Will it ever officially see the light of day?
The actual amount of footage which was shot by director Denis Sanders and the MGM cameras for Elvis’ 1970 concert documentary “Elvis – That’s The Way It Is” has been a matter of much discussion, conjecture and speculation both before and after the discovery of the outtakes from this movie and “Elvis On Tour” in the Kansas Salt Mines in 1991.
Reading through many of my old “Elvis Monthly’s” which contain many articles on the subject, the many theories all seem to have one or two common conclusions although they differ on others. One theory that all seem to agree on is that in a pre-digital age where every foot of tape cost dollars it would not have been prudent for the director to record every minute of all six shows and this is certainly the case where the final show recorded , the 13 August Dinner Show, is concerned.
With the appearance within a short period of time of ‘outtake’ DVD’s and subsequently ‘That’s the Way It Is – The Complete Works’ which gave multiple camera angles seems to back up this theory. It appears that the two shows which ‘book-ended’ the live filming seem to have suffered most .
It is no secret that the final show with Elvis wearing the ‘Red Ladder’ suit is the most incomplete with only a handful of songs filmed and none of these had been performed at any of the previous five shows. If the director had just about all he required apart from these few songs then this would make perfect sense.
It is of the show in this video, 10 August – the opening show, which seems to depart from all logic especially when you consider the songs that were apparently not filmed. The director, Denis Sanders, chose not to film four songs and three of these were performed live by Elvis for the very first time – I Just Can’t Help Believing, I’ve Lost You and Bridge Over Troubled Water with Sweet Caroline, a song retained from Elvis’ previous Vegas engagement, the other song not filmed. Quite understandably the band introductions were also not filmed during this concert.
It is very likely that the director had in his possession a copy of the songs that were on the setlist and before going on stage he would be informed which songs Elvis would perform during that show especially if it were a one off such as ‘Twenty days and Twenty Nights’ during the 12 August Dinner Show. However given the fact that such prominent numbers were not filmed during the opening show one can only surmise that the director was given assurances that these would be performed in subsequent shows and this of course is exactly what happened.
On watching this video one always seems to arrive at the question of an official release. However it is my humble opinion that the time and opportunity for an official release of this footage has come and gone and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be proved wrong in this matter but allow me to give my reasons for having such overwhelming doubts on the subject.
The first consideration is a purely financial one, that is would not be economically viable for Turner/MGM to outlay the cost of remastering both sound and video, marketing the package and then make it attractive to both the public and Elvis fans while keeping the price competitive. One only has to look at the cost of the ‘Deluxe ‘ box set. There was no new video material in this package only the two TTWII movies which it would be a fair assumption to infer that we all own these already. So essentially you were paying around £90 in the UK, $180 in Australia and $145 in the US for what is admittedly a wonderful book and 8 CD’s of which only two were previously unreleased concerts and given these costs what would MGM have to charge, even if they released it through FTD, to make it commercially viable.
The other reason that I suspect that the time has come and gone is that the release of the aforementioned box set last August would have been a golden opportunity for at least a bonus disc of outtakes to be included but alas nothing was forthcoming. If they had been any inclination in the part of MGM to release any of this material then this I suspect was their window of opportunity but now it would seem unlikely that they will ever see the light of day – officially at least.
Returning to the opening night show of 10 August 1970 and only the opening three songs were included in either of the two movies, That’s All Right (which opened the live segment on the original movie) and the Mystery Train/Tiger Man medley which played over the opening credit in said movie. In order to add some continuity to this show I have included the ‘missing’ songs from this show without video footage much like that on ‘Prince from another Planet’.
In regard to missing footage from the four middle shows it appears that apart from some of the openings and band intros most of those are complete but portions of footage missing mid-song perhaps point more to damaged film than lack of it. There was also some footage taken after the sixth show but this amounted to nothing more than audience reaction shots, rear shots from behind the orchestra and wide shots from distance and all for inserting into the movie in post production where necessary.
The footage in this video is taken from the ‘Complete Works’ set but the audio is from Sony’s 2014 Deluxe Set.