By Curt Fields
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 3, 2007
Marking the 30th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, Paramount Home Entertainment and Warner Home Entertainment Video are releasing more than two dozen of his movies and concert films Tuesday.
Presley starred in 31 feature films and two theatrically released concert documentaries during his legendary career. Eleven of his soundtrack albums made it into the Top 10 on Billboard's album charts, and four of those hit No. 1. His films helped create the template for musicians as actors -- we're talking Madonna, Prince, et al., not people such as Ice-T and Mos Def who became true dramatic actors -- and did quite well at the box office. "A Presley picture is the only sure thing in Hollywood," Hal Wallis, a producer of nine Elvis films, is quoted as saying.
Although he was popular with legions of fans, there are numerous accounts of Presley becoming less than enamored with his Hollywood career in various "tell-all" stories by former friends and employees after his death. He supposedly grew weary of the formulaic nature of many of them, as two or three Presley pictures were cranked out a year.
Still, despite rolling out at such a ridiculous pace for filmmaking, some of the pictures actually weren't bad and served as more than just an excuse to have the star sing in a variety of settings. One of the better ones -- Presley even liked it -- was "Blue Hawaii", and it's one of the featured films in the "Lights! Camera! Elvis! Collection" ($69.99) from Paramount. The collection also includes "King Creole," "G.I. Blues," "Roustabout," "Girls! Girls! Girls!," "Fun in Acapulco," "Paradise, Hawaiian Style" and "Easy Come, Easy Go."
"King Creole" was another Presley movie that actually worked, perhaps because Michael Curtiz, who directed "Casablanca," was at the helm.
The films are available individually ($12 each), but if you purchase the set you also get a cheesetastically fun blue suede box.
Warner's main offerings are "deluxe editions" of "Viva Las Vegas" and "Jailhouse Rock" ($19.98 each) plus two-disc "special editions" of "Elvis: That's the Way It Is" and "This Is Elvis," which is making its DVD debut ($20.98 each).
Each one is loaded with bonus features. A restored and digitally remastered "Viva Las Vegas," which co-starred Ann-Margret, has commentary by Steve Pond, author of "Elvis in Hollywood"; a new featurette called "Kingdom: Elvis in Vegas"; a remastered soundtrack; and the theatrical trailer. The remastered and restored "Jailhouse Rock" has commentary by Pond, a new featurette called "The Scene That Stole Jailhouse Rock," a remastered soundtrack and the theatrical trailer.
The two-disc version of "This Is Elvis," the "authorized biography" that featured interviews with the Presley family, friends, employees and manager Colonel Tom Parker, includes both the original, uncensored 1981 theatrical version in a new digital transfer and a 1983 expanded version with 40 minutes of footage not shown in theaters. There's also a vintage featurette, "Behind the Gates of Graceland."
"Elvis: That's the Way It Is," a concert documentary filming Presley's four weeks of appearances at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, also lets the viewer choose between two versions. There's the original 1970 theatrical version and the 2000 "special edition" with more footage. Among the extras are a featurette, a career highlight section and a theatrical trailer.
Other releases tied to the 30th anniversary milestone are included in Warner's "Elvis: The Hollywood Collection," which has six Presley films new to DVD: "Charro," "Girl Happy," "Kissin' Cousins," "Stay Away, Joe," "Tickle Me" and "Live a Little, Love a Little." The films are available as a set ($49.98) or individually ($12.97).
Other Presley titles being released in new packaging are "Double Trouble," "Harum Scarum," "It Happened at the World's Fair," "Speedway," "Spinout" and "The Trouble With Girls" ($12.97 each).
(If you're truly devoted, as part of "Elvis Week 2007" in Memphis Aug. 11-19, two "Music & Movies" nights will occur on the grounds of Graceland Mansion, with outdoor screenings of "Viva Las Vegas" Aug. 13 and "Elvis: That's the Way It Is" Aug. 14. For all the details, visit http://www.ElvisWeek.com.)