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Denis Sanders
Elvis Presley

Concert footage and backstage documentary of singer Elvis Presley.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
Portuguese Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 8/12/2014

• “Patch It Up: The Reconstruction of Elvis: That’s the Way It Is” Featurette
• Outtakes
• Trailer
• Theatrical Version of Elvis: That’s the Way It Is
• Hardcover Book


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Elvis: That's the Way It Is [Blu-Ray] (1970)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 4, 2014)

In the decades since his death in 1977, the public seemed to focus on a cartoony version of Elvis Presley and his singing/performing abilities have receded to the background. With a reworked version of a 1970 concert documentary called Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, an attempt was made to bring back the vision of Presley as a vital, exciting attraction. Unfortunately, the result is only partially successful.

When the film fails, it does so because of the campiness Elvis had introduced into his act. During the Sixties, Elvis - as with virtually all of the rock stars of the Fifties - had become irrelevant in the face of the big acts of the Sixties. After wasting away in one glossy Hollywood production after another, Presley attempted to reclaim his crown with a 1968 comeback TV special and album

It worked, as it depicted Elvis as fierce and alive, and he presented his music in a rootsy and thrilling manner. To capitalize on his regained popularity, Elvis started to perform live again; apparently he’d done no concerts since the mid-Fifties.

Rather than tour, Presley took up residence for a long stint at the Las Vegas International Hotel in 1969. He followed this month-long gig with a similar stint the following year, and soon after that ended, Presley embarked on a proper US tour.

In the 1970 performances shot for That’s the Way It Is, Elvis unquestionably looks good. Since he’d been famous for so long at the time, we forget that he was only 35 years old in 1970. In rock star terms, that was relatively ancient in that era. Though it seems pretty young today, no one expected rock performers to go past their mid-twenties back then, and it took the continuing careers of acts like the Stones to expand the horizons of how old is too old to rock.

In addition to his fit and trim appearance, Elvis featured a hot band, with many musicians who had performed with him in his 1968 special. The core group - known as the “TCB Band” - presented guitarist James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff, keyboard player Glen Hardin and drummer Ron Tutt, all excellent performers who also can be seen in the splendid Roy Orbison A Black and White Night concert. Had Elvis stuck with just a small core group, this show could have been special, but instead he expanded the organization to a ridiculous extreme; a slew of extra musicians and singers clutter the stage and help make the music too ornate and syrupy.

Not many absolutes exist in this world, but I do know of at least one: rock ‘n’ roll should never be performed in a Las Vegas showroom. I suppose there may be a worse setting for this kind of music, but I can’t think of one, and the location immediately makes prospects for a hot show unlikely.

Unfortunately, Elvis plays down to his setting and audience throughout much of the show. This is King as Clown, and he often goofs around in a manner that distracts from the performance. He doesn’t seem to take the music seriously, so neither do I.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect performers to act as though they’re curing cancer when they play, and I’m all for fun and visual shows. However, I don’t like to see musicians joke it up through their material, and the lack of respect with which Presley treats classics like “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender” bothers me.

The latter tune represents the nadir of the performance as Elvis barely bothers to sing the song. Instead, he spends the period smooching with adoring female fans in the crowd. He even offers a romp through the audience, something that just seems lame.

That’s the Way It Is works quite well at times, however, which just serves to make its flaws that much more frustrating. During the first third of the movie, we’re treated to footage of Elvis rehearsing with the core band. These offer tantalizing glimpses of the solid show that could have been and present interesting looks behind the scenes. The more time I spend with the TCBs, the better, so this opening half an hour or so could be quite stimulating.

Some of the songs presented during the concert proper cook nicely as well. “Patch It Up” has been stuck in my head for the last few days, and when Elvis launches a hot version of “One Night”, it looks like the show might actually become something worth watching.

However, he immediately halts the rising fervor with a goofy vocal that ruins “Don’t Be Cruel”. “Blue Suede Shoes” and “All Shook Up” have their moments, but the show limps to a close with overwrought tunes “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “Suspicious Minds” before the ultimate conclusion with “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. The latter is a solid song at its heart, but Elvis smothers it with schmaltz.

I also find Elvis to be in moderately poor voice throughout much of the show. He seems off-key a lot of the time, and though he appears to have been in good shape, he sounds winded during a lot of the performance. The weakness of his vocals harms the performances even more, especially when contrasted with the crisp musical quality of the TCBs.

Ultimately, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is gives us occasional peeks of what made Elvis special, but these are too few and far between to provide a genuinely special experience. Elvis would provide less inspiring performances but this one remains erratic and flawed.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

That’s the Way It Is appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Although it occasionally showed its age, for the most part the picture looked pretty strong.

Sharpness usually seemed positive. A few shots came across as mildly soft and fuzzy, but these weren’t a concern. The vast majority of the film showed good delineation; due to the nature of the photography, it didn’t become razor sharp, but the image was acceptably well-defined.

Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no concerns, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws were a non-factor, as I might’ve noticed a speck or two but nothing more than that. Instead, the movie seemed clean.

Colors generally appeared bright and vivid. The image came with a natural palette that – like the sharpness – was occasionally affected by the status of the original photography, but the hues seemed mostly vibrant. Black levels also looked deep and rich, and contrast was solid; Elvis’ white jumpsuits appeared pure and clean. Shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but never excessively thick. This was a good representation of the film.

I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of That’s the Way It Is. For the most part, the soundfield stayed oriented toward the forward channels. As a whole, the audio offered nice stereo separation in the concert sequences, with instruments clearly and specifically located within the forward spectrum.

Surround usage seemed mild. Some crowd noise appeared in the rear channels, and I also heard occasional instrumentation from the back speakers. This remained a front-oriented track, and that made sense for the project’s focus.

The localization seemed a little awkward during some of the rehearsal sequences. Instruments and vocals appeared rigidly stuck in one side or the other of the front soundfield, and they didn’t blend especially well. However, the sound mainly provided clear, smooth stereo imaging, and that worked well for the project.

Audio quality seemed good. During some of the rehearsal bits, things could sound slightly rough, but those concerns were minor, and when we entered the true concert segments, the audio appeared very clean and professional.

Elvis’ vocals were rich and distinct, and the various instruments came across as natural and accurate. I thought that the track could have provided more substantial bass; I heard some low end throughout the film but these elements seemed a little too modest. Nonetheless, the audio for That’s the Way It Is mostly presented a listenable and enjoyable auditory experience.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2001? Audio had a little more depth, and the visuals seemed tighter and more film-like. This became a good step up from the old DVD.

That’s the Way It Is includes a few extras, and we open with a featurette called Patch It Up: the Restoration of Elvis: That’s the Way It Is. While this nine-minute and 13-second program offers a few details about the creation of the special edition of the movie, for the most part it simply gives us a modest retrospective. Although it’s not a great piece, it was fun to hear from musicians like James Burton and Ron Tutt, all of whom give us their reflections upon their experiences. It’s a superficial piece, but I enjoyed these snippets nonetheless.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we locate 12 Outtakes that fill a total of 32 minutes, 34 seconds. The outtakes deliver additional musical rehearsals/performances as well as some behind the scenes tidbits. The quality isn’t very good, but it’s nice to see these clips nonetheless.

On a second disc, we get a DVD with the theatrical version of the film. At 1:48:20, this cut actually runs quite a bit longer than the Blu-ray’s Special Edition. It includes a lot of interview material with fans and folks involved in the concert, and it also takes us away from Elvis a lot more. I’m glad the package provides the theatrical version, but the SE works better.

The package also includes a hardcover book. In this glossy affair, we get notes about Elvis, the performances shot for the film and related production elements as well as photos. It finishes the set in a pleasing manner.

Although his legacy has lost some luster over the years, Elvis Presley remains one of the all-time great rock stars, and he continues to demand respect for what he did. Unfortunately, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is features Elvis as he began his decline. Though the 1970 concert performance occasionally catches fire, too much of it resides in the category of campy blandness. The Blu-ray brings us good picture and audio along with a set of supplements highlighted by the film’s theatrical cut. That’s the Way It Is sparks to life at times but lacks consistency.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4444 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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