13th August 2020 (One Night Only Theatrical Re-Release), 11th November 1970 (US Premiere)
Concert footage and backstage documentary of singer Elvis Presley captured at the Las Vegas Summer Festival.
Elvis Presley, James Burton, Glen D. Hardin
Even the most tone deaf amongst us will have no doubt at some point or another enjoyed the musical stylings of Mr. Elvis Aaron Presley. With a back catalogue of some of the most popular hits of all time, Presley solidified himself as a cultural icon who will forever be remembered and revered by many.
As well as being one of the most famous musicians of all time, Presley was also a prolific actor. Elvis: That’s the Way It Is marked Presley’s first non-dramatic theatrical appearance and was originally released alongside his twelfth studio album of the same name.
Elvis: That’s the Way It Is has previously been re-edited twice, in the first case for a television network debut and in the second case for a DVD release. Now, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the original 1970 release, the film has been remastered and will return to theatres for a one night only special screening.
Elvis: That’s the Way It Is is described as being both a documentary film and a concert film, however in this case the concert film description is a lot more apt. In the typical sense of the word, yes this film can be described as a documentary due to its use of real-life footage and events. Yet, in a filmic sense, this film feels far from what most audiences would associate with the ideas and traits of what we might expect from a documentary film. Namely, a documentary film should educate and inform us or perhaps reveal insights into the previously unknown. That’s the Way It Is, whilst showing minimal pieces of footage of Presley rehearsing, does not do any of the above. Those hoping to see more of what made Presley tick or secret glimpses into his life will most likely be disappointed – this film does not reveal anything that most audiences will not already know or have seen before.
Instead, not unlike the 1968 made-for-TV Comeback Special, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is very much concentrates on showing Presley performing. In this case, the performances are taken from Presley’s Las Vegas concerts at the International Hotel. During these performances, he sings a selection of hits including many of his well-known songs such as ‘Suspicious Minds,’ ‘All Shook Up’ and ‘Love Me Tender.’ As can be expected, Presley’s voice and performance are great and perfectly in line with his image of the time. It is also interesting to see how he reacts to the audience and his interactions with the fans. At one point, he kisses several fans and one girl cannot stop crying. All in all, Presley comes across well, his charisma and star quality evident – he certainly stands out from everyone else. The concert footage is definitely where Elvis: That’s the Way It Is shines and comes into its own. The earlier footage of rehearsals, whilst interesting, does drag slightly and is not helped by there being no structure to the film. The audience is shown titbits, but bar a few words onscreen telling us of the locations, there is no context or extra information provided.
For those who are die hard fans of The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis: That’s the Way It Is will be a real treat and a great trip down memory lane. No one can fault the talent of Presley and the great music that he made, and this film does bring that to life. Even non fans will be hard pressed to watch this film and not find themselves singing along. However, for those with a lesser love for Presley, there may be little to keep you engaged throughout.
Elvis: That’s The Way It Is will be in UK Cinemas for one night only only on Thursday 13th August 2020 with tickets available here.
Concert footage is where the film shines
A nostalgic trip for long-time followers of Presley
Reinforces the unending longevity of his music
Rehearsal footage drags slightly & lacks in-depth context
Nothing revealed that the most faithful Presley fan wouldn't already know about The King