in mind it is impressive that I am still thinking that Kurt Russell is the best thing about this film. The rest of the characters are just there to serve the Elvis character and none of those actors stand out at all here.
Kurt Russell doesn’t sing and the lip syncing is very apparent, although it doesn’t really hurt the film that much. The concert scenes however look amateurish with small crowds and with Russell not having the type of energetic stage charisma that you need to be an artist. Thanks to the great songs available for them to use from the library of Elvis, the use of his music does enhance a lot of the scenes so that you will overlook the flaws.
Elvis might not be the finest moment of collaboration between John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, but it is a respectful and good biopic of one of the most iconic singers of all time. Even if it runs for three hours, it does not become boring and should be interesting for both fans of Elvis Presley and those who are unfamiliar with him.