Elvis Review

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Singing sensation, Elvis Presle's (Kurt Russell) rise to fame introduces him to a world of temptations, stardom and the dubious management of Colonel Tom Parker (Pat Hingle).


Made for TV only two years after The King passed on to the great Vegas in the sky at the age of 42, this compelling three-hour biopic (available on DVD for the first time) is the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell collaboration everyone forgets. Avoiding the genre excesses that would eventually swallow Carpenter’s talents and setting aside some tinny TV production values, here was a sighting of a grown-up filmmaker immersed in a personal passion.

While it stops short of the burger-fed death on the can (it ends in 1969), all the major touchstones are covered: the rise to fame, dubious management by The Colonel (Pat Hingle), the under-age and then abusive marriage to Priscilla, the movies, and the struggle to comprehend fame on a godlike level. All the while — and as Carpenter’s central psychological thesis — he mourns for his stillborn twin brother Jesse.

Russell is the revelation. It’s a full-on, near-perfect Elvis impression, and if it required former King-collaborator Ronnie McDowell to re-record the classics, you’d never catch it from Russell’s lip-synching. He was perhaps too young to fully incorporate the slowing gears and bloat of the twilight years, but the Emmy nomination was fully warranted. Ever spotted the sparks of Elvis in Snake Plissken and R. J. MacReady? Now you know why.

The spotlight falls firmly on Kurt Russell's uncanny Elvis impression in a lovingly crafted biopic by John Carpenter.