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Image Entertainment presents
"Elvis was a Cadillac person."
DVD ReviewElvis Presley liked to do things in a big way—big talent, big meals, big entourage, and by the end, big belly and big pharmaceutical consumption. He had a problem uttering the words "I'm sorry," apparently, but loved to shower those around him with gifts—sometimes out of affection, sometimes out of guilt. And Elvis really, really liked to buy cars for people. The title of this odd little documentary is a rough estimate of the number of Caddys that Elvis gave to folks over the years; the King is dead, but here we get to hear from those who got one of Detroit's finest, courtesy of Graceland's most famous resident.
There's not a whole lot of new news about Presley here, and what you get instead is an unintentional portrait of the entourage and extended sucking up that went on around a star of Presley's magnitude. Those interviewed are identified by their connection to Elvis, and while some of the titles are self-explanatory ("Elvis' Karate Instructor," "Elvis' Bodyguard"), others are inadvertently hilarious, telling us more about the pomposity and egocentrism of Elvis' "friends": favorites include "Elvis' Personal Nurse and Confidant," "Wife of Elvis' Karate Mentor," and best of all, "Elvis' Hairstylist and Spiritual Advisor." It's a movie about the world of Elvis, and not really about the cars.
But he sure did love those cars. He was a Cadillac salesman's dream, showing up on the lot and buying ten at a time; some of these guys are interviewed, and all these years later they remain giddy with delight over the commissions they received on these Presley fleets. Elvis didn't buy cars just for his buddies, either—he bought one for a Denver TV reporter who said nice things about him, he bought them for cops who took care of him (officers of the law accepting these sorts of gifts certainly strikes me as unseemly, even if it's not illegal), and sometimes he would just stop at a Caddy dealership and buy a car for strangers who were admiring the latest El Dorado and couldn't afford it themselves. Cadillacs were the vehicle of choice, but Elvis also made gifts of Mercedes Benzes and Trans-Ams; and it wasn't just cars, either—also documented here are gifts of minks, jewelry, dogs, horses, Harleys, even a house. The portrait you get of Presley is of a lonely man hungering for love, and a belly full of peanut butter and banana sandwiches, or pills, or Sevilles parked in all of his friends' driveways could never slake that thirst. All these cars actually sort of humanize him—he's not a punchline, or even a great talent here; he's just a decent, big hearted, deeply troubled man.
There's no Elvis music here, unfortunately, and relatively little live-action footage of him, but there are many, many photographs of Presley behind the wheel—of Caddys, motorcycles, golf carts, whatever. The documentary was conceived by a guy named Rex Fowler, who conducts some of the interviews, and wrote and recorded a slew of Elvis tribute songs for the occasion; he even got to cut them at Memphis's legendary Sun Studios. Like Elvis, Fowler seems like a very nice guy; unlike Elvis, Fowler's music is pretty bad. The lyrics are obvious and unamusing and uninspired ("He liked Cadillacs / He gave a ton away"), and some of the songs have titles that are downright embarrassing—e.g., Shine a Little Light on Elvis. The closest we get to the genuine Elvis, the young, vital, revolutionary Elvis, is a brief interview with D.J. Fontana, drummer on Presley's original Sun sessions. Of course, in this context, he's talking about the gifts he got from Elvis, too.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: Much of this seems to have been shot on video, and the transfer to DVD is slapdash; colors aren't sharp, but skin tones are rendered adequately enough.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: There's some static and a limited dynamic range on the soundtrack, but everything is sufficiently audible.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Nothing but chapter stops.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsElvis Presley knew as well as anyone that it's better to give than to receive, but a roster of his gifts doesn't really tell us much about the man. This documentary is respectful about the King and his big heart, but watch it only if you're really, really keen on seeing a snapshot of Elvis driving a golf cart.
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