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ELVIS: HIS BEST FRIEND REMEMBERS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Featuring:  “Diamond” Joe Esposito
Director:  Terry Moloney
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  11 Bonus Chapters
Length:  130 Minutes (total)
Release Date:  July 30, 2002

Film **

I read an article recently that suggested that now, maybe for the first time since his meteoric rise to super-stardom, Elvis Presley’s popularity seems to be waning a little.  Not that the King will be wanting for fans anytime soon…the implication was simply that more and more kids are being born who just don’t have an appreciation for the handsome, soft-spoken singer who helped place rock and roll on the map.

In order to counter that, the article went on, those in charge of the Presley Estate are making more of an effort to push the King back into the spotlight with more memorabilia, tributes and information.  It’s possible that the new release of Elvis:  His Best Friend Remembers is a part of that new push to turn the minds of young America back to the Tupelo truck driver who shook up the charts all through the fifties.

His best friend is “Diamond” Joe Esposito, who first met Elvis in the Army.  They were stationed together, became inseparable pals, and after returning to civilian life, Elvis offered Joe a job working for him.  Mr. Esposito reflects fondly on his years with Elvis as any loyal friend might do.

Part of the problem is, he’s asked to start Elvis’ story from the beginning, when he wasn’t THERE for the beginning!  The other part of the problem is, for Elvis fans, his story is so well known that there really isn’t a whole lot that hasn’t been heard before…most of this documentary, though well-meaning, isn’t particularly exciting or new, unless the viewer happens to be new to the world of Elvis Presley.  If he or she is, the pace of this picture might be a bit too slow and flat to inspire fresh interest.

A retrospective is simply too boring a format for a subject matter such as this.  Listening to Esposito is like listening to an older relative reminisce…it’s not necessarily the stories that are boring, merely the way they’re told.

So the film plows through the King’s career, from his early days of rock and roll rebellion to his service in the Army, to his comeback, films, Vegas years, and far too early demise.  Priscilla and Lisa Marie are discussed, as are Elvis’ parents and the infamous Colonel Tom Parker.  And for those who know the Elvis story well, there aren’t many surprises to be had.

One major disappointment:  there is an old television clip of Elvis on stage with Frank Sinatra, about to sing “Witchcraft”…but we don’t get the song!  How cool would that have been, to hear the Chairman and the King pelting out that classic bit of crooning together?

Those who are die hard Elvis fans won’t find this release a waste of time, by any means, but neither will they find it particularly stimulating.  If the real purpose of this documentary was to try and win a new generation of fans for the King, I’m afraid the filmmakers are in for a bit of a let down.

Video **1/2  

The video quality is varying but mostly quite passable…given the nature of the film, there is plenty of older stock footage incorporated into the mix, which of course, carries the marks of age a little bit.  Most of the modern segments with “Diamond” Joe seem to have been shot on video, so you don’t quite get the clarity and sharpness of film, but for the most part, the quiet images render well enough, with good coloring and tones…not a lot of detail is required or offered.

Audio **

The simple stereo mix is serviceable, again given the varying ages of the clips used.  Dynamic range is minimal, but dialogue is always clear, and what bits of music are featured here and there are adequately presented.

Features **

Included on the DVD version of this program are 11 bonus chapters, adding about an extra 40 minutes to the total length.  Amongst the more interesting are the world mourning Elvis’ passing, looks at his fans, auctions, and of course, the impersonators…what would our culture be without them?

Summary:

Elvis:  His Best Friend Remembers isn’t likely to get the King’s fans all shook up, but it’s not quite a trip to Heartbreak Hotel either.  There’s simply not much about the Elvis legacy that his fans don’t already know about, and the story has been told in fresher and more interesting ways that this.