Elvis Presley-The Searcher HBO documentary

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Mr. LP Collector, Apr 15, 2018 at 12:02 AM.

  1. Mr. LP Collector

    Mr. LP Collector Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I just got through watching this documentary on HBO-really enjoyed it! It comes in two parts, generally before the military and after military. Lots of interviews from Tom Petty to Emmy Lou Harris to D.J. Fontana to Cissy Houston to many other people in the music business. Both parts total about 3 1/2 hours.

    I just got through checking on Amazon and "Elvis-The Searcher" is available on CD and LP, not dvd as of yet.

    Very very good documentary-I recommend it!:righton:
  2. GillyT

    GillyT Well-Known Member

    Heartily agree. Wonderful. Beautiful. I'm still processing it...

    At last Elvis gets a film that places his immense musical and cultural impact centre stage, that packs an emotional wallop. Tom Petty's contribution to the narrative was just outstanding and poignant in itself for obvious reasons.

    It speaks to accusations of 'cultural appropriation' by placing Elvis firmly in the time and place he grew up in, in much the same way as the early chapters of Guralnick's 'Last Train To Memphis', driven home by Stax producer's David Porter's narrative of Elvis as an integrator and student of music of all kinds, especially gospel.

    My only criticism is that it felt a little rushed at times. I would have like to have seen the story stretched out a little more in places, but fingers crossed there will be a director's cut and an interesting array of extras in the blu-ray release when it comes out.

    Minor quibbles. Top marks HBO, Thom Zimney & co. It'll be hard to beat this one.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 12:42 AM
  3. CowboyBill

    CowboyBill Forum Resident

    I loved it, but as stated above, it did seemed rushed in areas. The fact of not mentioning his mom dying while in the army was strange. Also, more Memphis '69 music / discussion would have been nice. Other than that, very enjoyable!!
    GillyT likes this.
  4. RSteven

    RSteven Forum Resident

    Brookings, Oregon
    Yes, I too enjoyed the HBO documentary immensely and agree with most of the comments above about the quality and the interviews. I really loved some of the unseen fan footage from the 70's concert in pretty amazing quality, some of which I have never seen before. Also great use of Elvis's own voice talking about his career, some too of which I am not sure if I have ever heard before. A real honest and balanced approach that put the emphasis on his music talent and versatility as a singer. I like the second part a lot and that is the one the part that I thought they might screw up. I do wish that James Burton would have been interviewed for the film as I think his contribution to Elvis's music in the last eight years is indispensable.

    I loved both Bruce and Petty's thoughts. Wow, both very insightful with Bruce really sounding intelligent and spot on. I also think that Ernest Jorgensen well deserved his placement in the film as he is one of the key people to help guide Elvis's iconic recording catalogue back to a coherent scheme and getting people like Vic Anesini involved in the remastering process of his master tapes. I think that the only thing that is surprising is that it took this long after his death to get the definitive documentary of Elvis Presley the artist.
  5. baconbadge

    baconbadge Forum Resident

    Queens, NY
    Yea, his mom dying was a huge turning point for him. The beginning of dark times for E.
    Purple Jim and audiomixer like this.
  6. GillyT

    GillyT Well-Known Member

    You must've nipped out. It was definitely mentioned. ;)
    hutlock, utopiarun and RSteven like this.
  7. Jayson Wall

    Jayson Wall Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    A phenomenal 202 minutes. Wow!!!!!
    Carl80 and GillyT like this.
  8. Great Music Lover

    Great Music Lover Well-Known Member

    I have not seen it, but I have heard that the quality of some of the music footage especially the 68 TV Show is not very good and that there is nothing from any of the early TV shows. It sounds like it is a documentary about him as a person as opposed to just showing the entertainer side of things with lots of music clips. Some fans thought it was good and others not so good - with the absence of lots of "Elvis singing" footage, were the producers aiming more for the casual or non fan instead of the the fans that probably have every bit of musical footage available.
  9. GillyT

    GillyT Well-Known Member

    Definitely the latter. Having seen the film and read some of the early online feedback, here's my take.

    There are always going to be those hard-core Elvis fans for whom unseen / pristine footage trumps the story arc. In other words, who lack the imagination to remember what it was to see the 68 Comeback footage for the first time. Zimney's editing skill comes into his own as he segues from Lloyd Price's original recording of 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy', to Elvis' studio version from his first album, then to the live 68 Comeback version. The rawness of Elvis' performance was a 'wow' moment for me that hit me in the gut. Having it in higher definition had nothing to do with the emotion of that moment. Just happy to see it included.

    I have a feeling that, as with the Sinatra blu-ray, there will be extended footage included of what was presented fleetingly in the film.

    Hope that helps. :righton:
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 4:14 AM
  10. peteham

    peteham Forum Resident

    Simcoe County
    I liked it up to about 1967 - I found some of the editing a bit too sly - and the cheat of using August 1970 material to portray July 1969 was just irritating to me - along with the implication that Elvis wrote 'If I Can Dream' - I think they should have used the September 2 1974 bit where he unravels on stage as well - it felt like they mentioned his drug use because they had to - not because they actually wanted to give us actual insight into it - they saved their vitriol for the Colonel - plus I wanted far more music - but hey - everyone's a critic -
  11. I don't think we're ever going to get anything approaching Elvis: What Happened? from anything that has Priscilla or EPE's blessing.
    blastfurniss and JLGB like this.
  12. Mylene

    Mylene Forum Resident

    That Lawdy Miss Clawdy isn't on Elvis' first album was the kind of sloppy research you expect from the people behind this documentary.. They'd be better off spending their time keeping T. Rex out of the Hall of Fame.
  13. GillyT

    GillyT Well-Known Member

    Ok, just to be clear, the reference to Elvis' first album is my mistake.

    Have you seen the film yet? It deals with Elvis' drug addiction in a humane way; ie it contextualises it in much the same way as Amy Winehouse's addictions in the film about her. I personally think there has been a fairly unrelenting focus on Elvis' slide into addiction over the past 30 years. Time to change the record.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 5:44 AM
    BeatleJWOL and RSteven like this.
  14. CowboyBill

    CowboyBill Forum Resident

    I wasn't expecting much unseen footage, but a couple On Tour pieces were amazing! The Burning Love rehearsal (or studio?) footage and American Trilogy footage made the night for me. I hope we sometime get all this stuff in due time.
    RSteven likes this.
  15. genesim

    genesim Well-Known Member

    St. Louis
    I am terrible, but I hated the still image approach, I hated the close up on cigarettes coffee cups etc.. and for the most part ignoring quality video in place of voice over after voice over after voice over. Why was this in widescreen? Most of the footage was terribly cropped and it was a headache to sit through.

    Talking head, yeah overdone, but still work. Expression is everything, and SEEING how a commentator feels what they say and not just saying it, means much more to me...if it has to be done.

    I admit one thing, I was bored to tears and I love the man and just about everything he ever did. After listening to his entire official collection recently and listening to those tons of songs repeatedly, I actually get sick on how many aspects of his fine craft are glossed over. Lest we mention his home recordings and snippets that have him covering dozens of Bing Crosby songs etc... But this documentary was BORING.

    This was obviously aimed at the masses and was preaching what Elvis was vs. letting the art speak for itself. "This Is Elvis" was unapologetic, lurid, and downright exploitative, but it hammered like sledge and got the point across.

    Example I can think of. His movies Wild in the Country, Follow that Dream, and Flaming Star are painfully ignored by the critics. While Kid Galahad, and Live a Little are not up to speed in all respects, I feel they deserve more than just passed off as "income". Elvis tried, and often tried hard and while they may not be King Creole or Jailhouse Rock, why should they be? They were still good movies and deserve more than a passing mention. I would take that any day of the week over being preached time and time again that he didn't "steal" from black artists.

    This documentary did not feel honest. It felt like it tried too hard, way too hard to put down myths about Elvis that never should have begun from the get go. It is a fact that Elvis hit before Little Richard and Chuck Berry, call it racist, I call it flat out that he had a harder hitting sound earlier. After him everything changed. Who is better? That is opinion. Who is more revolutionary, few could argue against him. Why not make up our own minds and let the art speak for itself without Jerry, Cilla, and Tom Petty telling us what should be. The documentary is dated from the moment it aired.

    The best documentary of all will be the one that only uses Elvis words and footage, and no one else's to tell a story, now that would be king.

    By the way, can someone please explain to me why so much footage was just horrible to look at? I have seen the tv appearances look way better. The 68 Comeback looked VHS quality (and cropped to heck I might add) and yet there we see a backdrop of country side getting all the notice in the world.
  16. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Forum Resident

    Jonesboro,AR USA
    First, I’ll state the obvious - this is far and away the best documentary that has ever been attempted on Elvis. I loved it.

    Tom Zimny is a really intelligent filmmaker who makes keen use of visual metaphor and finds revealing bits of film and musical performance to extend and support them - and, most importantly, the director doesn’t beat you over the head with what he’s trying to say, he trusts the viewer’s intelligence to make the connections he’s reaching for. That’s a quality that you only find in great filmmakers.

    And as a result, the film he makes is a very effective one. There is some minor fudging and conflating and a few telling elipses, due to compressing for time and the limitations of existing footage or in the case of the latter having to work within the blessing of Priscilla Presley, but the big-picture portrait he paints of Elvis is both accurate and insightful. This is the first film to really try to grapple with the significance of Elvis’s work, and it does so well (in some spots even more effectively than Guralnick manages in his biography).

    There are a few quibbles I had with it. It can feel rushed due to time limitations, one can easily imagine 4 hours dedicated to the pre-army Year’s and four to the post-army years, but this documentary is aimed at answering the question ‘why Elvis?’ for a mainstream audience, and a longer runtime would make it a more daunting watch for those who aren’t already fans. There are also one or two of minor issues that are annoying - I wish The Statesman had been highlighted rather than the Blackwood Brothers, because Elvis drew so much more from them musically, and the filmmakers use the wrong Lloyd Price recording of ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ - opting for a middle 60’s re-record by price rather than the original single. Against the original recording, the transformative nature of Elvis’s version is even more apparent.

    But the thematic thread of this film - that art, for Elvis, was a way for someone who was fundamentally a loner and who came into this world with nothing to reach out and connect with other people in a profound way, outweighs any minor criticisms. It connects everything in Elvis’s career to this basic drive - bridging country and R&B, black and white culture, outsider art with mainstream pop - it’s all just a way of reaching for something to hold onto, someone to connect with. In this context, the reveal ‘If I Can Dream’ to be more than a tribute to Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, it is Elvis’s raison d’etre. All of the words about man redeeming his soul through the strength to dream, about searching for the beckoning candle in the dark, for the lights burning brighter somewhere — they are all about Elvis and his search.

    Bravo, guys. You made a film worthy of the man.
    Colinjpush, mgb70, ptijerm and 12 others like this.
  17. CowboyBill

    CowboyBill Forum Resident

    I agree with some of the footage quality. The bike riding shots every hour was kind of annoying as well. Having said that, I feel it's the best doc we have and it did a good job presenting Elvis' story to a new generation (and the old).

    Right form the beginning Im not a huge fan of Petty and Springsteen talking, just don't care what they have to say, they weren't there. It is better than getting Bono i suppose though.
    Pants Party likes this.
  18. genesim

    genesim Well-Known Member

    St. Louis
    I am not qualified to make a full opinion yet because I stopped around the 1.5 hour mark. I feel bad for this, but I couldn't take it in one sitting.

    Saying it is the best, is not saying much to me, because most all documentaries about the man suck. But Petty and Springsteen (who I deeply respect) over and over again while key players are just not there, is sad to me. It is a shame that the ones that did know him are dead or shut out.

    I feel terrible for not finishing, but I will eventually. I admit my reaction was knee jerk and maybe worth revisiting in expanded form where I can take a break and at least get time to adjust to the constant quick cut bull crap that has nothing to do with the story. History is molded by victors and the farther from Elvis death we get, the less chance we have of getting it right.

    So far This is Elvis will always be the one for me. I was terribly disappointed by this one, but again, I didn't give it a full chance, that I fully admit.

    Mistakes like this are just so inexcusable, and it got under my skin like using Tomorrow is a Long Time so early, or introducing us to 68 special before we even got a chance to know the man. This is Elvis is not immune, but boy it still felt more cohesive.

    I am harsh, I admit it, but I never understood moving away from chronological approach. The Beatles Anthology was so perfect, and I wish they would have taken that approach rather than the preaching still image exhaustion.

    I expected too much. It probably would never have lived up to what I wanted.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 10:20 AM
    Mr. H likes this.
  19. frankfan1

    frankfan1 Forum Resident

    Western Tennessee
    Best doc on Elvis I’ve ever seen. The only one that comes close to making him human and relatable. I liked that they just used the voices of Petty, West, and others, although since we’ve lost some since production maybe one face shot would be appropriate.

    I have a theory on the 1968 special. From the opening peacock and announcement it was in color to its graininess, it was exactly how we remember seeing it. Maybe that’s the look they were going for.
    sberger, Mr. LP Collector and RSteven like this.
  20. Stephen J

    Stephen J Forum Resident

    Baton Rouge, LA
    I've always thought it axiomatic that Elvis was the biggest star and most impactful western cultural figure of the 20th century, and he's not even my favorite musical act. But I guess since we're no longer in the 20th century, it actually bears reminding people of that.

    Glad you guys are endorsing this documentary, as I have been trying to carve out time to watch it. I definitely will now.
    Mr. LP Collector likes this.
  21. genesim

    genesim Well-Known Member

    St. Louis
    Your first paragraph is a hard pill to swallow, but true. Every artist has their day. However, I feel that to truly qualify the impact of Elvis is to experience more than his hits (or what the radio/public perceived opinion decides). Matter of fact, when it comes to that man, when you get to full blown fanatic by listening to 20 takes of a song, you get even a bigger picture/appreciation. But in the end, who has time for that (well I did sadly, but I digress)!

    Documentaries are at least a nice overview.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 11:01 AM
    Stephen J likes this.
  22. Mr. H

    Mr. H Forum Resident

    Anything special about the soundtrack or just another Elvis comp?
  23. PooreBoy

    PooreBoy ~Well Respected Man~

    East TN
    This is by far the best Elvis Presley documentary that's been made. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    This comment that Tom Petty made is a very good point to take away from this as well:
    “[Elvis] had no road map and he forged a path of what to do and what not to do. And we shouldn’t make the mistake of writing off a great artist because of all the clatter that came later. We should dwell in what he did that was so beautiful and everlasting, which was that great, great music.”
    Rick H., ZoSoUK, thxphotog and 3 others like this.
  24. Dart56

    Dart56 Forum Resident

    Oshawa, ON
    I just thought I would chime in to say how great I found this documentary to be. As someone who grew up after he had died, the image I have always had of the man was the 1970's excessive caricature, with the big white jeweled coats, glasses, private jet, playing Vegas type greatest hits shows. The type of Elvis image that most impersonators tend to go for. This documentary for me gave a more proportionate view of the man's life, his contribution to music, and really demonstrated what made him so exceptional.

    One thing I really learned about the man was how he grew up and developed his musical tastes. The common narrative in my generation is that he simply stole music from black musicians as some sort of Machiavellian scheme to get rich. When you see how he grew up and where he developed his musical tastes, that argument loses its merit. It becomes quite clear it was much more honest and organic than that. He really felt it.

    It was a bit of a shock to hear Tom Petty's voice again. I'm glad they got his perspective on things, as well as Bruce Springsteen. As much as they weren't directly involved in any of his career, they were both deeply inspired by it and that I think helps to explain why his contribution to music is so important and how it carried forward into the next generation of musicians.

    I have read some of the comments here and in other reviews that nitpick the details and the little stories that didn't make the cut. But, I don't think the intended audience of this documentary is for those who already know every little detail of the man's life. Or maybe even for those that followed along with his career as it progressed. I think it has great value to younger people who may only know him as that excessive, over-the-top caricature and may never have seen what truly made the man great.

    Just thought I would share that, have a nice day everyone.
    ZoSoUK, guppy270, lightbulb and 8 others like this.
  25. CowboyBill

    CowboyBill Forum Resident

    From what I saw, the Gladys recording. Not essential enough for me to give $30.
    Mr. H likes this.

Share This Page