Elvis: The Last 24 Hours Review
It's a title that suggests a show that would surface at irregular intervals on ITV although, were it so, it's doubtful that Elvis would be low-rent enough for ITV. Were the third channel to develop The Last 24 Hours..., it's more likely that the series would cover such notables as Pat Phoenix, Ronnie Biggs and Redrum.
Of course, given television's habit of ruining a good idea by landing a clunker - see Sky News' pronouncement of the death of the Queen Mother some years before she finally breathed her last - it's likely that a show would be mistakenly broadcast based around the final day in the life of some minor personality, say Bernard Manning, whilst he was sat at home in his underpants watching, with mounting incredulity, as ITV foretold his final hours.
As I'm sure you realise, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours needs only the slightest of introductions as your presence here indicates at least a modicum of intelligence. For those of you, however, who've stumbled upon a computer, an operating system, an Internet connection and this website all by accident, read carefully - Elvis: The Last 24 Hours looks at the final hours of The King. Featuring contributions from Elvis' closest associates, known as the Memphis Mafia, The Last 24 Hours interviews, amongst others, the foreman of the gang, Joe Esposito and Elvis's personal bodyguard and hairdresser/spiritual guide, Jerry Schilling and Larry Geller, respectively. With footage that reconstructs Elvis' final hours, this is an, "intimate and respectful portrait of The King" according to the back of the DVD case.
What this DVD does make clear is that, contrary to what I'd always believed, Elvis Presley did not spend his last few hours sat on the toilet whilst nearing a nappy and stuffing himself full of burgers, deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches and enough pills to sustain the NHS for a full six months. Instead, he passed away having just left his girlfriend for a moment...although the toilet thing is true. Along the way, we learn many things, although few of them are about Elvis. Instead, Larry Geller offers us his hairdressing regime - Brush! Spray! Sculpt! - as well as his search for truth, which impressed Elvis no end, according to Larry, but which now reads like something taken in through a pamphlet produced by the same cult who blew up Bobby Grant's old house on Brookside. Elsewhere, Joe Esposito tells us that his hands were tied, presumably not by Elvis but by his own wish to hold onto a place in the Memphis Mafia, and everyone has a pop at Col. Tom Parker, although with little more insight than had they just said he smelt bad.
Parker was a nasty figure who did Presley more harm than good and the poisonous stories that surface here, particularly from Geller, are fully justified. Almost all of what we now think of as being terrible decisions made by Elvis - the lack of a tour outside of the US, the films, the awful albums issued under his name - were actually made by Parker who saw nothing but the underlying buck and was unable to leave the US due to immigration concerns that he would not be allowed back in. In a career that was littered with hangers-on, lackeys and groupies, Elvis' least appealing associate was Parker and the testimonies here do nothing to dispel that feeling.
Unfortunately, the title is a little misleading as Geller, Esposito and the rest do a good job of telling of the behind-the-scenes chaos that was life on the road with Elvis but are rather scant on details when it comes to The King's last day alive. Indeed, such is the jump from his residency in Las Vegas to his final, lumbering journey both to the toilet and to the afterlife that we really don't learn anything about the 17th August 1977 other than that Elvis died having quietly left the company of his girlfriend minutes before.
When the news of Elvis' death broke, it was a genuinely shocking event despite now having the benefit of hindsight and seeing Elvis' increasing bulk being little more than a cardiac arrest in a white jumpsuit throwing karate moves in Las Vegas. Yet, in spite of his ill health, think of the impact that the death of a cultural icon like Mohammed Ali would have today - at once expected but still shocking. Elvis' death resulted in an immense outpouring of grief that was centred on Gracelands and carried on for months until the first, and insulting, reports of his serving waffles in Arkansas appeared. Still, this DVD does little to convey the reaction either amongst the public or those closest to him and as much as the DVD only purports to be about Elvis' last hours alive, the story seems incomplete without really examining the impact of what befell the King in his last hours alive.
Presented anamorphically in 1.78:1 but favouring a mix of archive footage and talking heads, this isn't any better than a made-for-television documentary. The soundtrack is better but only marginally despite the 5.1 Surround track being largely unnecessary.
When the list of extras includes Death Certificate and Last Will And Testament, you know you're getting value for money from Elvis: The Last 24 Hours:
Filmography: Every film made by Elvis - mostly awful bar a couple from the very beginning - is listed over two still screens.
Discography: Whatever else can be said about him, Col. Tom Parker was certainly prolific in producing Elvis albums, often dragging anything associated with his charge to ensure a new album hit the record stores with a grinding regularity. As a result, there's few Elvis albums worth bothering with but this extra lists them all - perfect for those people who really want to know what year Harum Scarum was released (1965, same year as Girl Happy and Elvis For Everyone).
Death Certificate: Exactly as you would expect, Elvis' death certificate is presented in the form of two screenshots taken from a scanned copy of the document.
Last Will And Testament: Had you ever wished to find out the exact wording by which Lisa Marie Presley ever got the lot but not until she was twenty-one, it's all here.
A Spotlight On Elvis (1hr11m46s, 2.0 Stereo): This is a long, audio-only extra that looks back on Elvis' early recordings and his rise to fame through to his death in 1977. There's many archive recordings here and just as many great records so it's a pity that there is no way to scan forward through it nor are there chapter stops. In particular, a radio broadcast of a performance by Elvis of Good Rockin' Tonight is astounding and fully justifies the reputation that surrounded him during the fifties.
Bonus CD: Billed as a gospel tribute by Elvis backing band, The Jordinaires, this is a good set of songs - Suspicion, Love Letters and American Trilogy - but the versions are treacly and despite nodding towards authenticity, fall in with the many other versions of the songs recorded by such Elvii as Yoshi Suzuki, the female Elvis Herselvis and Northern Ireland's own Frank Chisum.
Whilst it's an entertaining show, I'm not sure whether Elvis: The Last 24 Hours is worth purchasing or whether it's the sort of film that's worth occasionally flicking over to the Biography channel to chance upon a showing. The audio documentary and the CD are better-than-average additions to the package but the main feature is not as satisfying as it ought to have been, preferring to say little of substance in favour of gossip. As such, Elvis: The Last 24 Hours is not quite as far from the headlines of The Weekly World News as it thinks it is.