- Movie Rating -

This is Elvis (1981)

| April 4, 1981

If the death of Elvis Presley proved anything it might be that the cottage industry that came up around him did not die with him.  Since his untimely death at the age of 42 in 1977, Elvis’ name has only become more profitable as interest in his life and death have gained more legend in the popular culture.

Walking into the documentary This is Elvis, I sort of figured that this was just another safe, by-the-numbers documentary tied down with a lot of legal safety nets that assured that Presley’s image would not be tarnished by anything factual.  Yes, we know that he was a dynamic entertainer and we know the impact that he had on the cultural landscape but what surprised me was that the film was allowed to traverse the very troubled waters of his later years.

In that way, the movie tries to be all things to all audiences.  It’s a concert film at times, a docudrama at other times and a biography of a man made self-destructive by a life of over-work, drugs and hangers-on both in his personal and professional life.  You can still feel the bumpers against the harder material in this film but you never feel that you’re being shielded from the truth.

The film wants to cover all of the seasons of Presley’s life from his youthful innocence to the torment of his final years, a time when we see a lot of unreleased footage of his life when his time was full of bad decisions brought him to an unceremonious end long before his time.

What pulls this film away from begin an eye-opening documentary is that much of the footage is restaged, especially his early years when we see him as a child in school, an outcast looking for his own way to express himself.  Later we meet the people who would be most important to him, to his rise to fame, his legacy and to the legend that

This is Elvis is not a great documentary, it is merely passable one.  A film that has a lot of affection for this man, what he went through and the legacy that he left behind.  I only wish that it was a little more focused, a little less manufactured.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized