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Just two years after Elvis Presley passed away, Kurt Russell brought him back to life in the original biopic about the King of Rock n Roll. Released through ABC in 1979, Elvis marked the first time director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell would work together in what would become a legendary pairing in film history (Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, The Thing and Escape From L.A.).
Tracing Presleys life from his impoverished childhood to his meteoric rise to stardom to his triumphant return to Las Vegas, Elvis features Shelley Winters (Gladys Presley), Season Hubley (Priscilla Presley), Bing Russell (Kurts real-life father as Vernon Presley), Pat Hingle (Colonel Tom Parker), Joe Mantegna (Memphis Mafia member Joe Esposito) and Ed Begley Jr. (drummer D.J. Fontana) in an all-star supporting cast for an effort that garnered numerous Emmy nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor for Russell. Restored From The Original Film Elements
* Bringing A Legend To Life Featurette With Archival Interviews Of Kurt Russell And John Carpenter (1979)
* Commentary By The Voice Of Elvis Ronnie McDowell And Author Edie Hand
* Rare Clips From American Bandstand
* Photo Gallery
Well it's one for the money (John Carpenter), two for the show (Kurt Russell), three to get ready (Ronnie McDowell's uncanny vocals), now go, cat, go! This legendary and elusive 1979 made-for-TV feature was the first Elvis biopic, and it remains the best. Presented for the first time on DVD complete and uncut (thankyouverymuch), Elvis was produced less than two years after Presley's death. The script hits all the career milestones. It treads lightly on Elvis's dark side (his disdain for his film career, his penchant for shooting out television sets), but don't look here for dirt, scandal, or sordid details of his bloated final years. This is a sincere and sympathetic treatment of the King's life, framed by his apprehension over his upcoming do-or-die 1969 Las Vegas concert. Elvis marked the first collaboration between Carpenter and Russell. From sneer to sideburns, the former Disney child star is a revelation in his Emmy-nominated performance. He is ably supported by Shelley Winters as Elvis's beloved mother, Bing Russell (Kurt's dad) as father Vernon, Pat Hingle as Colonel Tom Parker, and Season Hubley as Priscilla. Look for Joe Mantegna in one of his earliest roles as Joe Esposito, a member of Elvis's infamous entourage, the Memphis Mafia. This DVD rocks with a hunka hunka extra features, including an archival featurette about the production of the film, audio commentary by McDowell (who recorded all of the film's songs in one day), and Elvis-less tribute clips from American Bandstand. Well worth the wait, Elvis is highly recommended for fans who will ever love him tender. --Donald Liebenson
Commentary By The Voice Of Elvis Ronnie McDowell And Author Edie Hand
Rare Clips From American Bandstand
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The story line in this movie ends in 1969, before Elvis's personal and professional decline, followed by his triumphant rebound and eventual death.
Other actors in the film included Elvis's actual confidant, Charlie Hodge, who appeared as himself in the film. And Kurt's real dad, Bing Russell, played the part of Elvis's supportive father, Vernon Presley. The role of Priscilla Presley was played by Season Hubley, whom Kurt actually married in 1979, a month after the airing of the movie in February of 79 (and having a son together, prior to their divorce several years later).
The entire time I was watching, I could not believe my eyes or ears. Elvis was a alive and well, in Kurt's body :-) Kurt has Elvis's voice and inflections down pat. Close your eyes and you would swear Elvis himself is speaking and singing. This movie was extremely well acted, sung and produced. You will be mesmerized from start to finish and I found myself wishing it would go on and on (in awe of Kurt's portrayal), even though I am not a rabid Elvis fan. I absolutely loved Elvis in his much more edgy rock and roll days. I never cared much for the Las Vegas orchestral turn in his career, with the exception of some of his songs from that era. And I loved it when Elvis showed his true "old" self in the NBC television production "Elvis: 68 Comeback", during the segments in which he appeared in signature black leather, with his band members, in acoustic renditions of his earlier and greater hits. Elvis had not appeared on stage in front of a live audience since 1961, prior to this NBC Special, which is a "must have" DVD for any Elvis fans.
The timing of this movie's production and release, was bittersweet, in that we all felt disappointed in, and sorry for the visible decline we saw in this huge icon in music. He had grown to be overweight and a mere shadow of himself, as a victim of his own success and excess. So it was healing and refreshing at the time to see Kurt take the stage and embody the character that many of us grew up to know, and wished that Elvis could have retained into much later years of his life.
A couple of other sidelines to this is that Kurt was the voice of Elvis in Forrest Gump. And in 2001, he played the role of an ex-con, Elvis impersonator, planning a Las Vegas heist, in the Kevin Costner vehicle "3,000 Miles to Graceland".
It takes us from the beginnings of his life right up until his smash debut on the Vegas stage in 1969 and all the high and low points along the way.
I love Kurt Russell and have seen many of his movies over the years ( Overboard and Escape from NY are two of my favorites ) but I feel this was truly his best performance. His portrayal of the King was masterful, finely nuanced and done with great authority, as only a top notch actor could do: it was very easy to forget you were watching someone besides Elvis himself. Between Kurt Russell's stellar performance and the direction of the great John Carpenter ( Escape from NY, etc. ) this film is a must-see.
I could not help but sing along to one of the songs titled, Suspicious Minds. Kurt Russell did a fine job. To those new fans of Elvis do buy this video.