Exploring: Elvis Fantasy Flicks

Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper were right: “Elvis Is Everywhere!” So drop your needle on the Dead Milkmen because, we are “Going to Graceland.” Don’t let the rockabilly sounds of Elvis Hitler bum your trip. (Remember, in our Beatles’ movies tribute, we called out the More Fiends for their cover-hybid of Motorhead and the Beatles on “Yellow Spades”? Well, not to be outdone: Elvis Hitler grafted Hendrix to the theme of TV’s Green Acres . . . and Pittsburgh’s John Russo made their video!)

Okay, uh, let’s get back to The King.

Elvis Presley may have died on August 16, 1977 . . . and transitioned into the rock ‘n’ roll ethers to party alongside Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain at “Club 27,” just south of the right foot of God. However, when it comes to the film industry: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave . . . in spite of the famous, last words of KWKH’s Horace Lee Logan about Elvis leaving the building.

Image courtesy of King Elvis Pinterest.

As you can tell by this latest “Exploring” feature’s title: this isn’t about the movies that starred the “real” Elvis, such as Love Me Tender and Change of Habit, and so on . . . but we did check out all of Elvis’s flicks behind the wheel with a “Drive in Friday: Elvis Racing Nite!” feature. And don’t come-a-knockin’ for any of the wealth of theatrical, television, and direct-to-video documentaries on Elvis.

As with our three-part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series, this “Exploring” feature on Elvis is concerned with the speculative flicks, the films using the myth and legend of Elvis as plot fodder, and the historical sidebars to his career.

Let’s fire up that VCR . . . and don’t break your pelvis!

“Elvis Christ” image courtesy of Fine Art America.

Living Legend: The King of Rock ‘n Roll (1980) — 2 Stars
Self-made North Carolina filmmaker Earl Owensby (Dark Sunday) co-stars alongside Elvis’s ex-fiancee Ginger Alden in the ersatz tale of Eli Caufield, the King of Rock & Roll. As with the real King: Eli rules supreme on stage, but in private, his life is a mess, as he spirals with declining health issues and an escalating prescription medication addiction.

Roy Orbison stands in for Owensby’s vocals. Director Thom McIntyre also helmed Ginger Alden’s starring role in the country music-centric Lady Grey; he found great success with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, U.S. television franchise.

Next up, Elvis receives a fan’s love letter.

To Elvis, with Love, aka Touched by Love (1980) — 3 Stars
Sigh. This Elvis flick—alongside A Little Romance—incessantly running on HBO started our lifelong crush with Diane Lane. Deborah Raffin (Hanging on a Star) stars as a young nurse determined to reach an unresponsive teenage cerebral palsy patient by encouraging her to write to her favorite rock singer, Elvis Presley (no, he doesn’t show up).

The film, based on the real-life reminiscences of Lena Canada (from her book To Elvis, with Love), is a very sweet, well-made family-friendly film. The critics: forever running hot and cold. Deborah Raffin was nominated for both, a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama,” as well as a Golden Raspberry for “Worst Actress” for her performance. The film’s second Razzie nod came courtesy of Hesper Anderson’s screenplay. A TV series scribe (Marcus Welby, M.D), Anderson also composed the TV movie The UFO Incident (the world-famous Barney and Bette Hill incident) and fared much better with critics by way of her next theatrical work, Children of a Lesser God.

Director Gus Trikonis . . . yes, the man behind Supercock (the Ross Hagan one about illegal cockfighting, dirty mind), Nashville Girl, The Evil, Moonshine County Express, and Take This Job and Shove It, directed this. No, really. Then he did a “real” Elvis movie with Don Johnson as The King, in the TV Movie, Elvis and the Beauty Queen.

Next up, here come the Elvis weirdos.

Mondo Elvis (1984/documentary) — 2 1/2 Stars
Okay, so it’s a “documentary,” but it does deal with the “fantasies” of El’s fans. Do you have a hankerin’ to learn more about the fans who can’t give up the “ghost” . . . to go along with your Peanut Butter and ‘Nana sandwiches? Well, here’s your chance to meet an eclectic bunch who explain how The King touched their lives . . . just a little too deeply.

Next up, Elvis schools two lads on the art of motorcycle racing.

Eat the Peach (1986/drama) — 2 Stars
Would you believe Elvis . . . as the inspiration for motorcycle stuntmen? So goes this Irish comedy—with its title derived from the T.S Elliot poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufock”—about two unemployed lads who, after watching Elvis Presley’s 1964 opus Roustabout, hatch a plan to change their fortunes by becoming motorcycle stuntmen. If you’re a fan of Bill Foresyth’s early ’80s comedies Comfort and Joy and Gregory’s Girl from across the pond—both which incessantly spun on HBO back in the day—you’ll enjoy this Elvis-inspired comedy also adopted by the U.S cable channel.

Next up, Elvis is kidnapped!

Heartbreak Hotel (1988/comedy) — 2 Stars
First Elvis inspires motorcycle stuntmen in Eat the Peach, now he gets kidnapped . . . in a tale written and directed by a pre-Home Alone Christopher Columbus, in his follow up to Adventures in Babysitting. Charlie Schlatter (of TVs Diagnosis Murder) is Johnny Wolfe; he kidnaps Elvis (David Keith of Officer and a Gentleman) from a 1972 concert in Cleveland with the purpose to take him home to meet his mother (Tuesday Weld; meta-starred with Elvis in 1961’s Wild in the Country), a sickly, obsessed Elvis fan. The always reliable David Keith is fun to watch as he channels Elvis, but TV actor Charlie Schlatter isn’t a marquee actor and no Michael J. Fox (who could have made this really work), thus, this drags to a drab, TV movie-styled production.

Next up, the “ghost” of Elvis appears in a Memphis hotel.

Mystery Train (1989/drama) — 4 Stars
This Jim Jarmusch multi-character study takes place in the Arcade, a rundown Memphis hotel. Its occupants are foreigner travelers fascinated with all thing Americana—especially Elvis. The stories include a Japanese couple who visit Graceland, but are split on their fandom of Carl Perkins vs. Elvis. There’s an Italian widow who meets a stranger who tries to sell her a comb—that belonged to a hitchhiking Elvis. Finally, Joe Strummer of the Clash (following his role in Straight to Hell), is an Elvis loving, side-burned crook who goes into hiding after a liquor story robber gone bad. Steve Buscemi (Airheads) shows up (bonus!), along with ’60s rocker Screaming Jay Hawkins following up his appearance in Jaramusch’s Stranger than Paradise.

As for Elvis, he takes up . . . sky diving?

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) — 2 1/2 Stars
Film historian Andrew Bergman, who brought Marlon Brando back to the screen in The Freshman, scores as writer and director—courtesy of James Caan, Nicolas Cage, and Pat Morita (we can so without Sarah Jessica Parker, ugh) bringing their A-games to the tables. When Cage’s private eye loses $65,000 in Las Vegas poker game, he’s quickly mixed up with Caan’s professional gambler and assisted by Pat’s ne’er-do-well taxi driver to beat the debt. When does The King show up? Well, do you not know your classic movie scenes? Cage gets mixed up with—and jumps in full El regalia—the Utah chapter of “The Flying Elvises,” a skydiving team of Elvis impersonators. Cage, needless to say, garnered a well-deserved “Best Actor in a Motion Picture” nod at the Golden Globes. (Did you check out our “Nic Cage Bitch” feature? Well, you should.)

Next up for the King, he leaves Vegas for Providence, Rhode Island.

It’s a Complex World (1992/comedy) — 1 Star
Jeff Burgess is the manager of a Providence rock club, The Heartbreak Hotel. A disappointment to his ex-CIA agent father running for the Presidency, Dad feels his son’s rock club will negatively affect the presidential campaign: so he hires revolutionaries to stage a terrorist bombing at the club. As the terrorists close in, a biker gang (headed by Captain Lou Albano!) trashes the club. So, Elvis isn’t going to let his namesake be destroyed; he calls a Beatles tribute band appearing at the club—from beyond the grave, natch—to help Jeff fight off the villains. Blues rockers NRBQ (who appear on the film soundtracks for Tuff Turf and Spring Break) show up at the club for a few tunes, in addition to the New England bands Beat Legend and Stanley Matis and the Young Adults.

As for Elvis, well, his ghost reappears to a comic store clerk.

True Romance (1993/action) — 4 Stars
Christian Slater stars in this post-Reservoir Dogs Quentin Tarentino romp (directed by Tony Scott) as a comic book store clerk falling for the wrong girl, which leads him to become a “murderer” pursued by the mob. During those times o’ trouble: Slater turns to the ghost of Elvis (Val Kilmer) for some friendly advice. Yes, Slater, later crosses paths with The King in 3000 Miles to Graceland.

As for Elvis, he’s off to learn a few dance steps from some kid.

Forrest Gump (1994/drama) — 4 Stars
Yeah, the ‘60s greatest hits compilation soundtrack is great. Okay, well, maybe it’s a little nostalgia-evoking heavy handed. And we could do without Robin Wright. But hey, at least we, finally, know where The King picked up those dance moves that earned him the name “Elvis the Pelvis.” Peter Dobson turns in a brief, yet fun turn as King El; he brings it back, again, in a larger role as ol’ El in Protecting the King.

Yikes! The King’s mummified remains return.

Frankenstein Sings . . . The Movie (1995/comedy) — 1/2 Star
Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen, the creative team behind this musical comedy, made this in the same year as their Pixar Animation game changer, Toy Story. They’d go on to give us two Garfield movies and Evan Almighty; their earlier work, the 1988 televangelist spoof, Pass the Ammo, became a oft-ran pay cable favorite (pair it with Beth B.’s Salvation!). An amalgamate of Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s early ’60s novelty hit “Monster Mash” and an adaption of late ’60s stage musical, I’m Sorry the Bridge is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night, this also stars Pickett himself, as Dr. Frankenstein.

The pedigree is here, but why don’t I like this . . . am I biased to anything with Candace Cameron from TV’s Full House? No. Well, yes. But you know me with movies that feel to need to explain that “it’s a movie” (Hamburger: The Motion Picture will get you started): failure is afoot.

So, what’s this all have to do with Elvis?

Well, a young couple (Cameron) stranded on Halloween Night seeks refuge in the mansion of Dr. Frankenstein. As luck would have it, the good Doctor is throwing a party with his Monster, the Wolfman, and his mother, Mr. and Mrs. Dracula—and a mummified Elvis with his agent (Jimmy “JJ” Walker from TV’s Good Times?) as is invited guests. And the blood of a virgin (Cameron, natch) is needed to fully restore the king to life. Ugh. This Trix is for kids. And not even then.

And it gets worse: Elvis returns as a vampire.

Rockabilly Vampire (1997/comedy) — 1 Star
The fact that Troma Studios takes on Elvis should be a warning to you. A writer with an obsession for ‘50s culture goes on a quest to prove that Elvis is still alive and well. When she finds the King: he’s a side-burned vampire that wants to the pretty writer to be his new ‘Cilla. Not even the rockabilly soundtrack, helps.

Next up for Elvis: he’s scarfing snack cakes at rural grocery stores.

Elvis Is Alive! (1998/comedy) — No Stars
Subtitled: I Swear I Saw Him Eating Ding Dongs Outside the Piggly Wiggly’s . . . well, if you though Rockabilly Vampire was a rough stream of it. Not even the comedic stylings of Fred Willard as an Elvis impersonator helps this ersatz Saturday Night Live skit that goes on way, way, way . . . did I say “way” . . . too long.

Our raison d’etre is, of course, This is Spinal Tap, as a down-on-his-luck filmmaker has no choice but to write and direct a film about, well, the people who swear they’ve seen Elvis Presley . . . even though he’s been dead since 1977. So our faux-Marty Di Bergi travel’s America’s back roads interviewing an eclectic group of people, searching for the “truth”: Is The King still alive? All that is missing from this film is for it to be titled: Elvis Is Alive: The Movie. Yeah, it’s that bad. Yeah, if it’s all dumber than the “Country Music Spinal Tap” dung that is Dill Scallion, with it’s pseudo-Billy Ray Cyrus clone, it probably is. Look, if you absolutely must have a flick with a director on road trip looking for The King, fast forward to The King.

Next up, Elvis puts down the Ding Dongs . . . to become a federal agent?

No, he never made an Elvis flick, but Don made a lot of movies. Check out our “Exploring: The Movies of Don Kirshner” feature.

Elvis Meets Nixon (1998/comedy) — 3 Stars
Allan Arkush. That’s all you have to say and I am all in, as the man behind Rock ‘n Roll High School, as well as so many of the Roger Corman-produced films reviewed at B&S About Movies, directs this satirical rock ‘n’ roll tale making a big “what if” guess as to what happened during the infamous 1970 meeting between The King (looks sort-of-close but a still great n’ over-the-top Rick Peters; more TV work than film) and the President (a very funny Bob Gunton, in an antithesis of his role as the sadistic warden in The Shawshank Redemption; he also portrayed Nixon in a Watergate recreation for ABC-TV’s Nightline).

Elvis, guilt-tripped by an anti-war activist for contributing to the nation’s counterculture upheavals by influencing the Beatles, decides to correct that wrong by writing the President to become a Federal Drug agent. Comic events, as we say, ensues as El makes his way from Memphis to California to Washington as both men realizes they are in the same boat: they’re losing popularity with the people and desperately want to stay on top.

Under Arkush’s hand this tongue-in-cheek bioflick-meets-mockumentary is a lot of fun—and what film wouldn’t be so when TV takler Dick Cavett, musician Graham Nash, and Tony Curtis show up (as themselves)? That’s right: Elvis & Nixon, the later, dry-as-a-bone box office dramatic bomb missed the mark on the absurdity of these two egos being in the same room.

Well, El’s off to drift across American once more, back to Graceland.

Finding Graceland (1998/drama) — 3 Stars
Johnathon Schaech (of Tom Hanks’s terrific rock flick, That Thing You Do!, in spite of Liv Tyler’s presence) is an aspiring singer who lost his girlfriend in a car crash: one that he caused, while on his way to Nashville. Harvey Keitel appears as an eccentric drifter—and former Elvis impersonator—who also lost his wife in a tragic accident: on the August 17, 1977,  the same day the kind of rock n’ roll died. To cope with his loss, Keitel drifts aimless across the country—believing he is Elvis Presley. While attempting to drive away from the painful memories of the past in his beat up Cadillac, Schaech picks up the hitchhiking Elvis “on his way home” to Graceland. The duo soon ends up in Las Vegas, where Schaech begins a romance with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike and Keitel makes his return to the stage as the King.

How good is this film? Priscilla Presley enjoyed the script so much, she signed on as Executive Producer. Yeah, there’s a lot of heart up on that screen and Keitel is magnetic. Oh, as for Priscilla, if you’re keeping track: she also produced her own bioflick, Elvis and Me, as well as two TV docs: Elvis: The Tribute and Elvis Presley: The Searcher, as well two Elvis TV series: one a full, cancelled series, with the other a mini-series. Parts of this ended up a direct-to-DVD “what if” doc, Elvis Found Alive.

What’s that? The U.S is nuked and Elvis has come the “real” “King of America”?

Six-String Samurai (1998/action) — 4 Stars
The year is 1957: America is a laid waste after a Russian nuclear strike. Only Las Vegas survives as Elvis rules the country—with the kids of America adopting El’s rockabilly style and love of the martial arts. The King dies after 40 years of rule . . . and the samurai warrior musicians he begets begin their fight as heir to the King’s throne. Armed with a samurai sword in one hand and a guitar in the other, a Buddy Holly-lookalike appears from the wasteland using his rock ‘n’ roll and martial art skills to save the day.

This combination of kung fu ‘n’ roll—call it a sushi-western meets the Wizard of Oz, if you will—stars real life martial arts expert Jeffrey Falcon, a veteran of numerous Hong Kong action films who also scripted, as the Six String Samurai.

While absolutely entertaining in its bonkers approach to, well, everything it tosses on-screen, the then very-hip Slamdance Festival buzz wasn’t enough: this bombed at the box office with a less than $200,000 take against its meager, $2 million budget.

Anyway, El’s death is short lived, as he’s reanimated, once again.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Frankenstein (1999/comedy) — No Stars
Ugh. As if Frankenstein Sings . . . The Movie wasn’t enough to satiate our need for Elvis and Universal monsters cross-pollination. Did Paul Naschy make this? Oh, how we wish. . . .

Bernie Stein (yuk, yuk) is a washed up music agent desperate for a new musical talent to put him back on top. As luck would have it: Bernie’s coroner-employed nephew, Frankie Stein (ugh, ugh) developed a rejuvenation process that reanimates dead body parts. So Bernie decides that, instead of looking for new talent: he’ll create his own “ultimate rock star” by using the remains of rock’s greatest legends. Recruiting Iggy, a burnt out roadie with a fetish for desecrating graves, to acquire the legendary body parts, they construct a rock star with Keith Moon’s legs, Jimi Hendrix’s hands, Elvis’s head, and Jim Morrison’s penis. Unfortunately, a stoned Iggy cultivates the sexual organ of Liberace. Now Bernie’s newest star is confused by his sexual identity—as the “Liberace” side of the monster begins to assert itself and overpower the influence of its other, renowned body parts. Bernie’s monster then goes on a killing spree as a result of its sexual confusion.

Does the fact that the Monster performs the tune “I’m a Manster” and the punk-a-billy outfit Psycho Charger provides the tune, “Lectro Shock,” help? Nope. Everything Six-String Samurai is, this ain’t. This monster mush is just dumb, homophobic, vulgar, well, crap that’s an insult to the Presley estate as it tries to be the next The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Well, The King is off to rob Las Vegas!

3000 Miles to Graceland (2001/action-comedy) — 1 Star
Do you want to see Kurt Russell—who was Elvis in the John Carpenter-made TV movie, Elvis—portray The King, again (well, sort of), alongside Kevin Costner’s interpretation? Well, here it is, as some ex-cons of the Ocean’s 11-variety plan to rob a Vegas casino during an Elvis Convention Week. Not only did this clear less than $19 million against an $87 million budget, it swept the award nods (but won, none) at the Golden Raspberry and Stinkers Bad Movie Awards—as anything with David Arquette and the perpetually-shrill Courteney Cox, should.

Huh? Elvis meets another President of the United States?

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002/horror-comedy) — 4 Stars
Leave it to Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame and Bruce Campbell of The Evil Dead franchise to channel Elvis Presley . . . and a black “JFK” taking residence in a nursing home to battle an Egyptian vampire-mummy that sucks old people’s souls thru their, well, anus.

The source material, a novella of the same name, appears in the pages of the anthology The King Is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem written by Joe. R. Lansdale; his life is chronicled in the documentary, All Hail the Popcorn King. As for the sequel, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires . . . well, that’s never going to a happen. But look for Dynamite Entertainment’s four-issue crossover-miniseries Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep that continues the tale with Campbell’s Ash Williams teaming with Elvis.

Next up for Elvis, a female serial killer knocks off Elvis impersonators.

As with Elvis, there’s a few Kurt Cobain-inspired flicks. Check them out — and more — with our “Exploring: 50 Gen-X Grunge Films of the Alt-Rock ’90s” feature.

Elvis Has Left the Building (2005/comedy) — 2 Stars
Director Joel Zwick and actor John Corbett follow up their hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with this Elvis-inspired comedy that’s not a docudrama about Horace Lee Logan, the disc jockey who first uttered those famous words . . . it’s the comic misadventure of Harmony, the cosmetics saleswoman.

Supernatural forces are at play in the life of Harmony (Kim Basinger), a cosmetics saleswoman who believes her life is eerily entwined with the King—ever since her birth at one of his concerts. So, while on the road selling her lipsticks, she accidentally kills a few Elvis impersonators—and receives the attention of the Feds. Along the way, she falls for an advertising executive (Corbett) on the way to an Elvis convention in Las Vegas, where the real Elvis (Gil McKinney of TV’s ER and Friday Night Lights) shows up alongside Billy Ray Cyrus (ugh) Annie Potts (Pretty In Pink, but TV’s Young Sheldong, these days).

As for Horace Lee Logan, he produced and hosted the country music radio program Louisiana Hayride, in which Elvis debuted in October 1954 on KWKH—a 50,000-watt superstation broadcasting from Shreveport, Louisiana reaching a mind boggling 28 states.

And as for The King: he’s lives via the life of another impersonator.

Eddie Presley (2007/drama) — 2 1/2 Stars
We’ve seen the adventures of Elvis impersonators in 1998s Finding Graceland and 3000 Miles to Graceland. This time out, noted horror film director , known for the Pumpkinhead, The Stepfather, Puppet Master, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises, changes genre gears to direct and produce this story about a down-and-out Tempe, Arizona, security guard who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator. Duane Whitaker, he of the redneck rape scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, wrote and starred in the original, one-act play written on which the film is based. Is Whitaker the next Billy Boy Thornton or Chazz Palminteri, here? No, but he’s still quite good in the ersatz-Elvis role. This lumbered around the festival circuits and was hard-to-find since 1992, even in a post-Pulp Fiction world, finding wider exposure on DVD in later years.

Next up, we meet The King . . . and his stepbrother.

Protecting the King (2007/docudrama) — 1 Star
David Edward Stanley, Elvis’s real life stepbrother, writes and directs this tale about his job protecting The King of Rock & Roll as his bodyguard, starting at the tender age of 16. Peter Dobson (of Frank Stallone’s failed passion project, The Good Life), who also portrayed Elvis in Forrest Gump, stars. Keep those eyes open for the always welcomed Tom Sizemore (who made his debut in A Matter of Degrees) and Dey Young (who broke our hearts in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), neither helping, here.

As for Elvis, he keeps on truckin’ . . . right to the street near The Heartbreak Hotel.

Lonely Street (2009/drama) — 1 1/2 Stars
In a casting twist of fate: Robert Patrick (the liquid metal “Terminator” in Terminator 2) played Elvis’s father Vernon in the U.S. TV mini-series, Elvis: The Early Years (2005). This time, Patrick may or may not be “The King,” living in seclusion under an assumed name, “Mr. Aaron.” Hounded by a tabloid reporter ready to ready to tell the world that “Elvis lives,” Mr. Aaron (remember, Aaron was Elvis’s dead twin brother) hires a bumbling private eye to keep his secret. Yes. Patrick as Elvis: it’s a stretch, but he makes it work, as great actor, should.

Well, after exploits of his stepbrother, why not his real brother, Aaron?

The Identical (2014/drama) — 1 Star
Did we really need a Christian-based inspiration film based on Elvis . . . if his brother, Aaron, never died? Well, here it is: Twin brothers are unknowingly separated at birth; one of them, Drexel Hemsley, becomes an iconic rock ‘n’ roll star; the other, Ryan Wade, born Dexter Hemsley, struggles in poverty as he battles his adopted preacher-father (Ray Liotta!) in his discovery of music vs. a life in the ministry. Seeing “Elvis,” go ’70 prog-rock, here—since he never died—is an interesting twist, though.

Is Elvis still alive and well, in Alabama? Well, sort of. . . .

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015/documentary) — 4 Stars
The idea of a “phantom” Elvis first birthed in the fictionalized pages of Gail Brewer Giorgio’s novel, Orion. Published prior to Presley’s August 1977 death—with a somewhat analogous storyline to Jim Morrison’s alleged The Bank of America of Louisiana tome (and predating P.F Kluge’s similarly-styled 1980 novel, Eddie and the Cruisers)—Giorgio’s novel concerned an Elvis-styled singer who faked his death to escape fame.

Then Shelby Singleton, the then owner of Sun Records, Elvis Presley’s old recording home, pinched from Giorgio’s book (Giorgio was not complicit in Singleton’s marketing scheme) and created an Elvis doppelganger: Orion, and hired Alabama-born singer Jimmy Ellis to fill those blue suede shoes. The film tells Ellis’s real life story in the music business.

Ugh. Kevin Spacey in an Elvis déjà vu flick?

Elvis & Nixon (2016/comedy-drama) — 1/2 Star
Just, no. Rewind the more passionate, Allan Arkush’s Elvis Meets Nixon from 1998. Kevin Spacey is pure Golden Raspberry slicing-ham as Nixon and the always-reliable Michael Shannon as The King? Great in other places, but not here. It’s all just a dumb, major studio boondoggle. Please leave the Elvis flicks to the indie guys. Please.

It was enviable: Elvis’s car has a tale to tell.

The King (2018/documentary) — 4 Stars
Okay, we are breaking ranks with this second documentary that takes an inspired approach: Forty years after The King’s death, director Eugene Jarecki sets off across American in Elvis’s 1963 Rolls-Royce Phantom V to explore a life—and how that life affected Americans—via archive footage and interview insights. A really fine, unique work from the filmmaker who gave us insightful, The Trails of Henry Kissinger (2002).

And it all comes full circle to . . .

Elvis (2022/drama) — 3 Stars
Baz Luhrmann, the Australian filmmaker who wowed us with the worldwide hit romantic comedy Strictly Ballroom (1992), along with the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), and the Golden Globe Award-winning Moulin Rouge! (2001), writes and direct this biographical drama starring Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker and ex-child/teen star Austin Butler (Disney’s Hannah Montana, Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Zoey 101; he was “Tex Watson” in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) as Elvis (also in the running: Harry Styles of the boy band, One Direction).

Initially scheduled for release on November 5, 2021, Warner Bros. rescheduled the film for a June 3, 2022, release with a 45-day delayed stream on HBO Max.

Elvis in the 21st century!

The New Gladiators, the lost “Elvis” flick that’s now out on DVD.

The Beatles are also back in theaters with the upcoming Midas Man (2023) centered on the Beatles’ relationship with their manager, Brian Epstein. You can enjoy the last of our three-part Exploring: The Beatles: Influences on Film” series to learn more about the film.

Image courtesy of Daytrippin’ Beatles Magazine.

The Rest of the Best with Elvis, Worthy of a Watch on your DVD or Blu:

Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special (1968/TV Special)
Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (1970/documentary)
Elvis on Tour (1972/concert film)
Elvis (1979/TV docudrama) Yes, with Kurt Russell as The King.
Elvis and the Beauty Queen (1981/TV docudrama) This time, it’s Don Johnson.
This Is Elvis (1981/documentary)
Elvis and Me (1988/TV docudrama) Hey, it’s Dale Midkiff.
Elvis: The Miniseries, aka Elvis: The Early Years in its overseas theatrical life, (2005/TV docudrama) Yep. That’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Let’s not forget Elvis’s racing flicks that we rounded up for one of our “Drive-In Friday” features.

A whole night of Elvis on the oval circle!

Additional Elvis Reading: Neal Umphred, a name you know from the internationally-acclaimed “Goldmine Price Guide to Collectable Records” series, has an in-depth blog, Elvis – A Touch of Gold, regarding Elvis’s music and records. The way author and music journalist Jim Cherry knows Jim Morrison? Yeah, it’s like that with Neal and Elvis. Visit Neal on the web at his personal website.

After speaking with Neal, I’ve learned his favorites are Finding Graceland, 3,000 Miles to Graceland, and The Identical. So take his suggestions and do check out those three films for your Elvis fix.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes film reviews for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.