A slice of American history and popular culture captured on film for posterity
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 7, 2010
Where are the talking heads and fancy graphics? Elvis On Tour features neither of those in abundance; rather than fill up time with fluff, this back-to-basics Documentary is instead a masterpiece of the medium at its finest, an honest glimpse into one of Elvis Presley's mega-tours that took the star on a whirlwind 15-day, 15-city extravaganza of sight, sound, and screaming fans only years before his death. This is The King in the raw, and while the film is constructed primarily of concert footage, it relays so much more about its subject through the way it frames the star and captures the essence of what it must have been like to be The King of Rock 'N' Roll to a far greater effect than any collection of self-satisfying pontificators ever could. 'Elvis On Tour' works as both an entertaining 90-some minutes with Elvis as he performs several of his biggest hits, but it's the film's other strength -- it's fascinating journey into the world behind the loud jumpsuits, the gaudy sunglasses, and the hyper-excited of fans -- that truly makes it not just worth watching, but treasuring.
This is Elvis like he's never been heard -- or seen -- before.
|Overall||4.0 (Out of 5)|
The Golden Globe-winning 'Elvis On Tour' thrives on the energy of The King's music but it succeeds in its power to dig beyond the superficial by, mostly, doing little more than showing Elvis being Elvis. Directors Robert Abel and Pierre Adidge capture his dedication to his craft, the difficulties he faced in fame, and, below the surface, his declining health, all through the prism of his music. 'Elvis On Tour' takes a visually compelling, audibly enthralling, and emotionally challenging look at a snapshot of The King's life at a point when he was an international icon of music, sex appeal, and cinema. His was what some may consider the dream life, but as with most things that seem too good to be true, 'Elvis On Tour' captures the shadowy dark side of fame that would greatly contribute to his dwindling health and inability to perform at peak levels. Still, his fame grew beyond the man; his name and all it stood for, it seems, became bigger than his talent. Even when he had to defer to a cheat sheet to sing 'Burning Love', it didn't matter to his throngs of fans who would openly weep at the mere sight and sound of him. That was Elvis, a man in body but something greater in name and stature, elevated beyond the capacity of the body, mind, and soul to withstand the pressures of godliness.
'I've never gotten over what they call 'stage fright'. If there's a more revealing quote that identifies the man behind the fame, it hasn't yet been unearthed. Consider a man bigger than the President of the United States, bigger than the greatest sports hero, bigger, perhaps to some, than Christ Himself. Elvis Presley was adored by millions, and for many of them, seeing him was something akin to a spiritual experience, an awakening of the mind, body, and soul brought about by an image that had become greater than a man and his God-given talent. It was an allure quite unlike anything anyone had seen or experienced before. He was a man who made his living performing on stage, surrounded by people, and rolling in money, yet he never did adjust to being on that stage and performing in front of those people who saw something in him that, maybe, he didn't see in himself. 'The first time that I appeared on stage, it scared me to death. I really didn't know what the yelling was all about. I didn't realize that my body was moving. It's a natural thing to me. So to the manager backstage I said, 'What'd I do? What'd I do?' And he said, 'Whatever it is, go back and do it again'.
'Elvis On Tour' captures the essence of a man determined to put on a great show in spite of his fears and uncertainty as to what, exactly, he did that got people so excited.
The film portrays him not as spoiled celebrity but as a down-to-earth 'good old boy' who loved music and, it would seem, preferred singing Gospel tunes with a close group of friends to his stage work.
The main attraction here is Elvis and his music, but 'Elvis On Tour' also frames The King within a nicely-constructed technical presentation. With several montage elements handled by a then-up-and-coming Director named Martin Scorsese and a dynamic split-screen style that dominates the picture's visual scheme, 'Elvis On Tour''s visuals are almost as lively as its music, and it does a wonderful job of capturing the mayhem surrounding The King both on- and off-stage throughout the film. The juxtaposition that sees Elvis in action versus fans who cannot help but to become physically overwhelmed by the emotion of the experience delivers a captivating viewpoint and further reinforces the one-of-a-kind atmosphere that surrounded Elvis not only on this tour but no doubt at most every show of his career. The picture also delivers a more traditional full-frame structure during some of the more relaxed moments, but that split-screen effect does wonders for the documentary that probably couldn't have been achieved by assembling the picture with a more generic appearance. 'Elvis On Tour' really is as simple as its name suggests, and it's that simplicity that makes the production a success. This isn't a fluffy made-for television-type Documentary; it's an honest, raw, and captivating glimpse into the life of a man who had become something more, an icon, a god to some, a way of life. It's music and heart, a fitting tribute to The King of Rock 'N' Roll.
'Elvis On Tour' boasts a 1080p transfer that's of a relatively high quality, though there's no mistaking that this is a Blu-ray sourced from older and visually-rough elements. The image shows some wear and tear but nevertheless benefits from the 1080p boost; underneath the thick veneer of grain lies an image that fluctuates between steadily sharp and abundantly soft, though much of the material falls into some satisfying middle ground that seems appropriate, even on Blu-ray, given the style of the film and the era in which it was produced. Colors aren't aggressively vibrant but they're steady and honest, particularly as seen on the flashier clothes The King sports throughout the movie. Additionally, black levels are nicely absorbing but not detrimental to surrounding details. Fine detail is solid, too, given the look and feel of the image in its natural state. Nothing's razor-sharp or all that lifelike, but Warner's transfer does boast what is, overall, a very pleasant film-like texture. The best way to describe 'Elvis On Tour'? It's a transfer with character, and no doubt fans will adore Warner's efforts with this classic title, source-inherent warts and all.
Preview: Elvis On Tour (08:09).
'Elvis On Tour' belts out a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that hits all the right notes but fumbles some of the lesser elements scattered about the mix. Much of the track is quite satisfying, with the music enjoying a rather smooth, effortless presentation that spills out from all over the soundstage. It's a nicely immersive experience, even if it does lack the crispness and clarity found in the better soundtracks. Dialogue is focused straight up the middle with no wiggle room out to the sides, save for some instances where words nicely reverberate about the soundstage during some pre-show testing sessions.
Outside of the music, though, the track captures a mushy, indistinct tone; screaming fans come across as particularly troublesome, sometimes sounding like a tape recording played back in a tin can. Additionally, the track sludges through some audible hissing at various points through the film. No matter, though; 'Elvis On Tour' delivers a quality track where it counts. There are better Elvis recordings out there, but Warner's DTS lossless presentation is a decent enough companion to the film.
'Elvis On Tour' is a complete package of sight and sound, entertainment value, and historical relevance. Not only does it make for an exceptional companion piece for serious Elvis aficionados, but it's also a fantastic starting point for music lovers just now discovering the music and the man behind, arguably, the entertainment industry's most important figure of all time. The disc sports a seemingly faithful 1080p transfer and a lossless soundtrack that does all it can with the natural elements. Recommended.
Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH
Italian SDH, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovenian, Turkish
Review: Elvis On Tour Blu-Ray & DVD Releases #2
Not just a concert performance, Elvis On Tour gives a behind-the-scenes look at Elvis on tour with plenty of backstage moments. We see the King just before he hits the stage, candid moments with the Memphis Mafia, studio footage and footage of Presley and his band singing gospel songs on their off hours. A true highlight comes when Elvis leads them through a rendition of 'I, John', gospel music moved him and it shows in these scenes.
There are also a number of complete live performances, filmed in Hampton, VA; Greensboro, NC; and San Antonio, TX including the first-ever performance of Presley's last U.S. top-10 hit, 'Burning Love'. The song is so new that Presley reads the lyrics off a sheet of paper while he sings, but the performance is dynamic. Other highlights include a rocking 'Polk Salad Annie', powerful versions of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water and 'An American Trilogy' and a fine version of 'Funny How Time Slips Away' that is made ever more poignant as Presley would be gone just five years later.
Keen fans may notice the intro to the movie is different and that's because Chuck Berry's classic, 'Johnny B. Goode' has been replaced by 'Don't Be Cruel'. Seems Presley's people could not get a hold of Berry's people and they were unable to get the licensing for the song. As 'Don't be Cruel' is shorter, one section of the lyrics had to be repeated, making for a clumsy intro. Still, some movie is better than no movie.
While both discs feature remastered video and audio (The standard DVD has Dolby Digital 5.1 while the Blu-ray has DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround) the content is identical. The picture and the sound quality are fantastic, especially on the Blu-ray, but there are no extras included on either version.
The working titles of the film were 'Sold Out' and then 'Standing Room Only', and a soundtrack album was planned with this title, but never released. Due to the release of the album Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden shortly before filming, which featured many of the songs set to be in the film, 'Elvis on Tour' was the only Presley film not accompanied by some form of official soundtrack release, either in the form of a full album or a single. Elvis on Tour also contains vintage footage of Elvis' 1956 'Ed Sullivan Show' appearances.
Elvis On Tour is a very interesting and entertaining concert-documentary that is a must for any Elvis fan. The Blu-ray release is true to the source, featuring a good video and audio presentation. Overall the Blu-ray release is 'A Must Own' for fans of the film and is easily 'Recommended' to those who have never seen 'Elvis on Tour'.
This release has been one of my most anticipated releases of the summer and I can say that watching it on Blu-ray does not disappoint. The concert-documentary is a winner and provides plenty of behind-the-scenes footage from his travels and rehearsals as well. This one is a must for any Elvis Presley fan.
The Video (Picture Quality)
While I can't say the video presentation is visually amazing, especially compared to most Blu-ray releases. I can say that the documentary has never looked better and that I don't think the transfer itself could have been any stronger. This is a true-to-the-source presentation and those who end up disappointed are going in with unrealistic expectations. Detail may not always be particularly strong, but there is a clear improvement in clarity and there are moments which do look much better than I expected.
While I would love to give the transfer a perfect 10, I won't as it will definitely mislead people into thinking this is a demo-worthy video presentation. It does not compare to a new release (which would be crazy to expect it to compare), but the presentation could not be any better than it is here.
An English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included. English (for the hearing impaired), French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish are just some of the subtitle options included. The audio quality on this release definitely varies throughout, but is overall quite impressive. Dialogue, whether that on stage or just in interviews is much clearer than I anticipated at times. I expected a bit more hissing and cracking, but whoever worked on the audio cleaned it up nicely.
There is surround use to be found on this release, sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker. I did find the surround use moments to be fitting. The vocals from Elvis are generally very clear, although I did find them to lack clarity at times compared to the aggressive nature of the instruments on stage with him.
Overall the audio mix is very pleasing and can be quite impressive.
The limitations come from the sources used, but overall everything is quite clear as a whole. I can say that 'Elvis on Tour' has never sounded better. Those going in with realistic expectations will not be disappointed whatsoever. While not every moment can sound crystal clear like I'm sure we would all dream them to, there are moments which are pretty impressive and do bring the Blu-ray experience to life.
Directed Robert Abel
Producer Pierre Adidge
Associate Producer Sidney Levin
James Burton : Lead Guitar, John Wilkinson : Rhythm Guitar, Glen D. Hardin : Piano, Charlie Hodge : Guitar and Vocal, Jerry Scheff : bass guitar, Ronnie Tutt : Drums, Sweet Inspirations : Backing Vocals, J.D Sumner & Stamps Quartet : Backing Vocals, Kathy Westmoreland : Backing Vocals, Orchestra conducted by Joe Guercio.
Preview: Elvis On Tour (08:09).
Buy Standing Room Only 2 CD Set (Released on Follow That Dream, Sony/BMG's Elvis collectors label)
Buy Elvis On Tour : The Rehearsals (Released on Follow That Dream, Sony/BMG's Elvis collectors label)
Buy Elvis : Close Up (Disc 4 has the complete show from San Antonio)
Elvis On Tour Blu-Ray & DVD Releases : Newly Restored & Remastered in High Definition
The Bu-ray is newly Restored & Remastered in High Definition (16 x 9 2.0 Letterbox) as seen in the theatrical release with DTS HD Master Audio (5.1 Souround). The DVD is newly Restored & Remastered (16 x 9 2.0 Letterbox) as seen in the theatrical release and with Dolby Digital Audio (5.1 Souround).
Elvis On Tour Book From JAT Publishing
JAT Publishing will release the photo book, 'Elvis On Tour' on March 3 to coincide with the Elvis On Tour DVD and Blu-ray releases. The book will be a dynamic release with many unreleased photos. This hardback edition will have over 130 pages and feature over 250 photographs, color and black & white.
If you were unsure if you would like the Elvis On Tour book from JAT Productions, the just released trailer should answer your question. Preview: Elvis On Tour Book Trailer (02:23). Buy Elvis On Tour Book.