"Elvis Comeback 1968"

(1968 - TV)
With Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore, D. J. Fontana
Directed by Steve Binder
Reviewed by JB 

You can just just stare at me while I catch my breath     1969 is oft remembered as a year of miracles.  Man walked on the moon, the Mets won the World Series.  But in retrospect, the age of miracles began one year earlier.  In 1968, Elvis, the real Elvis, returned.

     After a decade seeing Elvis Presley playing genial idiots in a series of bland, unimaginative musical comedies, who would have thought it possible that the former King of Rock and Roll could return as strong as ever?  Actually, one man did and made it happen.  Director Steven Binder knew he could bring Elvis back, even if he had to fight Elvis's manager, the notorious Col. Tom Parker, every step of the way.  Parker wanted Elvis to come out in a tuxedo and sing Christmas songs. Binder wanted to see Elvis be "Elvis".  Binder got his way.

     From the first seconds of the show, where Elvis looks straight into the camera and sings "Trouble" from KING CREOLE, it is immediately apparent that the man had lost nothing, not a single molecule, atom or quark, of what made him such a phenomenon in the late fifties.  Throughout the show, Elvis delivers powerful renditions of many of his original hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel", "Hound Dog", "All Shook Up" and a "Jailhouse Rock" that may surpass the original for pure rock and roll fury.  In sections featuring Elvis just jamming through more old songs with his drummer D. J. Fontana and guitarist Scotty Moore, Elvis's charm almost literally pours out of the screen as he barrels through electrifying performances of songs like "One Night" and "That's All Right, Mama", tells some old stories and engages in some self-effacing humor.  Not only has Elvis not lost anything, his voice may have become even more powerful.

     It is only during the dramatic centerpiece of the show that things falter.  In a highly choreographed semi-autobiographical setpiece, Elvis works his way through some of his newer songs, including "Guitar Man", "It Hurts Me" and the unknown "Let Yourself Go", from the soundtrack of one of his lesser movies SPEEDWAY.  This section isn't really bad at all, just highly dated, especially in comparison to most of the other footage in the show.  A similar, shorter section highlight Elvis's love of gospel music is much easier to take.

     Elvis would use this special as a springboard to a second career, one which have the world more great Elvis records like "If I Can Dream", "Suspicious Minds", "In the Ghetto" and "Burning Love".  Elvis was back, but unfortunately not for long. Nine years later, this TV special would air again --- as a memorial tribute to a fallen superstar. 4½ - JB

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Copyright © 2008 John V. Brennan, John Larrabee