ELVIS: THE WAY IT IS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Elvis Presley
Director: Denis Sanders
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: August 12, 2014
“Good morning, Hollywood cameras.”
Elvis: That’s the Way it Is might be the Elvis movie that always should have been. Putting him in fun but cheesy photoplays that only capitalized on his voice and good looks arguably did a lot more to harm the legacy of the King of Rock and Roll than enhance it. But a movie that lets the man do what he always did best, which is sing and entertain a live audience? That’s music to my ears.
In fact, when watching this new printing of the film, I almost didn’t notice that it wasn’t quite the same feature I remembered from childhood. This version has cut out the interviews and talking heads between numbers, and instead been restored with more music to be an all-out concert film. The first 30 minutes show Elvis and his band in rehearsal, then the rest is all from his kickoff 6-day stint in Vegas. More music, less talking equals MUCH better Elvis.
Of course, one could argue that even his Vegas days of the 1970s, which ended all too briefly with his death in 1977, turned the rock legend into a lounge act...the blue suede shoes replaced by loud and gauche white jumpsuits…but many performer found a great home in Vegas, and plenty of enthusiastic fans against the backdrop of an excessive, fun city. And Elvis fans were still quite rabid in 1970…if you don’t believe me, watch how much trouble he has getting through “Love Me Tender” when he shares embraces and kisses with one adoring female fan after another!
So no, it may not quite have been the Elvis that shook up the world on The Ed Sullivan Show, but the man still knew how to entertain. And when he lent his amazingly singular voice to classics, country, rock and soul, he had a way of making the songs his own. That’s not even including when he breaks into his own classics…now THAT’S a concert!
And Elvis does seem to be having the time of his life on stage…he can’t resist a little banter here and there, or making up a new lyric mid-song to amuse himself. Some of this has charm, some of it gets a little old, but I dare say all of it is endearing. The restoration trailer initially said “Elvis in his prime”, but it’s a sobering reminder that the King would be no more in just a few short years.
That makes this film worthwhile in my opinion. A great entertainer doing what he does best against the backdrop of an exciting city…there’s not much that can go wrong with that formula, and with The Way it Is, not much does.
The powers that be did a wonderful job with the restoration of this film…the colors of Vegas and Elvis have never looked more bright and natural. Some darkly lit moments show a tiny bit of age in the form of a little print marking here and there, but these are very minimal…overall, this is a highly impressive high definition job.
This is finally starting to sound more like a real concert, thanks to uncompressed audio and some tasteful music separation. The surround mix is not overwhelming, but you do notice the rears coming to life for some crowd noise and even some help from the King’s wonderful backing singers. Dynamic range is somewhat minimal once the music starts, but Elvis’ ramblings between numbers help bring that aspect out a little more.
There are two discs included…you can see this reviewed concert-film version on Blu-ray, or if you prefer the original 1971 cut, you can watch it on a DVD. Both discs include 12 outtakes (some musical, some not), and the Blu-ray also includes a featurette on the restoration of the film and the creation of the 2001 music-oriented edition.
This disc also comes in a nice hardcover digibook with plenty of color photos, promotional materials, and more!
Viva Las Vegas, and viva Elvis Presley. The Way it Is is a terrific concert film that captured a very specific moment in the life of a musical legend and awesome entertainer. There has never been a better way to experience this film than this new music-oriented remastered cut on Blu-ray.