"Elvis" DVD Review

3/04/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD Review


Directed by John Carpenter, written by Anthony Lawrence, 170 minutes.

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

In his career, John Carpenter has created some of the most terrifying films, characters and scenes in history. As a director, he has worked with Michael Meyers, ancient vampires, the Prince of Darkness ... and Elvis? OK, it may not be the scariest subject matter he's worked with--hands down that would be Rowdy Roddy Piper's "acting" in "They Live"--but in 1979, Carpenter directed "Elvis," a made-for-TV biopic of The King.

The film, which marks the first time Kurt Russell and Carpenter worked together, was released on DVD Tuesday. "Elvis" is a surprising feat for both the actor and director to have taken on relatively early in their careers. Carpenter was coming hot off the heals of his classic "Halloween," and Russell was trying to survive life after childhood stardom.

"Elvis," which clocks in just under three hours, suffers from a slogging pace--a common pitfall for biopics. Carpenter breaks up the time nicely with musical performances, where Russell fully embodies The King, despite not providing the vocals. He loses himself completely in the title role and Carpenter lets him shine onstage. The camera just roles, taking in whole musical performances, not just segments. Surprisingly, it remains one of the actor's best performances.

When Carpenter's Presley is offstage, however, his life is riddled with complexes. The first, we find out early on, is the death of Elvis's twin brother at birth--something he never fully comes to terms with throughout the film. He regularly talks to his dead brother like an imaginary friend. His brother's death creates a domino effect in the relationship with his mother--Elvis clings tightly, going above and beyond the call of a mama's boy.

Carpenter only weaves glimmers of psychological problems into "Elvis." Presley's irritability mounts throughout the movie and he distances many of his closest relationships creating a sympathetic and almost tragic figure. If only that idea were explored more thoroughly, it might have turned a good movie into a great one.

The film's biggest oversight, however, is the lack of "Burning Love." Come on, two hours and 50 minutes and you can't find time for The King's best? What gives?

Despite that glaring omission, "Elvis" is a successful biopic. Carpenter knows talent when he sees it — despite his "They Live" casting mix-up among a few others. In 1979, he trusted that Russell could keep viewers entertained while watching a story they were already too familiar with. What could have been a made-for-TV footnote in their careers turned into much more. Seventeen years later, the two completed their fifth movie together. We can only hope for a sixth.

Grade: B

View the trailer for "Elvis" below.  What are your thoughts?

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