One project that may not be making its way to DVD -- at least in the lavish form that had been expected -- is Solt and Malcolm Leo's 1981 Presley documentary 'This Is Elvis'. The film, a combination of archival news and performance footage as well as dramatic re-creations, was released in a now out-of-print VHS edition in 1982.
That version was different than what was seen in theaters and on television, as the producers could not get clearance to include Are You Lonesome Tonight on the video, thus robbing the film of its denouement, a scene of an aging, addled Presley struggling his way through the song's spoken-word recitation.
With that rights issue cleared, Solt and Leo also decided that the new DVD version would revamp the documentary's narrative by losing the majority of the re-creation scenes -- featuring a handful of actors playing Presley throughout his life.
In August, British music magazine MOJO reported that a deluxe edition of 'This Is Elvis' -- featuring both the original theatrical version and a new director's cut of the film plus bonus material -- would be released by Warner Bros in August 2007, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Presley's death. But Solt and project partner Malcolm Leo now say the deluxe DVD plans have been tabled by Warner Bros, and they're uncertain in what, if any, form the disc will come out next year.
"There was a great deal of planning, and initially the cooperation from Warner Bros was terrific," says Leo.
"And then we got into an assessment of how and when was the best time to do it -- obviously with the thirtieth anniversary of Elvis' death coming up, an opportunity was there. But then suddenly certain cost issues came into play."
According to Solt, Warner's current policy on all new, expanded DVD projects is to simultaneously ready a high-definition version of the film in order to meet with that technology when it becomes more prominent in the next couple years.
"Unfortunately, 'This Is Elvis' is a patchwork of a thousand sources, so to go back to every one of them and high-def them is a very, very expensive process," he says.
"The studio typically sees things in terms of a normal 35 millimeter feature film, but our film is not that -- it's a patchwork quilt.
Unfortunately, as much as they understood that, they still wanted to upgrade to a level that was going to be cost-prohibitive and which has ultimately doomed the project for now."
A similar patchwork documentary, 'The Who's The Kids Are Alright', was released to much acclaim in an expanded edition in 2003, and Solt had hoped to do the same for 'This Is Elvis', utilizing the digital clean-up process brought to bear on the Sullivan DVDs.
"We had ways of doing a beautiful new version that would've cost a third of what they were suggesting, and that's what we wanted to do," he says.
"But they won't go forward unless they can spend the big bucks, and they can't afford to spend the big bucks, so there goes the project for right now."
Another part of what doomed the expanded 'This Is Elvis' may have been internal financial issues with Warner Bros.
"The truth is they've had a rough year at Warners -- they've had so many budget cuts," says Solt.
"I hate to say it, but I think we got caught up in that." Leo's other pending Warner Bros. project -- a DVD of the unseen screen tests for 'Gone with the Wind' -- is also in limbo, likely for the same reasons.
Warner Bros. would not comment specifically about 'This Is Elvis'. But Warner Home Video representative Ronnie Sass did note that the company "plans on fully honoring Elvis in this coming 30th anniversary year.
With Warner Bros. owning 17 Elvis films -- more than any other studio -- you can imagine we'll be offering consumers some pretty wonderful choices."
In all likelihood, Warner's 30th anniversary Presley DVD rollout will include a bare-bones release of 'This Is Elvis', while a deluxe edition may yet come out down the line.
"I have every reason to think that version will exist ultimately," says Leo.
"Of course, just when that will happen is hard to say."