Elvis: That's The Way It Is (Special Edition) Review
If you have never experienced the realtime saga of Elvis Presley due to the great man dying before you were born, than Elvis: That’s The Way It Is is a great chance to see what all of the fuss is about.
Everyone has heard of Elvis Presley, and everyone could name at least ten of his hits. Here was the man who single-handedly revolutionised the whole concept of music in the nineteen-fifties, creating a teen-craze in rock-and-roll and becoming the biggest teen idol that ever lived (until The Beatles anyway). With hits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, Heartbreak Hotel, All Shook Up, Hound Dog, Suspicious Minds and Don’t Be Cruel, Elvis has ensured that he will forever be remembered in the lands of rock-and-roll. However, the man has his critics. He never toured outside of North America and he rarely had a hand in creating his own songs, something that the Fab-Four beat him on in both counts. He made a series of Elvis-exploitation movies in the sixties that were essentially lame musical efforts. He was also accused of losing focus drastically; his waistline widening and his voice diminishing.
That’s The Way It Is was produced in order to dispel these myths about Elvis. Its intentions were to show the raw, unrefined Elvis, without any poorly scripted musical format. It was to go behind closed door and film him rehearse, perform live concerts and work his magic. The original version debuted in cinemas in 1970, and after many hours of what was feared lost footage was found a few years ago, the film has been re-released with over thirty extra minutes included. Most of the interviews have been taken out, and in its place are more Elvis numbers and a more detailed focus on the man himself. Essentially, the film is split up into two acts – Elvis rehearsing with his band (who are extremely talented) and Elvis performing to thousands in his sold out Las Vegas tour.
It has to be said, Elvis isn’t the best singer who ever lived nor is he the best performer that ever lived. His between song banter with the audience is embarrassing and you feel that the audience are laughing with him out of politeness or because they are obsessive fans. His voice isn’t as raunchy as it was in the fifties either, and all of the songs sound like the same middle-of-the-road country arrangement has been applied to them. However, it’s impossible to deny that Elvis has something uniquely special about him. He’s magnetic without even trying. When he performs Suspicious Minds (the version that recently made the top twenty in the singles chart) Elvis' singing and awareness of his backing band, coupled with their marvellous awareness of him, suggests that he could break into any other song ever written and they’d be able to back him.
That’s The Way It Is does not have the social commentary of Woodstock or Message To Love: Isle Of Wight Festival nor does it have the rock dynamic of U2: Rattle And Hum, but it is the ultimate chance to sit down and realise just how magical the Elvis experience can be.
The video transfer would have garnered full marks for an absolute flawless 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation with splendid colours and fantastic saturation. Unfortunately, some of the scenes that were restored to the film feature dated colours and a grainy film quality. Granted, this isn’t the fault of the transfer but it does detract slightly, since the restored scenes render the film slightly disjointed.
Sound Presented in stunning 5.1 Dolby Digital, Elvis and his band sound like they were only recorded a year ago. The bass lines boom and the drums crash in fantastic sound that is splendidly complemented by the rhythm and lead guitars and of course Elvis’ vocals. The sound is so fabulously mixed that you feel like you are actually at the mixing console in the middle of the concert.
Menu: A static menu consisting of a few promotional shots for the film.
Packaging: The usual Warner snapper casing with shiny lettering and a nicely designed cover artwork.
Patch It Up: The Restoration Of Elvis: That’s The Way It Is: A short twelve minute featurette detailing some of the changes that was involved in the special edition version and some of the features that were dropped. It could have been longer, but it’s a nice explanation into the changes that went on.
Trailer: A very frenetic and exciting original trailer that managed to encapsulate the essence of the film without revealing too many highlights. It’s a shame however, that the trailer is for the original film version, and contains snippets of songs such as Sweet Caroline that never made the special edition. Also, the VHS version contains both the original trailer and the special edition trailer, so why the latter isn’t on the DVD is anyone’s guess.
Featuring stunning audio and video qualities and a magnetic performance from the King himself, it’s hard to resist Elvis: That’s The Way It Is considering its relatively cheap price. If you’re only the slightest bit curious about Elvis it’s as good a start as any to explore his universe.