Elvis: That's the Way It Is 2001
The promotional tagline for the original theatrical release of the concert documentary Elvis - That's the Way It Is (MGM 1970, Dir. Denis Sanders) read, "a film about him." If that seemed to contain a hint of deification, at least history has vindicated the suggestion. A recent Gallup Poll not only ranked Elvis the most important figure in rock music in public opinion by an extremely wide margin, but also reported that an astounding 45% of Americans consider themselves an Elvis fan. The gospel of Elvis could accurately preach that Elvis is everywhere. Just try reading through a random magazine or watching a few hours of television without finding some reference to Elvis - it can scarcely be done. The cultural obsession continues unabated, and with mainstream media fracturing into smaller niches, there seems an ever-decreasing likelihood that the new century will produce its equal.
Come ye faithful to witness the second coming of the concert film Elvis - That's the Way It Is in its elaborately restored and revised Special Edition. What was always the best source for seeing Elvis in his jumpsuited live 70's mode is now, more than ever, truly a film about him. Gone are the awkwardly dated asides intended to place Elvis in cultural context after the close of a decade that cast some doubt on the matter, thus growing superfluous over time, as Elvis' significance has become quite obvious. So thankfully we no longer need sit through the numerous fan testimonials, the footage of a British fan club watching some downright scary Elvis imitators, the interviews with the Las Vegas hotel staff, and the stray descent into manager Colonel Tom Parker's on-site promotions office with its walls and ceilings plastered with Elvis posters and 8 x 10's like a trailer park shrine to "E"-commerce.
In the place of all these is more Elvis, with the focus at last aimed solely on his musicianship and interaction with his band and backup groups, as they endeavor to live up to the expectations of not just a Vegas headline show, but an Elvis Presley Vegas Headline Show. From the preliminary jam sessions with Elvis' TCB band (here seen masterfully Takin' Care of Business), through the stage rehearsals with backup vocalists and orchestra, to the performances selected from four nights and six shows in the MGM Grand Hilton International Hotel showroom, Elvis-That's the Way It Is 2001 gives us a privileged view of Elvis as both a working musician and dedicated showman that could only have been previously wished for, by those who prize Elvis' artistry above the many gaudy distractions associated with his image. At last, Elvis in pure form.
Director: Denis Sanders
Producer: Dale Hutchinson, Herbert F. Solow, George Feltenstein, Roger Mayer, Rick Schmidlin (the last three all worked on the special edition version)
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Film Editing: Henry Berman, Michael Salomon (on the special edition version)
Costumes: Bill Belew
Cast: Elvis Presley, David Briggs, James Burton, Jerry Carrigan, Glen D. Hardin, Charlie Hodge, Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, John Wilkinson, Norbert Putnam, Joe Guercio.
C-96m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Brian Matsen