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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 15:51 GMT
Elvis: The way he was
Elvis Presley
Elvis: 131 gold, platinum or multi-platinum releases in the US alone
Since Elvis Presley's death in 1977, his image as a rock legend has been under attack from those who remember him as an overweight glutton.

A new cinema release sets out to answer his critics and bolster his status as the ultimate rock and roll icon.

Elvis -That's the Way It Is, is a revamped version of a 1970 concert documentary.

Elvis facts
Has sold more than one billion records worldwide
Had 131 albums and singles go gold, platinum, or multi-platinum in US alone
Had 149 songs on the Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart in US
Starred in 30 feature films
One of Hollywood's top box office draws and highest paid actors for many years
It shows Elvis the performer, singer and person at his potent and charismatic best.

Directed by Denis Sanders, the film follows Elvis from rehearsal to stage as he makes his triumphant return to live shows in Las Vegas.

Sanders made his film from the edited footage of just six shows in 1970, taken from Elvis's five years of two four-week seasons at the Las Vegas International Hotel.

But, explains Todd Slaughter - secretary of the UK's official Elvis Presley fan club - the six shows were more than enough.

"Elvis showed not only this Las Vegas audience but, through the movie, the whole world what an accomplished entertainer he had become. He is vital, handsome, funny and has a soft, supple voice with an amazing vocal range."

The film shows Elvis in rehearsal as a musician
Sanders interspersed his original film with interviews with hotel staff and overwhelmed fans.

Thirty years on, the film has been reworked and improved. The asides with staff and fans have been cut out and 40% of unseen footage added.

The result is a film of Elvis the musician rather than Elvis the star.

Slaughter, who was among the fan contingent included in the original, wholly approves of the re-edit.

"Sanders chose to concentrate on the bizarre aspects of our gathering, which both devalued our people and showed Elvis enjoying the support of fans who were not quite 'the full quid'," he says.

"Happily, all the European and American fans have been edited out of the special edition. What is left is an astonishing film that looks as if it were made yesterday."

And joker
The film is split into three parts. The first shows Elvis practising with his instrumentalists.

It then moves on to his work with his backing groups, The Sweet Inspirations and The Imperials. The climatic final third section is devoted to the shows.

In each segment, the songs are representative of Elvis's mood and his diverse musical influences.

In rehearsal, Elvis switches from a heart-felt rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water to Get Back, from The Beatles. Later he bursts into his own spontaneous version of the Happy Yodler.

The concerts are the reserve of some of his greatest and most memorable hits including The Wonder of You, Blue Suede Shoes, Love Me Tender, In the Ghetto and Suspicious Minds.

Elvis "had this special aura", says his UK fan club secretary
Despite Elvis's obvious awareness of the camera, the film is an intimate portrayal of a man who was hugely charming both on and off stage.

With his musicians he is relaxed and joking, child-like at times. In the showroom, he is an irrepressible force who drives his audience wild with a single movement.

But here too he shows the human touch, getting down into the crowd and walking among them, hugging and kissing fans.

Elvis gave more than 1,000 shows from the time he began performing again in 1969 until his death - but he never toured outside the United States.

Sanders's film was originally made for his fans around the world who had, and would never, see him perform live.

Slaughter, who met Elvis on three occasions, believes this new version of the film does Elvis justice and will show future generations why Elvis is known as the King.

"Nothing prepared me for meeting Elvis. He had this special aura. Yet, he was also very human. This film will act as a marvellous vehicle to show people who Elvis really was."

See also:

14 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Celebrities earn from the grave
08 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Elvis jacket fails to charm
17 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Keeping the King's flame alive
11 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Elvis sale fetches millions
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