Review | Elvis The Movie Starring Kurt Russell
March 2, 2010
Made in 1979, just two years after Presley's death, 'Elvis' is a high-class exercise in hagiography, presenting the musical legend as his fans would want to remember him. There's the humble beginnings, the rise to fame, the devotion to his parents, Graceland, the Hollywood era and the loving marriage that just wasn't strong enough to withstand the demands of celebrity. But the story of 'Elvis' ends about 1970, with Presley's first triumphant comeback in Las Vegas. Although there are signs of the troubles to come, the premature ending eliminates any need to focus on Presley's death.
For its debut on domestic DVD, the movie has never looked better; Criterion's typically excellent package contains a valuable booklet of essays, plus video interviews with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and critic Gary Giddins.
The miniseries is best remembered for the Emmy-nominated performance of Kurt Russell as Elvis Presley. Russell, who bears a striking resemblance to the singer, expertly re-creates Presley's physicality. There's a sense, too, that Russell's casting as Presley might have been cosmically ordained. Russell's first big-screen appearance came in 1963's 'It Happened at the World's Fair', in which he was the uncredited little boy who kicks the real-life Presley in the shin.
Before 'Elvis', Russell had been a child actor known for guest appearances on television series from 'Daniel Boone' to 'Gilligan's Island'. He had become something of a teen idol thanks to starring roles in several lightweight Walt Disney comedies, such as 'The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes' and 'The Strongest Man in the World'. But it was 'Elvis' that forced Hollywood to accept Russell as a serious actor.
Russell went on to deliver solid performances in such films as 'Silkwood', 'The Mean Season', 'Tombstone' and 'Dark Blue', all of which gave him dramatic roles worthy of Oscar recognition, even if such recognition failed to result. Perhaps that's because Russell also isn't afraid to wade into shallower waters, appearing in several films for his 'Elvis' director, John Carpenter. These include such genre flicks as 'Escape From New York', 'The Thing' and 'Big Trouble in Little China' (Carpenter's underappreciated answer to the Indiana Jones films).
Such loyalty has been a hallmark of Russell's career. He even has continued to make films for Disney, including the hits 'Sky High' and 'Miracle.' But career connections are not the only legacy of 'Elvis' in Russell's life. It was while working on 'Elvis' that Russell met actress Season Hubley, who had been cast as Priscilla Presley, Elvis' publicity-shy bride. Russell and Hubley married and had a son together, before divorcing in 1983. Russell later became the longtime partner of actress Goldie Hawn. Continuing the familial theme, 'Elvis' allowed Russell to act opposite his father, Bing Russell, who had been cast as Presley's father, Vernon. Rounding out the cast are Shelley Winters as Presley's mother, Gladys, and Pat Hingle as Col. Tom Parker.
Russell in 2001 got an opportunity to prove he still was in touch with his inner Elvis in '3,000 Miles to Graceland', a caper about ex-cons trying to rob a Las Vegas casino. Russell was the one bright spot in the otherwise misbegotten film, especially during a Presley impersonation for the film's end credits.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Season Hubley, Shelley Winters, Pat Hingle and Bing Russell.
Director: John Carpenter.
Rating: PG, for thematic content.
Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes.
Bonus features: Audio commentary, archival interviews
In-depth DVD Special Features
•'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
Golden Globe(R) and Multiple Primetime Emmy(R) Nominated Motion Picture Starring Kurt Russell, Shelley Winters, Season Hubley, Bing Russell, Pat Hingle, Robert Gray, Joe Mantegna and Ed Begley Jr.
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Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever. + Plus Bonus DVD Audio.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.
Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD Video with Sound.