Elvis: That's The Way It Is captures Elvis as his fans no doubt
want to remember him:
looking good and apparently on top of the world.
Presented without narration, the story begins with Elvis
arriving at the MGM Studios in Culver City in 1970 to
begin rehearsals with his band. If the stakes are high,
the pressure certainly doesn't show. It's good ol' boys
loosening up and goofing off and very comfortable in the
presence of the cameras.
Elvis: That's The Way It
Is was successfully released 30 years ago but it's been
picked up in the wave of restorations of recent times.
This new version has been completely re-edited from the
original material which producer Rick Schmidlin's search
Rick Schmidlin: "We had people going
down two miles below the earth in Kansas looking for
unmarked cans that possibly contained the footage and we
found things! We found the original 16-track masters. So
we were able to go into the studio and digitally re-mix
this from the 16 tracks so that you can now hear things
that you never heard before and see separations of the
music that you have never seen before."
Rehearsals continue as they move to Las Vegas. They're
joined by back-up vocalists who work at first with
recordings and then live with the band. Among them are
base player Jerry Scheff, drummer Ronnie Tutt and Elvis'
lead guitarist, James Burton. All have had long and
successful careers since these heady times. In the film,
Burton will feature in several solos on stage and, 30
years on, he recalls what it was like working with
James Burton: "We had great eye contact on
stage and he'd watch me a lot and I never took my eyes
off him because you never knew what was going to happen
next so you had to pretty much keep your eye on him at
Jerry Scheff: "We rehearsed probably
200 songs with him. When we played then with him, it
wasn't like a rehearsal, it was more like we were just
having fun; it was more like jamming. But Elvis was
always in charge. There was nobody else in charge but
Rick Schmidlin has reshaped the original
film to give greater emphasis to the music and to the
interaction of Elvis with the people around him,
including his entourage of assistants and hangers-on,
including Joe Esposito.
Joe Esposito: "There was
a team. There wasn't just Elvis and his band. If he
wanted to change something, do whatever he wanted to do,
he did it. But the band — they were great — they could
do anything he wanted and Elvis loved that and that's
why he got along so great with them."
"You forget some of the silliness that's in it. Like
he's just sitting there and the mike starts going over
and he's looking at it. And you know, I know what he's
thinking, but it's just the craziness at the time. He
wouldn't allow the seriousness of, as you say, a paying
crowd to keep him from getting tickled or getting crazy
about something. He didn't care in that way."
point that many commentators and fellow musicians make
about Presley is that he broke new ground in countless
ways. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger
and countless others acknowledge their debt to him.
Presley imitated nobody. One of the most highly charged
scenes in the film is his spontaneous walk through the
crowd. Every woman wants to kiss him, it seems, and the
men shake him respectfully by the hand.
Schmidlin: "I think it's going to shock people when they
see how good he looked. When he put on his white stage
suits in 1970 he had a 32-inch waist and [he was] in top
physical shape, probably the [best] physical shape of
Jerry Scheff: "Elvis was a true
musician and a true vocalist and when he sang, I really
believe the lyrics went through his mind and through his
heart and came out his mouth."
Elvis fans — and
there's still legions — will need no encouragement to
revisit their hero's finest hour. For those who've never
cared about Presley or just don't know what all the fuss
was about, Elvis: That's The Way It Is could be the most
surprising film you'll ever see. With brilliantly
restored image and sound, it has a freshness that is
genuinely amazing. It may open doors for you to the
history of recent popular culture that nothing else can.
Director Denis Sanders
James Burton Lead Guitar, John
Wilkinson Rhythm Guitar, Charlie Hodge Rhythm Guitar,
Jerry Scheff Bass, Glen Hardin Piano, Ronnie Tutt Drums,
Millie Kirkham Vocal, Imperial Quartet Vocals, Sweet
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