Kurt Russell in Elvis (1979)

A Potted History of Elvis

I have a vague recollection of having watched "Elvis" once before or maybe it just feels that way because of Kurt Russell and the fact he naturally has a touch of Elvis about him. It is Kurt Russell who to be frank makes "Elvis" worth watching because his performance is so convincing, from the mannerisms, the voice as well as the performing which he does so well whilst lip-syncing to those iconic songs but sung by Ronnie McDowell. But whilst "Elvis" is one of the most impressive TV biopics ever made with a good cast and John Carpenter at the helm it is shall we say a walk through the life of Elvis, by that I mean it doesn't tell you anything you don't already know.

"Elvis" starts in 1969 with Elvis nervously waiting to take to the stage in Las Vegas; unsure as to whether or not after nearly a decade way from performing he still has it. It then takes us back to Tupelo and 1945 where we are shown Elvis getting a guitar for Christmas, one of various moments of poetic licence as it is now well documented that he got his first guitar for his birthday. What follows on from there is a journey through Elvis's life which makes mention of various facts which are again now well known. So we see Elvis at his twin brother's grave, we see how he loved his mother and her death hitting him hard, his cutting a record at Sun Records as well as meeting Priscilla whilst stationed in Germany.

Shelley Winters and Kurt Russell in Elvis (1979)

Now all of this is good, maybe a bit forced in places in order to include elements of Elvis's life but an enjoyable journey through his life. But beyond the depth of his feelings for his mother there is very little depth in this movie. It lacks depth because it ends up a potted history of an icon and so delivers one episode then moves on to another with little connecting it in-between. In many ways the story of Elvis is just too big for a movie even one which scrapes in at around the 3 hour mark.

The upshot of this is that whilst "Elvis" features a much greater cast and crew that you would normally associate with a TV movie the characters are all quite thin. But all the actors play their parts well but unsurprisingly none steal the limelight from Kurt Russell who is spectacular as Elvis getting the mannerism, the voice and thanks to his own natural resemblance the look as well. At times it is frightening how much Russell looks like Elvis especially during those middle decent shots and in truth is the real reason to watch Elvis". Ironically they missed a trick with Russell because he made his movie debut in the Elvis movie "It Happened at the World's Fair" and they should have recreated that scene as a bit of an in-joke.

What this all boils down to is that "Elvis" is one of the best made for TV biopics I have watched and much of that is down to Kurt Russell as he is perfect as Elvis. But it is a movie which suffers from trying to cover so much and ending up lacking in depth.