video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: ELVIS (Shout! Factory)

The King lives in this epic 1979 bio-pic from executive producer Dick Clark, which marked the first collaboration between director John Carpenter and leading man Kurt Russell, who’s got all the right moves as Elvis Presley (Ronnie McDowell provides the singing).

The film covers much of Elvis’ early life and rise to fame, as he ruminates about the past on the eve of his triumphant “comeback” in Las Vegas in 1969. The film neither sensationalizes or romanticizes Presley’s life, although it leans more toward the latter.

There’s good supporting work from Bing Russell (Kurt’s real-life father), warmly playing Elvis’ dad, Vernon Presley, and the incomparable Shelley Winters (nicely subdued) as mother Gladys. Season Hubley, who later married Russell in real life, plays Priscilla, and the always-welcome Pat Hingle appears as

Elvis’ longtime agent, Col. Tom Parker. Other familiar faces on hand include Melody Anderson, Ed Begley Jr., Joe Mantegna and Carpenter favorite Charles Cyphers, as Sun Records’ founder Sam Phillips.

Of course, the success of the film rests entirely with Russell, who masterfully plays the human side of the icon. It’s not an impersonation or a caricature, but a heartfelt performance in a daunting role. For many Elvis Presley fans, this is the definitive version of his story, and much of it is due to Russell.

Originally broadcast in two parts on ABC-TV, Elvis was a surprise ratings smash (besting even the network repeat of Gone With the Wind) and earned three Emmy nominations, including one for Russell as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Special.

ALSO ON DVD“ACADEMY COLLECTION: THEENVELOPE PLEASE…”: VOLUME 1 (InfinityEntertainment Group): A boxed set ($24.98retail) of eight feature films, all of whichreceived Oscar nominations as Best Picture:Louis Wolheim stars in director LewisMilestone’s 1928 adaptation of BartlettCormack’s play The Racket; Chester Morrisand Regis Toomey (in his screen debut) starin the 1929 adaptation of Alibi, also nominatedfor Best Actor (Morris) and Best ArtDirection; Adolphe Menjou and Pat O’Brienstar in Milestone’s 1931 adaptation of theBen Hecht/Charles MacArthur stage classicThe Front Page, also nominated for BestDirector and Best Actor (Menjou); GaryCooper, Helen Hayes and Menjou headlinethe 1932 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’sA Farewell to Arms, which won Oscarsfor Best Cinematography and Best SoundRecording, also nominated for Best ArtDirection; Charles Laughton took homethe Oscar as Best Actor for his memorableturn in the title role of Alexander Korda’s1933 historical drama The Private Life ofHenry VIII; Janet Gaynor, Fredric Marchand Menjou star in William A. Wellman’soriginal 1937 version of A Star is Born,which won the Oscar for Original Story and aspecial award for W. Howard Greene’s colorcinematography, and nominations for BestActor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor), BestDirector, Best Screenplay and Best AssistantDirector; Leslie Howard and Wendy Hillerearned Oscar nominations as Best Actor andActress, respectively, for the 1938 version ofGeorge Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, whichwon the Oscar for Best Screenplay; andIrene Dunne and Charles Boyer star in LeoMcCarey’s 1939 romance Love Affair, alsonominated for Best Director, Best Actress(Dunne), Best Supporting Actress (MariaOuspenskaya), Best Original Story, Best ArtDirection and Best Song (“Wishing”).“ADAM 12”: SEASON 4 (Shout! Factory):Once more, Martin Milner and Kent McCordpatrol the streets of Los Angeles, in all 24episodes from the 1971-’72 season of thelong-running, prime-time NBC-TV crimedrama, originally spun off from “Dragnet”and overseen by executive producer JackWebb. Guest stars include Robert Conrad,Lindsay Wagner, Keye Luke, Rose Marieand Foster Brooks. This four-DVD boxed setretails for $34.97.BLOOD CREEK (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): Nazis, runestones and bloodrituals figure in director Joel Schumacher’snasty, confused shocker (originally titledTown Creek) that sees two brothers (DominicPurcell and Henry Cavill) battling evil forceson a remote farm. Despite a few interestingtouches, this plays out like a gory episodeof “Supernatural”… and, yes, there’s even a“twist” ending. Lynn Collins appears unbilled.The studio dumped this into a handful of theaterswith zero fanfare. Rated R.THE COVE (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): The ongoing slaughterof dolphins in a remote Japanese cove isexposed in first-time director Louie Psihoyos’persuasive documentary feature, whichearned an Oscar nomination in that category.Rated PG-13.“DESIGNING WOMEN”: SEASON THREE(Shout! Factory): Dixie Carter, Delta Burke,Annie Potts and Jean Smart are back — dulyjoined by Meshach Taylor as Anthony — inall 22 episodes from the 1988-’89 seasonof the award-winning prime-time CBSTVsituation comedy about the ladies whomake Sugarbaker & Associates the premierinterior-design firm in Atlanta. Three EmmyAward nominations including OutstandingComedy Series and for Taylor as OutstandingSupporting Actor in a Comedy Series. ThisDVD boxed set retails for $44.99.GAMER (LionsGate Home Entertainment):The executive producing/writing/directingduo of Neveldine/Taylor (Mark and Brian,respectively) strike again with this unrestrained,super-charged, brain-dead sci-fiaction thriller, in which convicts compete inlife-or-death virtual-reality combat games ascreated by a ruthless techno-mogul (MichaelC. Hall). Gerard Butler plays the hero whodecides to fight back. Also on hand: KyraSedgwick, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, JohnLeguizamo, Amber Valletta, Keith David,Zoe Bell, Terry Crews, Efren Ramirez, MiloVentimiglia and an unbilled Alison Lohman(Mrs. Neveldine in real life) — but whateverpotential the story might have had is lostamid the barrage of gunfire and gut-spilling,although Hall does get to perform a uniquerendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”Rated R.THE GATE (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): A “monstrous special edition”of director Tibor Takacs’ enjoyable,award-winning 1987 feature debut, in whichthree kids (Christa Denton, Stephen Dorffand Louis Tripp, the latter two in their screendebuts) unwittingly unleash demonic forcesupon their neighborhood when they discovera secret passageway in the backyard. GoodB-movie fun. Rated PG-13.“GI JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO”:SEASON 1.3 (Shout! Factory): A collectionof the final 22 episodes from the inaugural1985 season of the syndicated animated seriesbased on the popular Hasbro toy line, in whicha highly-skilled military force wages an ongoingwar against the diabolical forces of Cobra.This boxed set retails for $29.97.“LINCOLN HEIGHTS”: THE COMPLETEFIRST SEASON (Shout! Factory): A four-DVD boxed set ($34.99 retail) of all 13episodes from the 2007 season of the awardwinningABC Family drama starring RussellHornsby as an LA cop who relocates his familyfrom the suburbs to the inner city.“LIONSGATE BLU-RAYS” (LionsGateHome Entertainment): The Blu-ray roll-outcontinues: Arnold Schwarzenegger is theprime contestant in 1987’s The Running Man(rated R), adapted from a novel by RichardBachman (AKA Stephen King), with anaward-winning turn by Richard Dawson asa smarmy game-show host; Wesley Snipesstars in 1994’s Drop Zone (rated R); BillyZane plays the title role in the 1996 comicbookadaptation The Phantom (rated PG);and 1998’s disaster/heist thriller Hard Rain(rated R) stars Morgan Freeman, ChristianSlater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver andEdward Asner. Each Blu-ray retails for$19.99.“STORIES FROM THE VAULTS”: SEASONTWO (Smithsonian Networks/InfinityEntertainment Group): Host Tom Cavanaghtakes viewers on an insider’s tour of theSmithsonian Institute in Washington, DC inall eight episodes from the 2009 season ofthe Smithsonian Network series. The DVDretails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.Mark Burger can be heard Friday morningson the “Two Guys Named Chris”radio show on Rock-92.’ 2010, Mark Burger !